This week, Annette sits down with Lotte Diomede and Deb Hochhauser of SMILE Mass an organization that provides recreational accessibility and disability friendly vacation experiences.
SMILE Mass was founded in 2009 and stands for Small Miracles In Life Exist. Founder Lotte Diomede started by creating awareness around the building of a playground that would accommodate all in her community of Sudbury Massachusetts. After creating substantial awareness and raising enough funds, the dream became a reality and the playground was established and so was SMILE Mass.
The organization also provides beach wheelchairs for various beaches and recreational areas around New England, created a vacation home on Cape Cod that is totally accessible and has plans for other projects in the future.
Lotte and Deb talk about what it takes to create these opportunities for those in the disability community and the efforts involved in raising adequate funding to do so. They discuss the support they have received over the years and of course the challenges they face in trying to meet their mission.
Lotte talks about how quickly the vacation home became popular in the disability community, even selling out one season in 14 minutes.
Lotte and Deb also chat with Annette about their future plans including a full accessible gym and what she calls a “Forever Home” for adults with special needs.
The conversation turns to surviving the holidays when you have a family member with special needs.
Deb lays out her tips for having a successful holiday season which include, creating new traditions if needed, and try to get more control over your ideal holiday gathering. She also says that for her family, they have limited travel over the years as well as created smaller family gatherings over the holidays. Deb says that it is imperative that your loved one with special needs has a space to be quite during holiday gatherings. And most important, don’t worry what other members of the family think about your decisions.
If you want to find out more about the great work of SMILE Mass, please visit their website at http://www.smilemass.org.
Lotte says that she is always ready to chat with people in other states about how to get these types of projects completed.