As one of the original Options For All clients, Andy DeMello has a personality with little patience for the trials of aging.
Born to Naval Officer Harry DeMello and his wife Marian in California during the 1960s, Andy was the 5th of 6 children. But Andy was different from his siblings . . . he was born with Down syndrome.
Shortly after Andy came into the world and was diagnosed, the doctors recommended that Andy be institutionalized, a sad but common occurrence at this time. Because little was known about Down syndrome and intellectual or developmental disabilities, doctors were convinced Andy would be a vegetable for the remainder of his life. For Harry and Marian, institutionalizing their son was not an option. They disregarded the doctors’ recommendations and raised Andy at home surrounded by his loving and caring family.
Growing up, although Andy was mischievous, everyone knew and liked him. The entire neighborhood looked after him. So much so, that when he decided to wander from the house by himself on occasion . . . to buy that frozen Icee at the local gas station . . . Marian would receive phone calls from each of the neighbors notifying her of Andy’s whereabouts.
As Andy and his best friend Max reached high school, lifting weights and playing hockey became their after-school priorities. After graduating from Mission Bay High School (an accomplishment few thought possible), the boys set their sights on potential employment opportunities. Through word of mouth, Marian heard about Employment and Community Options (E&CO) — then called Community Options.
The organization was founded on the principle that people with disabilities have the right to develop and use their abilities to work and be integrated into their communities – a very progressive and innovative idea at the time. In 1985, Andy and Max became 2 of the original 8 participants at E&CO.
With the help from his Job Coach, Andy was hired at Pizza Hut where he helped keep the restaurant clean and folded pizza boxes. Andy quickly became a fan favorite among the E&CO employees and his new Pizza Hut coworkers for his contagious smile and positive energy.
Andy remained active, working, playing hockey for Special Olympics and lifting weights until he was diagnosed with a dangerous bout of Meningitis when he was just 34 years old. After being admitted with a 107-degree fever and a tumultuous and difficult stay in the intensive care unit, Andy recovered and made it back home . . . and eventually back to program.
Over the years at E&CO, Andy has held several jobs, including The Fish Market, Pizza Hut and at a few hotels. Andy has bonded deeply with a number of E&CO staff and clients. Even after his battle back from Meningitis cost him his hearing and most of his speech, Andy remained eager to attend program with his contagious smile and enthusiasm.
Now retired after 33 years, Andy lives in his parents’ home of 55 years with his lovely mom, Marian. He loves dogs and is a proud uncle to his 5 siblings’ children. Andy still attends program 5 days a week and volunteers at E&CO’s administrative office every Friday with two of his longtime friends, Sam and Michelle. He is always making the team laugh and seems to enjoy making the ladies around the office smile.
Because of the generous support of caring people like you, Andy has been able to overcome a lifetime of challenges due to a condition he was born with. He has made lifelong friendships, graduated from high school, gained employment and most importantly – lives a meaningful life.
E&CO is celebrating Andy’s 33 years at E&CO with 33 Days of Giving! Our goal is to raise over $10,000 in the next month in support of Andy and 1,300 other people just like him with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Will you please join us in celebrating Andy’s 33 years at E&CO with YOUR gift today?
Your generous gift supports and enhances quality and innovative programs designed for Andy and 1,300 other individuals to find work, gain independence and reach their goals of living a meaningful life.
Celebrating 33 Years — In 33 Days!
Your gift of $100 would greatly impact the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at E&CO, however, gifts of all sizes are welcome and greatly appreciated.