“I had a pretty rough past. I’m surprised I didn’t end up dead.”

By his early 20s, Mike had hit rock bottom. Homeless and living on the streets, Mike’s predicament was made even more complex due to his severe anxiety and long-running history with seizures. After examining his life and considering the family that he loved so much, Mike knew a serious change was in order.

Nearly two decades later, Mike has passed through many dark valleys to get where he is today. A four-time Employee of the Month at three separate organizations, he currently works as a jack-of-all-trades at Pizza Hut and at Easterseals Passages.

Aside from pouring all of himself into his work, Mike also serves as president of Navigators, an organization that empowers individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), and sits on the board of Whitley Crossings Neighborhood Corp. During his term at Navigators, he has addressed politicians at the Indiana State Capitol and organized multiple fundraisers for the cause and people that mean so much to him. Because the act of giving back runs thick within his blood, he also serves as an usher and safety crew member at his church in Fort Wayne.

Mike’s confidence and worldview have shifted in many unexpected ways during his years with Passages. Since connecting with a travel agency that specializes in vacations for adults with IDD in 2018, he has visited Lambeau Field, Raymond James Stadium, The NFL Hall of Fame, The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Gatlinburg, Tenn., Hawaii, New York City, and walked the streets of Downtown Disney in Orlando, Fla.

“I’ve actually done more since I’ve been with Passages than ever before.”

Three years ago, Mike would have considered it an impossibility to take in a Broadway musical like Wicked or enjoy a stroll through Times Square without having an anxiety attack. In fact, the mere thought of such a thing was enough to completely overwhelm him. Now, he credits much of his growth to his time at Passages and the belief the organization has consistently poured into him from day one.

What do friends and family think about his unmistakable transformation? They are not only inspired by his incredible change but a little bit jealous, too.

“People say I’ve become a world traveler.”

For Mike, the journey has only just begun.

 

(This story was adapted from the Northeast Indiana Disability Advocacy Coalition.)