Going the Extra Mile

Going the Extra Mile

During the final mile of her leg of her team’s relay in the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon, Courtney Pack began to lose stamina. “I was internally complaining about how tired, achy, drained, hot and thirsty I was. I couldn’t wait to hand off the next leg to my teammate. I was questioning why I even agreed to run.” But it was in that moment that she remembered why she was putting herself through the grueling 6.1 mile portion of the race across the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was all for her brother, Ryan.

Ryan currently lives at Southwinds’ Norma house with his four roommates. He has autism and is non-verbal, relying primarily on gestures and expressions to communicate

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A few months prior to the marathon, Courtney decided to raise money by running in support of the place her older brother calls home. “I chose Southwinds because it was personal to me. We often take services and organizations like Southwinds – that have made a difference for my brother, mother and family – for granted.”

During his adolescence, Ryan’s family relied on several different organizations to help him develop more independence and succeed in life. “Growing up, it was important for my mother to treat Ryan, myself and our younger brother, Daniel, all the same. Although Ryan did not live with us full-time, he was always a part of family holidays, gatherings, special occasions and regular visits.”

Ryan has now been at Southwinds for 20 years and continues to grow as a person. He has seen dramatic improvement in his interpersonal and communication skills. Since he is non-verbal, it has always been a challenge to find creative ways to help Ryan communicate with those around him. With the assistance of staff, he recently began using an iPad-based program that helps him with his social interactions. Everyday when Ryan gets home from his day program, he goes through his routine and checks off each step, from putting away his lunch box to taking his daily medicine and choosing a healthy snack to enjoy.

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Courtney sees the peace of mind given to her family as one of the biggest benefits of Ryan having a place like Southwinds to call home. “When Ryan was placed into Southwinds, I was too young to fully understand or notice the behavioral changes over the years,” she says. Perhaps nobody knows the relief felt by the family more than Courtney and Ryan’s mother, Jill. “I can say that she’s beyond grateful for the services provided by Southwinds.”

While his family has always remained very active in his life, Ryan’s sister stepped up to make an even bigger impact. “Something as simple as running in a race is something that my brother will never experience and something I took for granted during that moment. I was running for my brother.”
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