Francis McKendrick is extraordinary in so many ways. Born in 1959 with Down Syndrome, he lived at home all his life with his mother and even served as her caregiver for a while after she developed Alzheimer’s. When she moved to a nursing home three years ago, Francis moved out on his own. Since then, he has been living independently, with the assistance of attendant support from UCP.
Francis uses his second bedroom as a den, where he showcases some of the many certificates and plaques recognizing his achievements. Among them, he counts the following honors and awards:
- Certificate of membership in the National Adult Education Honor Society
- Certificate of Achievement from the Wilson Reading Program of the Carlisle Area Learning Center
- Recipient of the Luther S. Beers Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service in improving the lives of individuals with special needs
In his desire to learn to read, Francis has been taking literacy classes twice a week for the past five years. A big sports fan, Francis was actively involved with the Big 33 buddy program for 20 years and has come to be considered the “Dean” of the Big 33 buddies. His favorite aspect of the Big 33 is the football parties and the opportunity to collect autographs from the various professional and college players he meets. On a shelf in his living room he proudly displays a signed picture of himself with Joe Paterno. On a wall is an autographed Dan Marino poster. And the kitchen counter is covered with Big 33 medallions.
Francis was also involved with the Special Olympics for many years, participating in track and field, softball and bowling. He won two first place trophies in the long jump. A former Scoutmaster, Francis was actively involved with Boy Scout Troop 7 for 38 years and has a shirt full of badges to prove it. He serves as a volunteer for the local YMCA every Thursday, folding and handing out towels. When there on his own time, he enjoys swimming and working out under the watchful eye of his two exercise coaches, Heidi and Becky. Francis’ mother Anna instilled in him a strong faith. He has been attending Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Mechanicsburg since birth and has been serving as an usher for the past 32 years.
Francis is unique in another way: he has worked for the same employer, Country Meadows, for over 20 years, where he helps out with the salad bar and salad kitchen three days a week. The management of Country Meadows threw him a surprise party to celebrate his 20th anniversary of employment at their home office inHershey in April 2010. This is what Francis’ supervisor, Country Meadows’ Director of Dining Deb Nicholson, had to say about him:
Francis always comes to work with a joke to share. He’s always making people laugh and smile. He is a dedicated hard worker who will do anything we ask him to do. It’s such a joy to see Francis walk in the door.
Yes, Francis is extraordinary in many ways. But in so many others, he’s no different than you or I.
Read Francis's full story in the Winter/Spring 2011 Issue of Life Without Limits
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