Meet the family that founded Ability Beyond, serving thousands with disabilities

Connecticut Families

DANBURY, Conn. (WTNH)– A Danbury mother’s dream has been helping kids with disabilities for an astounding six decades.

“It actually began with the birth of my younger brother, Jim in 1949,” says Jack Walsh as he remembers how his mother, Mary, formed a support group to give her son, who had disabilities, a community, and a future.

That effort grew into Ability Beyond, still helping people sixty-six years after it was officially created.

“We serve 3,000 individuals with disabilities, all from ages 18 on up,” says Tracy Conte, Vice President for Development & Community Engagement. The organization provides employment services, group home housing and day programs.

24-year-old Jazmyn Torres has been in the Transition Program for two years. She now works at Planet Fitness.

“I clean machines,” she explains, noting she enjoys her job very much. “I work with Stephanie at my job.”

Her employment specialist, Stephanie Kreig, adds: “So, we work on some really great techniques to help Jazmyn learn how to do her job.”

Jazmyn, who also works independently, has a warm, supportive relationship with Stephanie.

“Everyone deserves a paycheck and deserves to learn independent skills and be able to work on their own,” says Stephanie. “Jazmyn is saving for her own apartment, she’s saving for a wedding, she’s got plans for her future and it’s really great.”

Walsh’s brother and mother, who loved in Danbury, have both passed away, but their lives meant so much; positively impacting 30,000 people. Still involved, Walsh has seen the conversation change and progress with a focus on “possibilities” for all.

“It’s – in my opinion – just a wonderful organization filled with the best people you’ll find anywhere,” he says, of Ability Beyond.

Government funding for the organization has been cut. It now relies heavily on donations and the public is stepping-up to keep this important work going.

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