WINSTED, Conn. (WTNH) — Lights flash when a door opens, calls are made through video phones. They’re signs that this is a unique home, designed for people who can’t hear.
“Every part of my dream actually has come true,” says Sherry Zummo. The home is a result of her work, inspired by her son. Robby Porter was born 21 years ago, profoundly deaf. He also has autism and multiple medical issues. When he was a student, Sherry noticed his older friends graduating – not knowing where they could live with true peers.
“I didn’t want that for my son or for other Robbys,” says Zummo.
So, she started lobbying agencies, asking to open a specialized group home. She faced roadblocks until she met with Marrakech Inc., based in Woodbridge, providing services to those with disabilities.
“For the first time, the clouds parted and the sun came shining through and they were saying, ‘Yes, I think we can, let’s try to do this,” says Zummo of Mystic.
“Living here are three young people who are deaf and what is different about this home is that all staff here fluently speak American Sign Language,” explains Heather LaTorra, President & CEO of Marrakech Inc.
Staff like house manager Stephen Brathwaite who is deaf. “A lot of times in our own families, we feel like we don’t connect, don’t belong,” he says, noting that this house makes a huge difference.
Turns out, Robby is a talented artist who loves spending time with Stephen. “Go to restaurants and eat, we sit, watch movies we exercise and work out,” signs Robby, as his mother translates.
When the residents aren’t at the house – funded both by the state and individuals – they’re taking part in a day program in the community.
Zummo hopes this becomes a model that grows throughout the country. “Us parents have to live with the fact that we’re not going to live forever and we have to worry about what happens when we’re gone,” says Zummo. “And I want my son to be happy for the rest of his life, everyday of his life.”
The house is located in Winsted to be close to Northwestern Connecticut Community College which offers a unique program involving American Sign Language.
Click here for more information about Robby’s Cause.