Mom makes connections to help young adults with disabilities

  • Calvert County
  • By

Prince Frederick, MD -- Pam Willey didn't start out to become an advocate for disabled young adults. She was interested in helping just one, her daughter Samantha.

Samantha, now, 24, has a relatively mild developmental disability. Although she performed at a low academic level, she still managed to graduate high school. However, she lacked many of the basic skills needed to find a job and make her way in the world. 

Pam and her husband, Ed, discovered that while there many services available for severely disabled individuals, there wasn't much help out there for young adults like her daughter who could handle some tasks but still needed assistance with others. While Samantha's friends from high school moved on to college and jobs, she was, in Pam's word, "Stuck sitting at home."

Pam got the idea of starting a social group for Samantha and a few her friends with disabilities. It started with trips to the movies and grew to include life skills activities. Gradually more people joined and activities expanded into lessons in skills like personal hygiene, first aid, and what not to wear in a work situation.

Pam found that not only were the young adults making connections, their parents were finding much-needed support and information by connecting with each other. And the name of the organization was born, The Connection.

At first, they met at conference rooms and community centers. Pam wanted to be able to schedule the meetings at the same times every week, since consistency is often important to disabled young adults. She and her husband decided to clear out their basement to make room for the growing group of 15 young adults.

But as the group grew, they soon outgrew the basement. This past June they moved into an office space in Prince Frederick.

Assisted by one full-time and one part-time employee plus volunteers, they started a paid day program that provides life skill and job skill reinforcement three days a week from 9 to 5. 

The social group still meets every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and is usually free unless there's a fee attached to the activity. Once a month, they even have a dinner club at a local restaurant to enjoy each others company. Members range in age from 14 to 50.

Pam dreams of doing more to help young adults like her daughter. She'd like to expand the job skills program and partner with local businesses to offer job training and shadowing programs. And she'd really like to hire some more employees.

Luckily, State Farm is offering The Connection a chance to win $25,000 towards achieving their goal with their Neighborhood Assist program. The Connection is competing against 200 other non-profits. The top 40 vote-getters will receive a $25,000 grant.

Just click here to follow the link to vote for The Connection.

Voting is open now through August 23. You can vote up to ten times a day.

To learn more about The Connection and its services, go to their website:



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