I am always amazed to hear other people’s stories. I find it inspirational—not to mention admirable—when I hear why other nonprofits were started, and the all-too-real experiences that drive people to do their part in the world. If someone had told me twenty-one years ago that I would be the founder of the Five Fish Foundation I would have never believed them. But here I am and here is my story.
In 1999, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with autism. She was four years old. My husband was active duty in the US Navy. We went to the Navy for help and at the time, they told us that autism was a psychiatric disorder and that they were unable to offer her any health services.
Dissatisfied with their answer, we took matters into our own hands and did whatever we could to take care of our sweet girl. A second mortgage on our home, maxed out credit cards, and all the stress and anxiety that goes along with having a special needs child, we were on a mission to get our daughter as much help as we could find. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy. We sought out specialists in the field of autism and traveled to Baton Rouge, LA, and to Richmond, VA, for treatment. Things were progressing and we were learning so much.
In 2005, we relocated to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. We were excited about the opportunity, but we knew to start over again finding new doctors and therapists would be a challenge, but we were ready. To our delight, we were able to find so many groups and organizations here. We discovered equine therapy (which was life-changing!), and the therapeutic recreation department in the Town of Mount Pleasant. We also joined, fell in love and became instant supporters of the amazing Special Olympics teams here in the Lowcountry. I can tell you that without the support of these communities, our daughter would not be where she is today!
Here is where the story gets interesting.
In 2018, I had a vision (yes, I said vision) where I was speaking to a crowd about change in the special needs community.
I get it. I know. When someone tells you they had a vision and that they saw signs it sounds a little crazy. And to be honest, I thought so too. Truthfully, it terrified me. There was no way I would be talking in front of anyone, let alone a crowd of people. Public speaking is literally my biggest fear!
I quickly erased the idea from my mind and moved forward. But shortly after that, the signs started. It was the story of five loaves and two fish. Having never heard this parable, the first time it happened I didn’t give it a second thought.
But for the next several months everywhere I went, the story of the five loaves and two fish came up. So I did what anyone would do when they don’t know what something means, I Googled it.
Immediately after reading how five loaves and two fish were used to feed thousands, it hit me. This voice inside me told me about the many families in the special needs community who needed help. It reminded me of all the gaps in the healthcare and social services systems where so many of our older special needs populations are falling through. And although I can’t perform miracles, I uniquely understand the challenges involved in raising a special needs child and that had value. I can take a small number of resources and multiply it to fill the need for those with special needs. I could start a foundation.
And so it was born. The Five Fish Foundation. Our mission; to offer financial assistance for therapeutic services, programs and products to individuals and families with intellectual disabilities.
I hope you will join me in our mission and be a part of the Five Fish family!