When asked to describe his future, Ben will tell you this:

“When I am an adult, I am going to live on Main Street. I will have three dogs – Noah, Joey and Leo. I will live with a friend. In the morning I will go to Rockville Town Center to get coffee. I will take the metro to my job at the GAP. I will have lots of friends. I will be happy.”

Hope for a happy future. That is what Main Street means to Ben, and that is also what it means to our family – Ben’s sister Lexi, my husband Matt and me.

Ben is a 15 year old who has autism. Ben has inspired our entire family with his relentless efforts to be his very best, despite his challenges. Ben could light up a room with his infectious smile well before he could speak. His unwavering spirit, constant “can do” attitude and endearing nature has made him an asset to the schools and programs he’s been a part of. Ben finds joy in all that life offers, and relishes his close relationships with family, peers and teachers. Ben is fortunate to have a community of advocates (we like to call them “Team Ben”) who have been extraordinary in their devotion to him. Ben’s willingness to work as hard as he can whether he’s aiming to learn a new skill, master an academic goal, or, most importantly to Ben, take steps toward independence has inspired “Team Ben” to assist and support him in his development.

Ben, now in 9th grade at Ivymount and previously at the Diener School, understands that the path he is on toward adulthood is being paved by trail blazers like Jillian and Scott Copeland who gave Ben the gift of the Diener School, and now the hope for an integrated and independent living experience like Main Street. Our family and friends are not only grateful to the Copelands for the groundbreaking opportunities they are creating for our son (and so many like him), but we are also energized by the movement that has been inspired by the creation of Main Street. Ben will undoubtedly thrive in an integrated community where he can live, work and play.

As Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Except for his choice of gender, a sign of his times, Robert Kennedy’s quote describes the dream that the Copelands and so many others have for our children’s future. The vision of Main Street has inspired a desire for community, not only in Rockville, but in projects all around the DC Metro area. With hard work, we can all look forward to a world where Ben and others with special needs have a community that allows them to live a life of fulfillment and happiness. On behalf of Ben, thank you for allowing us to be part of the fulfillment of the dream.