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PO Box 858 Firestone, CO 80520

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by Genevieve Mellott

Anyone who has kids wishes the best for them‭, ‬and‭, ‬of course‭, ‬as parents‭, ‬we think we know what that is‭. ‬But what happens when you’re the parent of a child with special needs‭? ‬Aside from trying to prepare for differences in development and acquiring new knowledge‭, ‬sometimes it means you must provide essential care for your child throughout their lives‭. ‬Other times‭, ‬however‭, ‬it means your child has something truly extraordinary in store for you‭. ‬The year 2020‭ ‬presented the Truitt family of Firestone with that extraordinary something‭.‬

‭      ‬When Seth Truitt was born 30‭ ‬years ago with the condition commonly referred to as Down Syndrome‭, ‬his parents Marla and Joe‭ ‬didn’t know what to expect‭. ‬While‭, ‬biologically‭, ‬it meant that he literally was born with something extra by way of additional genetic material‭, ‬as he grew up it also seemed to provide something‭ ‬“extra”‭ ‬in the way Seth blessed those around him‭. ‬As his mom puts it‭, ‬“He’s brought out the meaning of life for many people‭.‬”‭ ‬The Truitts decided early on to say‭ ‬‘yes’‭ ‬to the things he wanted to do in life‭. ‬“With Down Syndrome you have such a wide variety of skill sets and what the disability will look like‭,‬”‭ ‬says Marla‭. ‬“With Seth‭, ‬as far back as I can remember‭, ‬we just involved him and socialized him‭. ‬We didn’t shelter him‭. ‬We always involved him in whatever other kids were doing‭.‬”‭ ‬So‭, ‬when other kids were playing or involved in groups or sports‭, ‬so was Seth‭, ‬even if it looked a little different‭.‬

Around age 18‭, ‬Seth wanted more independence‭. ‬He knew he was an adult and felt the need‭, ‬as we all do at that age‭, ‬to strike out‭ ‬on his own‭. ‬However‭, ‬independence can be tricky for someone with Down Syndrome‭, ‬and the Truitts were unsure how to make it happen‭. ‬The thought went on the back burner‭, ‬and life went on‭. ‬Five years ago‭, ‬the family moved to the east side of Firestone‭, ‬and slowly the idea started to resurface‭. ‬But what would an independent life look like‭?‬

In 2019‭ ‬they came up with the idea for a tiny house for Seth‭, ‬a project that became known as‭ ‬“Joy House”‭ ‬because of his joyful personality‭. ‬It would sit on their own property but be far enough removed to give Seth his own space and‭ ‬independence‭. ‬They had the plans‭, ‬and Joe had the construction knowledge‭, ‬but they needed help‭. ‬Once word got out that the idea‭ ‬was in motion‭, ‬the community came together to make Seth’s dream a reality‭. ‬

Then came 2020‭. ‬As our community began hearing the phrases‭ ‬“pivot”‭ ‬and‭ ‬“the new normal”‭ ‬and that things would‭ ‬“look a little different‭,‬”‭ ‬Seth lost his job because of the pandemic‭, ‬and his once active social life was all but gone‭. ‬He experienced the same loss that‭ ‬rocked so many lives in 2020‭. ‬Was he upset‭? ‬Of course‭. ‬In Seth’s honest fashion he remarked‭, ‬“It’s killing me‭. ‬It’s too hard‭. ‬We need to stop it now so we can go out again‭.‬”‭ ‬But due to his unique life‭, ‬he already had the resiliency for doing things differently that the rest of us took all year to learn‭. ‬

Besides‭, ‬his home’s construction was underway‭, ‬which would change not only his life‭, ‬but also the lives of those who helped make it possible‭. ‬From‭ ‬donating construction materials and labor to decor and furnishings‭, ‬neighbors throughout the Carbon Valley and beyond came together reminiscent of the old‭ ‬“barn raising”‭ ‬days to build Seth his home‭. ‬And according to Marla‭, ‬who hopes Seth’s journey will inspire others‭, ‬“Joy House is so much bigger than his house‭; ‬it’s a dream come true‭.‬”‭ ‬The quiet reflection of this particular year afforded Seth time to settle in and appreciate Joy House‭, ‬which was completed in April with love‭, ‬gratitude‭, ‬and a socially distanced celebration‭. ‬Seth said about his new home‭, ‬“I love it a lot‭. ‬I’m just busy taking care of stuff‭. ‬It gives me faith that others can do it‭, ‬too‭.‬”‭  ‬He added‭, ‬“I have good parents and good friends and cousins‭. ‬I love it‭!‬”

Seth has learned how to live on his own successfully‭. ‬He has connected again with friends‭, ‬and he is gladly worshiping at church‭. ‬In October‭, ‬the town of Firestone brought in Via Paratransit to serve the area‭, ‬which afforded even more independence to Seth‭.‬‭ ‬Once‭, ‬when Marla couldn’t find him‭, ‬she called him frantically‭, ‬asking where he was‭. ‬And like any young man‭, ‬Seth replied‭, ‬“Mom‭, ‬I’m at work‭. ‬I’m an adult‭.‬”‭ ‬He says his new dream is to help others who want to live in their own home‭, ‬but he realizes‭, ‬“We need lots of money to make it for them‭.‬”‭ ‬The Truitts rounded out the year in December with a 30th birthday parade for Seth comprised of friends and loved ones circling‭ ‬Seth’s new home and then enjoyed a very merry Christmas‭.‬

It may sound like this story has a fairy-tale ending‭. ‬It turns out this is just the beginning for Seth‭, ‬his family‭, ‬and many other people nationwide‭. ‬When Joy House was in the planning stages‭, ‬Marla documented its progress on a Facebook page and at joyhouseproject.com‭. ‬She began an online store for Seth’s greeting cards that he creates out of his love of art and people‭. ‬Suddenly‭, ‬Marla started receiving posts and messages from others who shared that they also enjoy making arts and crafts‭. ‬Marla had discovered an entire community of artisans with disabilities‭. ‬In her heart she knew they needed a voice and a place to shine‭. ‬After many prayers and plans‭, ‬Joe and Marla decided to open‭ ‬a gallery for these artists‭.‬

In early December‭, ‬the Truitts received word that a prime retail space was available for rent in Estes Park‭. ‬Joe‭, ‬ever the family’s voice of reason stated simply‭, ‬“Let’s do it‭.‬”‭ ‬In spring 2021‭, ‬Joy House will officially become more than a home for Seth‭; ‬their new store‭, ‬“Joy House Gifts With Purpose‭,‬”‭ ‬will be a home for handcrafted goods of all kinds created by persons with‭ ‬“special abilities‭,‬”‭ ‬as the Truitts say‭. ‬This one-of-a-kind venue will provide income and self-esteem for the artisans‭, ‬with funds helping to fuel their independence‭. ‬As Marla once said about her own son‭, ‬which applies equally to so many others‭, ‬“If you put a butterfly in a little space‭, ‬maybe it will be happy‭. ‬But if you set it free‭, ‬you’ll see it fly‭.‬”‭ ‬When the Truitts begin this new era‭, ‬it is then that the dream of Joy House fully will come true‭.‬

For more information on the Joy House Project or how you might be able to help‭, ‬visit‭ ‬joyhouseproject.com‭ ‬or email joyhouseproject@gmail.com‭.‬