Connection Opens Door to Matt's Car Passion

July 28, 2016

Through our Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, an investment of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, Center for Independent Futures supports the connections that lead to healthier, happier lives.

Individuals with disabilities connect with trained volunteer Bridge Builders, community members who share their interests. Together, the matched pairs attend events, volunteer, enjoy their hobbies, helping participants create broader networks and fuller lives.

This month, our Bridge Builders in Frankfort, Illinois, filmed one partnership at work to create a training video that other communities can learn from.

Valerie Barich, who facilitates the project in this community, shares her story of the filming experience:

To begin the day, the production crew, Brian and Josh, and I met our participant, Matt, at Matt's house. In part due to his difficulty speaking to people and his nervousness, we got mostly one-word answers. I told the crew that this would change once Matt arrived at Adam's business, The Refinery.

You see, Adam specializes in refinishing high-end custom cars and hotrods. At The Refinery, these million-dollar cars come from around the country. While Adam teaches Matt about the work being done, Matt gets to crawl under, sit in, and get as close as he wants to these cars at every stage of refinishing--from the bonded skeleton of a 1959 pink Cadillac, to the pre-painted shell of a 1937 Ford, to the pristinely finished, award-winning original “Riddler.”

According to Brian, this was exactly the case. Brian told me he got great video and audio. Brian also admitted that even though Matt and I had described the place, project, and connection, it wasn't until he watched Adam and Matt interact that he really understood how this Bridge Builder project works--that he got a real picture of why it means so much to Matt. Before the Bridge Builder connection, Matt had worked part-time for two years at a car dealership in town. Despite asking to be taught how to change a tire, he was never allowed to learn.

We ended the day at the Car Cruise, a car show event in the community. Matt approached complete strangers to talk about their cars. His “Wolfpak,” the group of friends he made in school, attended as well. Their group presence in the community was felt. After the production crew left, two men approached me to say thank you and both were crying; one man who won the restaurant gift card raffle gave the gift card to the Wolfpak.

Toward the end of Adam's interview, I asked him what he learned from being a bridge builder. “Meeting with Matt has taught me to slow down, take less for granted with people and my family, to share and do for someone else what someone did for me when I was young,” Adam shared. 

“Someone I knew introduced me to someone they knew that owned a shop. I found my passion because someone let me work in their shop. But for them, I would not be where I am,” Adam continued. “I think it’s great to be able to give that to Matt.”

Thank you to Valerie and our volunteer Bridge Builders for making these important connections possible. We are also grateful to the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities for the generous grant that supports this project. To learn more, click here. 


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