Inspiring Friendships Through Day Sharing
KenCrest’s Day Sharing program offers those with disabilities the chance to build and sustain friendships.
By Sydney Kerelo
Former Day Sharing Coordinator and new Planned Giving Development Specialist Olivia Riordan embraced the flip side of Day Sharing, being a friend.
Earlier this year, Riordan, with her bright smile, flowing dresses, and joyful personality, searched for a friend within the disability community she could connect with. She found her perfect match in Amanda.
Amanda is supported by KenCrest’s Community-Based Services and is an active member of our Meaningful Day and Day Sharing programs—she is also one of the co-founders of Book Club, which is gaining traction throughout the Agency’s community participation programs.
“I was talking to family members about wanting to make more friends close to me because all of my friends live far away,” says Riordan. “And when I found Amanda and talked to her, I knew she was everything I wanted in a friend.”
Amanda and Riordan love Disney movies like High School Musical; they both studied music and shared a love for musical theater, choir, and opera. They are even working on creating a shared playlist with their favorite songs.
“She is very calming for me,” says Riordan. “Sometimes I can get very high in energy, and she will help me calm down and run deep breathing exercises for me.”
As the former Day Sharing Coordinator, connecting with people has always been important to Riordan. Throughout college, she strived to connect individuals struggling to find their place within the school with friends experiencing the same. She would talk with them, discover their likes/passions, and introduce them to others with those same interests.
“While studying for my undergraduate degree, I studied Music and American Studies, focusing on the study of systemic inequalities within the United States,” explains Riordan. “One of my work-study jobs was working on advocating for Disability Rights, and I loved it.”
According to Riordan, people historically thought that food, water, and shelter were the only necessities for living a good life. But that’s not true. When considering a holistic life, all individuals need human connection and interaction.
Riordan has met numerous people with disabilities who have told her they’ve never had a friend. They’ve only had paid staff or family members; they’ve never had someone to hang out with who likes talking to them without payment.
“You can be close with a staff person or family member, but it’s a different dynamic than being close with a friend,” says Riordan. “Amanda is my friend; it’s not work for me. When we video chat, I don’t do it from my office; I do it in my bedroom to create that separation.”
And for Amanda, it’s a new friend to enjoy. With a full life, Amanda juggles her friendships in Day Sharing, her family, her boyfriend, and her job; but she adores spending time with Riordan every week.
Day Sharing allows people with disabilities to create those shared connections and learn how to be a friend back. If someone has never had a friend, they may be unsure how to address someone or don’t know how to handle a taboo topic. Day Sharing lets them have those interactions and learn how to create healthy friendships and sustain them.
“Amanda has become such an important part of my life,” says Riordan. “She told me that meeting me was one of the best things ever happening to her.”
Every week, Amanda and Riordan meet for a virtual chat and share what they’ve done that week, what shows they’ve enjoyed watching, and even current projects they are working on. Amanda is writing a soap opera script on a teen drama with themes of love, mystery, and danger. She highlights different healthy and unhealthy relationship styles and offers a diverse cast full of people with disabilities and those that are neurotypical.
“It’s very vulnerable to put yourself out there, but I think having the extra support from friendships is incredibly helpful,” says Riordan with a smile.
While the pair’s friendship was built virtually, both look forward to connecting for more in-person dates in the coming months, especially over their shared love of a new Disney movie—The Little Mermaid.
Interested in learning more about KenCrest’s Day Sharing program? Click the link below!