bona vista holiday

CHEER — Alison Brantley (fourth from left) stands with her development team during last year's holiday talent show for Bona Vista's adult persons served.

In my time at Bona Vista, I have written approximately 200 of these articles. This one will by far be the most difficult. It is the last one – for me.

I have loved every single minute of my time at Bona Vista Programs. Yes, even the natural disasters and pandemics. The way this team comes together in good times and in uncertain ones is nothing short of inspiring.

Is that to say we get along every single minute of every day and that each moment is like riding on a unicorn while eating ice cream with sprinkles in the sun? Not even close. Some days are hard. Some days are gut wrenching. Some days are frustrating. Some days you work and work and at the end of the day look back, and you’re not even sure what you’ve accomplished.

The non-profit world is just that way. I’ve said it before, and it’s still true today – it’s a love of the heart.

And, my heart will always be with Bona Vista, those we serve, and those I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside for the past four years.

So, I’m not going to be sad. I will still see them often, ;ike at the Bona Vista Golf Classic on Friday, Aug. 28, for example! Don’t forget to sign up your team to play at bonavista.org under “Events!”

I will still be hitting them up for lunch dates to some of our favorite, local hot spots. I still will expect that they will text me funny things that happen or pictures of some of my favorite friends. This is definitely not goodbye. That’s why there will be no tears. (If I speak that into the universe it will come true, right?).

What will cause me tears, though, are the relationships with some of the adults we serve. Not seeing them. Not hearing them ask me when the next dance we are planning will be. Not knowing how they are doing. Not seeing their exquisite dance moves when I need a pick-me-up. Not listening to them tell me how they are going to hit a homerun at our next baseball game.

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They aren’t just people we serve. They are amazing, wonderful, caring, funny individuals who give the best hugs and make the world a better place. It has, literally, been an honor to do the work I do knowing that it’s to make sure their lives are better. Whether that’s by raising funds so they can have new things or recruiting quality staff to make sure they are cared for by people with their best interests at heart. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 500 times, but they are worth every single ounce of effort I ever put into this position.

My boss got on me (in the most loving, heartfelt, honoring way) when she proofread this article because I didn’t list some of my favorite memories. It’s so hard when I think about it to choose a “favorite” or one moment that impacted me the most. There have been so many, and I feel like I would be doing a disservice to everyone who has played a part during my time here by choosing just one.

When I think about the impact, though, it all boils down to one word – relationship. I’ve gotten to know some of the children in our preschool program so well that when they get out of speech therapy (which is next to my office), they come in to show me the sticker they received and tell me what they learned or crawl up on my lap and want to “work.” Speaking of children, I’ve seen some come into our program in wheelchairs and then walk across the preschool graduation stage. That’s when you literally can see with your own eyes the amazing work that is accomplished within these walls.

I’ve introduced my family to some of the adults who we now support in Special Olympics or in other areas of their lives outside of Bona Vista. We see them out while shopping or sporting events and know it’s going to be a bit before we are able to move on because they are so excited to see us. But, I consider it a blessing that my family knows the love of some of my most special friends.

I’ve grown to know many of our staff in good times and bad. We’ve shared loves and losses. We’ve celebrated “impossible” triumphs and muddled through some of life’s deepest struggles. Regardless, we always do it together. The members of my development team were friends before they were coworkers, and that will never change.

I do want to leave you with one final thought. I knew this in my head from a young age, but in my time here it has been so ingrained into my heart that I will never see the world the same way again. When you see people who are different than you – whatever that may look like – their abilities, their skin color, their religion, their sexual orientation, their hair color, or even if they prefer Pepsi over Coke (who are those weirdos, anyway?) – be kind.

It’s not always easy. And, I don’t always get it right either. But, if we all put a little more effort into understanding, hearing and loving each other this world (even just our small corner of it) could be a pretty amazing place. That’s my hope and my challenge to all of you. Be a kind human.

Next week, this space will be taken up by my amazing replacement – Tiffany Damitz. I can’t wait for you to get to know her and welcome her. Tiffany has worked at Bona Vista’s human resources department, so she already knows the why behind what we do and is invested in the mission. You are in good, capable hands here – in this newspaper space – and so is Bona Vista.