My wife and I came to Park city for the first time in 2002 to teach our then 7 and 8 year old boys how to ski.
After being here for just one week we knew that one day we were going to move here. We loved the beauty of the area, the opportunities for outdoor adventure, the genuine integrity of the people and the inclusiveness of the community.
We were fortunate to be able to buy a small condominium in 2005 and when the economy was struggling a piece of land in 2008. We happily moved here in early 2020 not because of covid but but because of the opportune timing for our younger son Drew.
Drew, who is now 25 years old, is on the spectrum and in April of 2020 completed a special program geared toward teaching independence for young adults on the spectrum or with other intellectual or developmental delay.. My son that I thought would never be able to cross the street by himself is now living independently in Park City two and one half years into a full-time job which provides both a benefits package and a 401(k).
In April of this year I heard Deb Hartley doing an interview talking about an organization called Bridge 21. As the executive director, she stated that the organization’s goal is to create independent housing opportunities for young adults with neurodiversity.. Because of the experience with my son Drew I wanted to be involved with Bridge 21. I wanted other parents and caregivers with similar circumstances to achieve the successes and happiness that both Drew and my wife and I have experienced. At the same time I also felt it was important to create a parent support group for those caregivers who have a child on the spectrum or with other intellectual or developmental delay. Thus the Bridge 21 Circle parent group providing resources and peer to peer support was formed as an arm of Bridge 21.
Our monthly Bridge 21 Circle parent support group meetings feature a speaker. For our first meeting we invited the Summit County sheriff’s department. I asked them to come and speak about the Connorjack Oswalt case. Homeless for years, having a developmental delay but breaking no laws, I was impressed on many levels with the care that the sheriff’s department used to handle this young man’s very unique situation. Sheriff Felecia spoke about the case and was just as genuine and caring in person as what I had gleaned from the story that was reported. It became very clear at our meeting that the manner in which this case was handled was not luck but specialized training combined with a genuine care about doing the right thing for this individual. Felecia explained that the deputy’s go through special training courses on how to deal with special needs children and adults. From a previous suggestion of a parent who has a child on the spectrum, the Summit county sheriff’s department has created a “sign up form” that that gives the sheriff’s department special information about a neurodiverse child with knowledge related his or her disabilities, so should that child go missing or have another need to involve law enforcement the sheriffs would know how to approach each individual child appropriately.
One of the parents at the meeting asked if this program existed outside of Summit county but unfortunately it is limited only to Summit County. However, between our first and second Bridge 21 Circle meetings the sheriff’s department, on their own accord, actually went to the state legislature to work on a plan to get this program instituted statewide.
At our next meeting sheriff Felecia brought fellow sheriffs Wes and Julie along. They were equally as enthusiastic and spoke genuinely of how they wanted to work with and support our neurodiverse community. The sheriffs also created a nondescript sticker to be placed on the car window or a front window of a home where a neurodiverse child or young adult might be located. This way if there was ever an incident the sheriffs would be aware that they would potentially need to approach the situation differently than they might otherwise. The sheriffs offered to do preplanned mock pullovers with a neurodiverse driver attempting to create a level of comfort with authority. When I asked “what if the child doesn’t drive”, they said they would be more than happy to pull over a parent with a neurodiverse child in the car.
They attend every one of our parent Bridge 21 Circle parent meetings ( in uniform ) because they truly want to be a part of and support our neurodiverse community. They want the children and young adults to be comfortable regarding law enforcement and to make themselves available to any parent with questions showing their genuine care for our community. And they do all this on their time after their shift.
I have never experienced law enforcement that is so truly dedicated, involved and caring about any community. They go well above and well beyond any expectations of law enforcement. The Summit County Sheriff’s Department really is a special partner with our neuro diverse community as well as all of Park City. I continue to be impressed with their integrity and commitment, two adjectives one rarely sees in the same sentence when describing law enforcement.
We should be very thankful to have such a wonderful organization of people protecting us