Fran Richards, Aspire Living & Learning Direct Support Professional, was honored this December by Gateways Community Services with a Direct Support Professional of the Year Award.

Fran supports individuals with disabilities through the Aspire community-based day supports programs. The nomination letter below was written by Bonnie Dunham to Gateway Community Services about the impact of Fran's work with her son, Sean.

"Fran Richards is the most dedicated professional that I have ever met. As the DSP for our son, Sean, Fran fully committed to his success.

When the pandemic disrupted many of Sean's activities, Fran found ways to maintain as much of his typical routine as possible. As one example, Fran hosted a karaoke concert where Sean sang and played his guitar for her and a small group of socially distanced family, friends and neighbors (he LOVED the applause). Fran knows that Sean loves singing karaoke. Before the pandemic at Sean's request, Fran came to the Jade Dragon on her own time to hear him sing at his regular Friday night karaoke "gig."

One of the most special things that Fran has done was helping Sean fulfill his Christmas wish. Sean told Fran that he made a wish that he would get a hundred Christmas cards. She put out the word to family, friends, Sean's coworkers and others.

People not only sent cards, they asked others to send Sean cards, too. Going to the mailbox became his favorite part of the day. Sean was VERY HAPPY to receive so many beautiful Christmas holiday cards (204 from people in 18 states!!!). He kept giggling about how many he got and how much people love him. These cards made our whole family's holidays extra cheery and our dining room spectacularly festive.

Going to the next level, Fran took the time to photograph Sean opening every card and helped him post on his Facebook page, a thank you message with the picture to each person who sent him a card.

A few years earlier, Fran helped Sean to set up his Facebook page, which we appreciated since social media is not one of our strengths. Whenever Sean does something new or exciting, he is sure to remind us, "Take my picture for my Facebook". It has turned into a great way to keep Sean connected to extended family and old and new friends.

Thanks to Fran's support, Sean is able to find and experiences the wonder and joy that surrounds him. Fran has told us that she is honored that we trust her with the care of our son. I honestly can't think of anyone I would trust more."
-Bonnie

Fran's creativity, resourcefulness and commitment to the individuals we serve is inspiring. We are grateful to have her on our team. Thank you, Fran, for living Aspire's mission to build strong communities by empowering individuals.

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Fran Richards awarded Gateways Community Services DSP of the Year Award