What’s Your Story

Individuals and families receiving services may submit their story by clicking here.

Jalisa Leanna White
Hi my name is Jalisa Leanna White. Come go on a journey with me. Here is my story.

I was born with Hydrocephalus, which in simple terms is excessive water on the brain. Unlike most babies, I did not smile much, nor did I want to drink milk, it was yucky! As you can only imagine, this was very concerning to my mom and dad. They took me to see a man that was in a white coat, which I later came to understand, that was my pediatrician. He stated that I needed brain surgery to have a shunt put in to relieve the water pressure on my brain, so I can live. At nine weeks old, the doctors told my mommy and daddy that I had a 50/50 chance ofsurvival, but guess what? God had a different plan. I not only came out of surgery ready to drink that yucky milk,it actually tasted good! Oh and by the way, I was discharged from the hospital in only four days, when my parents were told I would be there a few weeks.

As you can see, God smiled on me. In return, I finally began to smile. My brain was starting to work, and the wheels were spinning. Growing up did not come without difficulty. I was not able to walk until age 5. I was not potty trained until age 16. (not that I did not want to go to the bathroom) my brain was not ready to tell me I can go on my own. I had difficulty speaking, and walking, but God put in my path people called occupational and speech therapist. They were amazing. The encouragement of my loving family, I began to slowly walk and speak on my own. My brain really went into overdraft, because boy it taught me to sing, and remember any song I hear! To this day, it amazes my parents how I can learn a song by listening to it once.

Now, I am all grown up, and working at Ash Craft. I wake up each morning telling my mother “I like to work” you want to know why I say that? It’s because my bus driver Ms. Cheryl greets me with a smile each morning, and I feel loved. I don’t think people in my community, county, state, or government officials truly understand the meaning for someone like me to have independence. This is what Ash Craft provides for me and my friends who work there with me. I want people to understand that I am a blessing from God and this is my story. (and I’m sticking to it)!!

Johnny Peterson and Lela Holcomb
Hi, I am Johnny Peterson and I am Lela Holcomb. We used to work at AshCraft Industries. At AshCraft everyone was very nice and we had lots of friends. We learned skills to help us get a job in the community. Now we work together in the community at Grand River Academy in Austinburg, Ohio. We work as a team cleaning the dormitory buildings. We were hired in January 2014. We really love our job at Grand River Academy. We are proud of our work and feel that we fit in. We always have a smile when we are at work.
Our supervisor’s name is Joel. He says we do a great job and he calls us his “A-TEAM”. We love the people we work with and we love our paycheck.




Thomas Edward Miles
Thomas Edward Miles was born April 29, 1993 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, OH. He came into the world a fighter, weighing only 1 lb. 9 oz., 13 inches long at 24 weeks & 3 days into my pregnancy. There never was a definitive reason; we think he just didn’t want to be born in August, and definately not on Friday the 13th! He was just barely longer than a ruler, so skinny, and almost a milk chocolate brown. I was told this was because he had no fat under his skin yet, so we were seeing muscle. His skin was very delicate like metallic leafing. He was immediately intubated, had an umbilical line inserted, put into an incubator and transferred to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where he lived for the next 4 months.

He was in an intensive care nursery with 5 other babies. This room, Nursery 7, is where he fought to live. Every day brought another crisis, one organ or system failure after another. He had 2 primary nurses assigned to him, Amy and Sarah, his guardian angels. They were assigned to him whenever they were on duty and when they weren’t there, they left detailed notes and memos to the other nurses as to his likes, dislikes, and preferences. For example, he calmed down when lullaby cassettes we brought in were played for him. I believe that was the beginning of his love of music. He disliked the pacifier, liked laying on his right side more than his left and did not like being on his stomach! Within days, he responded to the sound of our voices. We were not able to hold him for 7 weeks, but we were encouraged to touch and stroke him. He responded almost immediately.

Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, he overcame one obstacle after another. Every time something went wrong, Amy and Sarah would tell us to look at everything that was going right! He finally reached his goal of weighing 5 lbs., but he was still intubated. There was talk of a tracheostomy. We had a long talk in the nursery that night and I told him this is not something he wanted to do. Within a couple of days, he coughed out the endotracheal tube and he was put on a nasal canula with oxygen! He never was re-intubated again. We went to the step down unit for about 2 weeks and then finally, after 4 months and 4 days, our baby boy came home!

Just about the time he was 3 months old, Ashtabula County Board of DD contacted us about starting Thomas in Early Intervention. Thomas was still very vulnerable and very susceptible to anything infectious, especially RSV. We were told it could be deadly to a preemie. So ACBDD set up a therapist to come to our home. She showed us how to massage his fragile little body, to brush him to help desensitize him, and various exercises to help strengthen his muscles. A year later, we were venturing out to Happy Hearts 3 times a week to continue his early intervention. At first, I brought our own blanket and toys, but the teachers and aids were wonderful and very careful about sanitizing anything each and every child came in contact with. Soon he had a physical and occupational therapist. Soon after that he acquired a speech therapist. It took him 2.5 years, but he was walking! He was pointing and signing to get his message across.

After 3 years, we moved him to a class that had typical children mingled with no more than 8 special needs children. That is where he bloomed! It was almost as if he never knew that kids his size could speak. He had always been around adults and didn’t seem to be interested in talking. He loved the music, activity, and laughter of the classroom.

When he turned 6, we were told that Geneva City Schools and ACBDD was starting a satellite program for special needs children and would we be interested. It was sort of the same premise as the pre-school, mingling typical and special needs students for part of the day, but they would have a home room for only them, where they could rest, isolate, or re-group as each individual child needed. We were very excited and signed him up. He went from 7 years at Austinburg, to 4 years at Geneva Jr. High, and then 4 years at Geneva High School. He graduated in 2013, a very proud young man.

He took that first summer after graduation off, and then right after Labor Day, he started at Ash/Craft Industries. He has been there for over 2 years and absolutely loves working there. He is so proud to go to work every day and even prouder on payday. Thomas started taking piano lessons while in high school, now that he is working, he is paying for his own lessons. He used to practice on a keyboard, but since he is working, he bought himself a piano. He sings in the Chancel Choir at church and plays in the Bell Choir when it is active. His love of music continues.

I see the pride in his young face; in his scholastic accomplishments, in his music, and in his job.

A.J. DeHaven

I was born 6 weeks early and only given 3 days to live. I am now 24 years old. I’ve graduated High School, and love my job at Ashcraft Ind. I enjoy being out in the community. I’m in Special Olympics. I bowl and do track and field. I love my social time with other fellow athletes.



Jimmy LaCava
My nickname is “Jimmy Smiles”
I was born 7-27-12 at 30 week at 3lbs 2oz. After two days of life I was told I wasn’t going to live,
but so far I proved them wrong. After about 1 month in NICU my parents were informed of a rare chromosome disorder that I have. I’m classified as a “unique baby”. What makes me unique is what chromosomes and how much of the chromosome was affected. Chromosome 8p23.1 Duplication Syndrome. Chromosome 9p24 Deletion.

After a total of 4 months in NICU I was able to come home (the best day of my mom and dad’s life!). I received physical, occupational and speech therapy at home until age 3.

Although only small numbers of people have identified, we can’t be certain what the full range of possible affects will be. Some features are: speech delay, learning delay. I receive support for learning, speech delay and get exercise with supportive services from Happy Hearts.

I attend Happy Hearts Special Education School and in class mostly learning basic skills like name recognition and early stages of learning. I receive art, music, physical education with the help of my teachers. I ride my scooter at home for fun!

I would like people to know that there will be differences between me and others but it is important to see me as an individual and not to make comparisons with others. After all, each of us is unique!

Terri Church
My name is Terri Church and I work at Ash/Craft Industries My supervisor at work has taught me how to work hard and do a good job. I never want to miss work because I like working on different projects and seeing my friends. At lunch time my friends and I sit around the table and talk about work or things that we like to do on the weekend. I like to go to work every day to make money. I like to use my own money to play bingo, go bowling, and go shopping.I have been a part of the Special Olympics for years. I’ve participated in bowling, swimming, and track. During my swimming meet it felt good to move my legs in the water and hear the people cheer. I enjoyed cheering for other swimmers and meeting friends from other counties. During one of my bowling tournaments both my friend Amy and I won 1st place. I was happy to get a place and share that moment with my friend. I like to show people my medals and trophies that I win.

I want people to know that I am nice and polite. My mom and dad and my family have taught me that you have to be nice to other people because that is how you make friends. I love going to work every day at Ash/Craft Industries and being around my friends.

Tiffany Pelton
Hello my name is Tiffany Rene Pelton. I am 17 year old. My birthday is November 10. I have autism and I wear glasses to help me see. I go to school at Edgewood High School. I work on my homework every night and weekend for about 5-6 hours. I’m in SADD club, Choir, Track and field, the high school musical for high school. I am a very motivated person and have to make sure things are alone right. I have speech every other week at High School because I can’t talk straight. I have meet a lot of friends at Special Olympics.

I have a big family. I live with my grandma and my dog named is Abby. My mom and dad don’t live together, but I do see my mom but I don’t my dad. I have no sisters or brothers. I have fourteen cousins that are on my grandma side and one on my dad side. I love when they come to visit, but happy to see them leave so grandma and I have our house back.
My favorite things to do are to do homework, play on the computer, sign language, and going for a run. I have been doing 5k race and mile races and to train for them with Jonathan, every week.

I am in Special Olympics; I have won lots of medals and ribbons. I am in track and field, bowling, basketball, swimming, and softball. I love being on the team; Michele makes everybody crazy in sports even if she is the coach, because she believes in having fun.

My best friend is Jonathan; he been teaches me new stuff that i don’t know and we train together for races, that is why he is my best friend. I have a boyfriend named Dylan W., but I call him Didi. We been together for 7 years.

After high school, I’m going to Atech for Child care, Pet care, and nursing. And after that I am going to work at Ashcraft.

Jonathan Davis
Hello my name is Jonathan Karl Davis. I am 16 years old. My birthday is October 4th! I have autism, wear glasses, hearing aides, and wear a red helmet when I play sports, so I don’t get hurt. I go to school at Happy Hearts. I work in the cafeteria: my jobs are taking care of the trays and helping the little kids. I am a very hard worker and love my job! I’ve meet a lot of friends at Happy Hearts.

I have a big family! I live with my Mom, Dad, Brother Brian and my two cats: Fee Fee and Smokey. I also have three more Brothers, Nicky, Scotty, Jeremy and one Sister, her name is Brittany. I have five Nephews: Aiden, Parker, Greyson, Jaxon and Evan, I also have one Niece, her name is Avery. They call me Uncle Jon! I love when they come over, but not when they play in my room!

My favorite things to do are play video games, read books, and watch movies. My favorite movies are the Star Wars Movies. Luke and Anakin Skywalker are the best characters.

I am in Special Olympics; I have won lots of medals! I am in track, bowling, basketball and baseball. I love being on my team! My mom is even one of my coaches!

My best friend is Tiffany! She helps me with lots of things and is a great friend!

When I am old enough I’m going to work at Ash Craft. I also want to be a police officer, like my dad was. I want to protect people and catch all the bad guys.

Marvin Byler
Marvin Byler was born Oct. 28, 1992 to Dan and Katie Byler, weighed 5lb. 9oz, 19 ½ inches. What a shock when Dr. Lee came in and said Marvin is Downs. Dan had left for home already so I was all alone, my chest felt like there was a brick on it. I had very little sleep that night.

Dr. Lee thought he was healthy otherwise, then at 2 weeks when we went back for a checkup, she heard a heart murmur, we had to go to a heart specialist (Dr. Zahka) for an EKG and they said he has 3 small holes but usually they close by themselves, they said we have to keep it checked and we got the good news that they are closing by themselves.

When he was about 2, Oct. 5, 1994, he started for a class in Middlefield every Wed. and Fri. a.m. until the end of July. He started for Happy Hearts Sept. 5, 1995, Tues, & Thurs all day from 7:30 till about 4:30. He seemed to enjoy it.

He then went to an Amish Special Ed for a couple years and then back to Happy Hearts where he still is. He is now at Ash/Craft Mon. Wed. & Fri. and then Tues & Thurs. He helps at the cafeteria at school or wherever needed He loves both jobs! We feel blessed that we have a place for him to work and so thankful for all the support he gets.

When he comes home from work he changes clothes and goes out and does his chores and about every evening he harnesses up his pony and hitches it in the wagon and goes for a ride, does everything by himself.

He enjoys working and after a full days’ work he says “it was a busy day”! (smiley face)
He loves to sing and auctioneer and in between our church Sunday he has his own church all by himself but pretends there are more people there!

What a shock when we found out he is Downs, but now we wouldn’t want him any different and would be very lonely without him.
Dan and Katie Byler

J. Warren
I was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, on February 28, 1970. I was born laughing and giggling. When I was three weeks old I stopped breathing in my mother’s arms. Thank God my dad was a paramedic at the time. I was tested at Rainbow’s Babies and Children and they found out my brain was damaged. They classified me as being very happy, hyperactive and mildly mentally retarded.

I went to Happy Hearts in 1974, and in the Fall of 1975, I was mainstreamed into public school. I was in Special Education Classes until I was 22.

I started receiving services from Ash/Craft when I was 22. For the first time I had other people with special needs that truly understood me. Kids in the public school called me names.
I love Ash/Craft.