In part one of this II part series, Katherine Devine shared the story of her exceptional brother, Paul, and the lasting legacy he left behind. Click here to read before continuing with part II. Today, Katherine shares how she found healing after Paul’s death through working with the special needs community and why she’s dedicated the rest of her life to being a voice for these precious people.
During my time in college, opportunities to learn from persons with special needs abounded! I was a very involved member of Best Buddies. This non-profit organization promotes the inclusion of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by matching college students with adults from the community who have special needs.
Through my involvement, I grew a very strong friendship with my one-to-one match, Brittany Hunt. Brittany is a spunky woman who happens to have Down Syndrome. Brittany and I had attended the same church for almost a decade when I joined the organization. But, Best Buddies took our friendship to a whole new level. Not only did we go out to eat after church, now we dressed up as Minions on Halloween, attended a 90’s dance together, performed in a talent show, traveled out of town – we did it all!
Brittany and the other buddies in WKU Best Buddies became some of the truest friends I’d ever known. They even voted to give the chance to stand as Homecoming representative for this group– that was such a heartwarming feeling! I asked one of my close friends, Junior Morgan, to be my escort. We were voted into the 10 candidates by the WKU student body! Junior became the first person with Down Syndrome to walk the Homecoming court in WKU history!
Also during college, I grew a stronger relationship with Ben Hutchison, the son of my brother’s former speech therapist. Ben was born with a chromosome abnormality that manifested in several of the same disabilities that Paul faced. I took Ben trick-or-treating every year and we dressed up in coordinated costumes:
Batman and Batwoman, hippies, King and Queen, Fred Flintstone and Bam-Bam, Mario and Luigi, Russell and Carl from Up, cowboy and cowgirl, a DJ and a hip hop dancer. Sometimes we even incorporated his wheelchair into the costume, morphing his wheels into Batmobile wheels, transforming his chair into a horse fit for a real cowboy, and creating a turntable to fit perfectly over “DJ Benny Soundz”’s chair.
I also served as a community living support worker for Ben. Through this experience I learned how to meet personal care needs of people with special needs, which my parents had often handled with my brother. I gained such respect for Ben and his parents as I spent many evenings in their home and as I took Ben into the community for various therapies, to the mall, to the movies, to concerts, to the humane society, and out to eat. My relationship with Ben has been therapeutic for me as he became like a younger version of my brother.
In college my job opportunities were diverse. I worked at two different special needs camps: Camp Happy Days and Fuge Camps.
By the end of college, the Holy Spirit lit a fire within my soul to change this world for persons with disabilities! My personal mantra became, “Leave this world a better place for people with special needs than it was when your brother left it.”
Through my Master’s program, I gained a wealth of knowledge about how to best help persons with communication disorders. I completed my externships in two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, a rehabilitation facility, an early intervention center, and a job support center for adults with special needs. I worked with persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, chromosomal abnormalities, visual impairments, and hearing impairments. I helped some to utilize communication devices, which allowed those to speak who could not use their voice to do so. I assisted others in learning the social rules of communication, such as, look people in the eyes when speaking, take turns in conversation, don’t only talk about things that are interesting to you, talk about things that are interesting to the other person as well. I worked with some individuals whose physiology of their oral cavity made sound articulation more difficult. I helped children with special needs to understand the various parts of speech.
My aspiration in Speech Therapy is live out Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Often times people with special needs are wrongly looked down upon and I consider it a privilege to be in a career where I can advocate day in and day out for respect for these individuals.
To think, I wouldn’t have experienced these special experiences and friendships, if it hadn’t been for my brother’s influence on my life. He taught me to have compassion for this dear population of people. Since Paul’s passing, those with special needs who came into my life helped me to see there really is purpose in all that pain! The purpose is to use my life to glorify God through helping this broken world see that my friends with disabilities are wonderful and beautiful and priceless.
I don’t know if I could have healed from losing my brother if it wasn’t for the persons with special needs who came into my life after him. They’ve given me a sense of direction and brought me an unexplainable level of joy! I thank God for the way He has redeemed my story! I look forward to more memories with all the special friends in my life, as well as all those with special needs I have yet to meet!
I pray that my story helps those dealing with loss. I pray they can find HOPE in knowing that the Lord has purpose in their pain and it will be revealed in His time. I also hope the words shared here serve as a reminder that the Lord has a great purpose for his children with special needs. He uses them to demonstrate the meaning of unconditional love and joy!
In loving memory of Paul Andrew Devine.
Thank you Katherine for sharing so openly and honestly This story, the love between Paul and you, and your true passion for helping those who need it most are making a profound impact on this world. You are living out that calling to make this world better than it was when Paul was here. Thank you for inspiring me!