Family Feature: The DeSieghardt Family, Part 2

Arcare’s first Family Feature introduces the DeSieghardt family. Part 1 explores how Fred Sr., a founding board member, joined with other families to create Arcare. Part 2 focuses on Fred Jr., some of his accomplishments, and Arcare’s continued advocacy and support of the family in years to come.

A Kind Soul

Anyone asked to describe Fred Jr. can do so in one word: kind. He celebrates many successes and accomplishments in his life, including receiving the prestigious Kindest Kansas Citian Award in 1998. He retired from Shawnee Mission Hospital (now Advent Health) in 2018 after a 41-year career. In his retirement, he returned to the hospital as a volunteer, where he was recently recognized for accumulating over 500 hours of volunteer service with the organization. Before the coronavirus pandemic, he also volunteered with Heart to Heart and Crosslines.

Fred Jr.’s parents always focused on his strengths, skills and abilities. His father shared the story of when Fred Jr. learned to drive:

In 1980, his younger brother was about to get his driver’s license. Every Sunday, his little brother would get in the car and we would drive over to the parking lot of the community college. We would practice various driving exercises there and whatnot. At the end of one of those lessons, Fred Jr. said, “Well, what about me?” from the backseat. So I said, “Okay, get up here (in the driver’s seat).” Fred was very motivated to learn to drive and learn the answers to the written driver’s test. He passed the driving test on the first go-round and the written test on the second go-round. That meant Fred could drive to the movies, to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office — he could go all kinds of places! His life could be more fulfilling than if he had to wait for me to take him.

At the conclusion of his story, Fred Sr. asked, “Now, carry that along a number of years, and guess who is driving 95-year-old me around?”

“I am!” Fred Jr. exclaimed to his father with a smile.

Advocacy and Support: Past, Present and Future

Much has changed in the disability community since Fred Jr. was born in 1953. But what has remained constant is the overwhelming necessity for advocacy and support for individuals with disabilities and their families.

When Fred Jr. was growing up, he worked in job sample assignments at Shawnee Mission West High School. He had good reports on performance, and his parents felt he could do well in a job after high school. His father helped solicit several possible employers; however, he found that most of them had no interest in hiring Fred Jr. Eventually, Fred Jr. got a part-time job at a cafeteria in Prairie Village. After four years working there, he told Fred Sr., “Dad, I want a harder job.” They then started the search all over again. Shortly after, he was offered employment by Shawnee Mission Hospital, where he had a long and successful career in a full-time, competitive employment position.

When asked how he envisioned the future role of Arcare in Fred Jr.’s life, Fred Sr. recalled another family that is actively served by Arcare’s Life Plan Program. He met the family through Boy Scouts, and they had multiple children with special needs. When their parents passed away, Arcare assisted the adult children with selling the house and purchasing a more suitable home for them to live in. He explained that Arcare continues to be involved with that family, assisting with critical and essential tasks like balancing checkbooks and scheduling regular home maintenance. Although the DeSieghardts are not in that position yet, they soon will be, Fred Sr. said. When it becomes necessary, Fred Jr.’s Life Care Plan coordinator, Amanda Fletcher, will help make that transition less stressful. Fred Sr. said he hopes that with Amanda’s guidance, Fred Jr. will continue to remain independent in the community. In addition, Amanda will know Fred Jr.’s strengths in order to advocate for him and push him to continue learning and experiencing an independent life. Amanda voiced her deep respect for Fred Jr.: “Fred is such an amazing, loving, caring man .… What Fred puts his mind to, he does,” she said.

The DeSieghardt Family Feature series isn’t over: Stay tuned for Part 3, highlighting the family’s advice to others who may be facing some of the same challenges.