On the corner of 8th and Broadway, Mike Holmes waits for the crosswalk to change to “walk.” He is taking a break from work at the downtown architecture firm GBBN to meet with a few people for lunch. Mike started working at GBBN in November 2011, when he was hired to work as an assistant office manager. There he sets up conference rooms for meetings, sorts and delivers mail, and keeps the office looking spotless among other duties.
As crosses the street and gets into the car, he is greeted by Tim Vogt, a long time friend who is working with Mike to help him make friends so that he’s better connected socially. On the way to lunch they banter back and forth about the time Tim almost got a speeding ticket on the way up to Cleveland. The conversation is familiar and easy going, a testament to their friendship.
When they arrive, Shana, Alyson, and John are waiting, all supporters of the AAU girls basketball team, “Cincy Swish,” that Mike has been assistant coach for the last 5 years. Mike also coaches at Mariemont High School, and between the two basketball teams this sport takes up much of his free time outside of work. That’s just how he prefers it.
Today, Mike and his committee are planning an awards banquet for the players. The idea will be to honor players who have impacted the community in some way, and was brought on by Mike’s desire to give back to the girls he has been coaching.
The group goes back and forth, brainstorming which venue would be the best fit, how many trophies should be bought, and all other logistics to be considered over the next few months before the event. There will be much work needed to be put in on the front end to make the night a success.
And that’s what makes this project important. Not the number of awards, the categories of winners, or the number of people who show up on the night. While all of those things are important, what matters most is the effort each person on the project planning committee are putting in to making it a success. The monthly meetings, the collaborative spirit, the feeling of shared accomplishment at the end is what brings people together. It’s what will bond Mike to a group of people on a new level, one that doesn’t bring his Down syndrome into the spotlight or make his disability the headline of the night.
For someone who is typically left out of ordinary social activities because of his disability, it’s those stronger bonds to people who share his love of basketball that make this event matter most.
So, for the next several months, Tim and Mike have months of meetings planned with other people who they hope to engage in the effort. This is partly to make sure the event is a success, and partly to widen Mike’s social circle. As they close the meeting, John asks, “How does all of this sound to you so far Mike?” “Good.” he replies with a smile, packing his briefcase on his way back to work.