Angels Among Us- Jenny
This is the first in a series of stories about the remarkable people who are part of our Next Step Ministries' family.
It takes just one word for 23-year-old Jenny’s dad to describe his special daughter: “Sweetness”. For Next Step Ministries Head Trainer Karen Lyner, it takes four: “Jenny is my heart”. Over the last year, Jenny has found her way into a lot of hearts at Next Step Ministries, where she spends several hours each weekday.
“She seems to have blossomed a little more here,” said her dad. She really loves it here; she’s excited about it. Karen and Elizabeth (Andrews) are really great with her.”
“She’s a miracle,” said Lyner. “That’s what I call her. Whenever I feel discouraged, I just look to see something Jenny’s doing and I think, ‘this is why you’re here’. I call it my God glance.”
Since the day she was born, Jenny has faced a number of medical challenges. The list is long: cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delays, and cancer. Thankfully, Jenny has been cancer-free for several years now, and medication keeps her seizures under control.
Jenny started coming to Next Step Ministries full-time after graduating from Roswell High School in 2012. Her parents are encouraged by the positive changes their daughter is making at Next Step.
“For years, she was not social,” said her dad. “She wouldn’t look you in the eye. She’s learned and progressed a little, and now she’ll grab Karen’s and Lori’s and Liz’s hands, and she’ll clap and play patty cake. They’re real accommodating and spend lots of time with her.”
Jenny is non-verbal, but when you meet her, she connects in a variety of ways.
“She’s starting to try to talk. She’s making sounds,” said Lyner. She’ll reach out and touch your hands to try to get you to clap. Sometimes, she’ll reach out and give you a hug.”
Jenny also connects with music, and loves it when Next Step Ministries’ Executive Director Lori Baker plays cello. Another favorite activity: listening to Job Skills Coordinator Jim Pefferly play his electric guitar.
Jenny’s parents, Tom and Kris, are thankful their daughter has found a place to thrive. Like many parents of children with special needs, they didn’t realize the challenges they would face raising her. Over the years, the dreams for the wonderful daughter they adopted as a baby have changed.
“It’s a different life. We understand it, but the rest of the world has a hard time understanding it,” said Tom.
He is quick to add that the challenges they’ve faced have strengthened their family, which includes Jenny’s older sister Kristen. Tom said Jenny has taught them a lot as she has grown over the years. “It teaches you that she can be something. She is a wonderful little girl. She is happy with the people here, and happy at home.”
Jenny’s mom and dad are also happy, because their special daughter has found friends and a home away from home at Next Step Ministries.
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