If you ask someone about Lewis, chances are good that they’ll smile. His positivity is infectious; when they talk about Lewis, there will be a laugh or two lying in wait, a full-bodied joy that you can’t help but feel. It’s the feeling of true belonging, the feeling of home.
The Robertsons—Patty and Tim—knew Lewis long before they became his sponsored residential providers. Working with him while he lived in the Central Virginia Training Center, the pair actually met because of Lewis, and were quick to include him in their family outings. For years, they were Lewis’ fast friends, taking him home on weekends to spend time with their family until eventually, inevitably, he became family himself. With the blessing of Lewis’ biological family, the Robertsons brought Lewis into their home permanently in November 2014. At the time, Lewis already had his own room from his countless visits and weekends.
“Nothing’s really changed,” Patty said. “It’s just normal to us—except now, it’s permanent, and he’s happier. It’s less hectic trying to get him out and away, and his quality of life has really improved.”
That normalcy extends beyond Patty and Tim as well; Lewis is family to the Robertson children and grandchildren. The Robertsons’ youngest, Hunter, learned games from Lewis and taught him others in return during visits and stays. A longtime dog-lover, Lewis was never able to have a pet while living in the Central Virginia Training Center, but even before becoming a permanent part of the Robertson household, he helped to choose a family dog—a teacup Yorkie named Ace. Practically inseparable, the two have to sleep together at night if anyone wants to get much sleep at all.
Employed with Lynchburg Sheltered Industries since 1993, Lewis takes pride and pleasure in his work, whatever that may be on a given day. Recent health concerns have kept him home, but he walks and exercises, building back his strength and stamina with Tim and Hunter, eager to tell his friends that he’s “building his muscles.”
Most importantly, Lewis’ life is now his own. “He has choices now,” Patty said. “He doesn’t live on someone else’s schedule. He has the chance to make his own decisions.” When he gets a paycheck, Patty takes him to the bank, where he deposits it. At the store, he finds his own cart and spends his money as he wants—albeit with a little encouragement to make healthy choices. When it comes time for an outing, Lewis gets to choose there, too.
“He’s living the life he loves, now,” said Gwen Parr, the Robertsons’ residential coordinator. “He’ll just look at you, and you know that he’s so happy now.”
Part of that happiness comes from Lewis’ longstanding hobby—fire trucks. His bedroom is decorated with them, and his home is full of fire department memorabilia. When one whizzes by, he can often tell you where it’s from, or even its number.
In addition to his life with the Robertsons, Lewis visits with his biological family in Culpeper, often spending time with them during the holidays. His two families have forged a strong bond and a lasting connection, united around their love for and support of Lewis.
“You go visit him with a smile on your face,” laughs Gwen, “because of who you’re going to see, and you always leave with an even bigger one.”
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