The Power of a Chance Encounter

A letter written for the Omaha Gives! Event for Madonna School’s Career Program:

It was all by chance that I met Nick. His attorney referred his guardian to Craft Lifestyle Management (CLM), because she knew we could offer some kind of support. Nick’s mother passed away last year. He lived with a family friend, who took advantage of his situation from the very beginning. The family literall

y cleaned out his bank accounts. Then came another move to his grandparents’ house which was out of state. This only lasted a few months until they discovered his needs were much too great for them to manage. With them being an older couple it was going to be an impossible task. They threatened to take Nick to a homeless shelter if his guardian in Nebraska didn’t figure out another placement for him quickly. This is when CLM got involved in this young man’s life.

Nick flew back to Nebraska with his guardian and began living in my home temporarily, while we waited to get residential services. The state denied him Priority 1 funding based on the fact that he had a special needs trust set-up by his deceased grandparents. While we were disputing his case for funding, we visited day service providers. Again it was by chance that Nick joined me when I attended a Home and School Association meeting at Madonna School for my son. The new transition wing had just been completed and the meeting was held in the main classroom area. After the meeting adjourned I asked the President of Madonna, Jay Dunlap, a couple of questions about the Career Program.

I was under the impression you needed to be a Madonna School graduate to attend the program, so I never even considered it an option for Nick. Another issue CLM was dealing with was the fact that Nick never completed high school. Nick’s mother pulled him from a 5th grade special education classroom to home school him. The only problem with all of this is that she never followed through with her plan. Nick’s life was stagnant. He stayed inside watching television for most of his childhood. Nick had no friends his own age and thought of his mother’s friends whom attended AA meetings with her to be his closest friends. These people were 20 to 30 years older than him. He was also being overmedicated to the point that he was sleeping for a large majority of the day.

After talking with Mr. Dunlap I had a feeling this was where Nick was meant to be. We came back for a tour and met Diane Cochran, Director of Life Skills Transition. Once Nick’s day services funding was in place he started at Madonna School. Diane agreed to not only work with Nick on vocational training but also daily living skills, social skills, and academics. When it became apparent to CLM that Nick could not manage his own medications, Madonna stepped in and supported CLM with administering his medications on a daily basis throughout the week.

Madonna School’s Career Program has truly been a blessing for Nick. He has the support of so many people that want the very best for him. His world has done a complete 360˚. Nick now lives in an apartment with a roommate who has in-home support staff in the evenings. He attends Madonna’s Career Program during the day, where he initially learns all of these skills which then CLM staff carries over into his home environment. It’s definitely been a team effort to get Nick to where he is today. I can honestly say that without Madonna’s help I don’t know where Nick would be living and in what condition he would be in. I live life with the philosophy that everything happens for a reason and Nick’s story is a true testament to the power of a chance encounter having an extraordinary effect on someone’s life. Thank you to all of the Madonna School staff for helping CLM’s clients be productive members of the community!

Warm regards,


Tara Harper
CLM Executive Director

*Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. 

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