Contribution Stories

Lisette Wallen & Justin Hale

Community Presence

Lisette and Justin are not able to participate in most River’s Way programs due to the nature of their disabilities. When they are able to participate, our programs are better. Their contribution is their presence. By simply being there, Lisette and Justin are proof of the wisdom handed down from one of our long time board members, Greg Chudzik. Greg and his wife Peggy had a child with a disability named Kate. Kate could never leave her bed. When she passed at the age of 26, those who knew the family were profoundly affected. Kate had a great influence on the lives of her siblings and members of the youth group at her church.

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Camden & Zoe Richard

School-Based Community Walking Programs

Three days a week during the school year, Camden and Zoe Richard join other River’s Way Gamechangers (young adults with differing abilities) and our program director, Matt Kyle, in leading walking programs with gym classes in local schools. River’s Way works with over 900 students each year. Zoe and Camden both have Down’s Syndrome. On this particular Tuesday, the Gamechangers are at Tennessee Middle School where they are warmly welcomed at the front desk by school employees. They then head down to the gym where they join a general education physical education class along with a class of special education students.

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Caleb Stone & Justin Sutherland

Community Hub at the YMCA of Bristol

River’s Way Game Changers Caleb Stone and Justin Sutherland can be found at the YMCA of Bristol 200 or more weekday afternoons during the year. You will meet them lifting weights from 2-2:45 or taking part in a challenging yoga session from 3-4:45. Then they are either walking laps inside the Y or walking laps on the sidewalk outside the Y. Justin regularly does 12 Nautilus weight lifting machines each time he comes to the Y. Caleb does 7-8 machines. Both young men challenge themselves with heavier weights and have steadily built up their strength over the years. River’s Way has been working out at the Y since 2011.

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Edward Montgomery & Jonny Hamilton

Community Theatre at Theatre Bristol

Edward Montgomery and Jonny Hamilton are River’s Way Gamechangers who thrive as actors in our annual plays with Theatre Bristol. Edward and Jonny light up when it comes to theater. Play practice begins 5-6 weeks ahead of performances. We block out an hour of time to rehearse each day. Our director and playwright, Dottie Havlik, has high expectations for the River’s Way actors and Theatre Bristol actors alike. Edward and Jonny are two of the 14 River’s Way actors involved. Edward and Jonny meet Dottie’s expectations by taking rehearsals seriously and by adding dramatic flair to the scripted roles.

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Andrea Sultan, Jonah Partain & Nick Bell

Community Internships, Community Garden & Cafe Central

Andrea Sultan, Jonah Partain and Nick Bell have been with River’s Way for over 10 years. They have participated in River’s Way summer camps, and they have been involved with a number of key River’s Way programs for extended periods of time. Andrea now works full time in the kitchen at the Bristol Rehab and Memory Center and she owns her own home. Nick works two days a week as a dishwasher at Bristol Regional Medical Center, and he continues to participate in River’s Way programs at the YMCA of Bristol and in schools. Jonah is nearly done with a two year electricians program at the Tennessee Institute of Applied Technology in Elizabethton and he continues to join us at the Y when he can.

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