“Everyday Heroes, Everyday Dreams” began as a two-year grant sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council in 2007. The grant ended, but Wildwood recognized the value in this initiative and supports it to continue. Ten years later, it is still going strong. Everyday Heroes has two main objectives. The first, to focus on individualized community integration for the people we support. Second, to build leadership by recognizing and celebrating Direct Support Professionals who display exemplary skill in their profession.
Wildwood originally chose to participate in the initiative as it blended well with our agency's mission. We realized our continued participation in Everyday Heroes was another way in which we could continue to challenge ourselves to reach new heights.
Staff chosen to participate display strong leadership skills, act as role models, are creative, and possess a strong commitment to promoting community life for people. They are the people who deliver services above and beyond the expectations of their job. These are the staff who are enthusiastic, energetic, and overcome obstacles.
Each Everyday Heroes team consists of three participants: the Hero (the Direct Support Professional), the Mentor; (an experienced staff who provides support and guidance), and the Person who receives services. Together, the staff help the person to dream about their future. By listening to the individuals, we help them form a plan of action they can use to achieve their community inclusion goals and dreams. It is these dreams and goals that provide direction and purpose and give meaning to our lives.
Some participants dreamt of making friends, joining a club, learning a new skill or spending more time with family. These are the "everyday dreams" that make one’s life complete. It is these dreams our staff have helped people to realize through the Everyday Heroes, Everyday Dreams Initiative.
Over 100 staff and 50 people who receive services have benefited from their participation in Everyday Heroes. They represent a variety of departments across Wildwood. Each year, staff attend monthly classes over a nine month term. At the end of this period, each team creates a project highlighting their accomplishments which they display for Wildwood families, board members, staff, and friends.
Jen Muzio, MSC, was one of the staff from the Everyday Heroes class of 2017. She says, “Reflecting on our Everyday Heroes experience helped me to realize I did more for Brendan than I originally thought. Sometimes it felt like we were standing still, but I came to see we did make progress in our time together. It made Brendan really happy and proud of what we accomplished".
Class of 2017 graduate Nicole Romano said,
“When I was first nominated to participate in Everyday Heroes, I felt honored and valued because I was formally recognized for the work I was doing. By being able to choose the person I would focus upon made the journey together fun. I choose to partner with Sean. He was the first person I met here at Wildwood. Our relationship made what we did together more special. Everyday Heroes gave me the opportunity to reflect on my work and realize I made a difference".
Recognizing and celebrating employee performance is important for both staff morale and retention. Everyday Heroes reinforces Wildwood's existing standards for both community inclusion and acknowledging staff accomplishments. Wildwood’s commitment to this Initiative has been paramount to its continued success.