Wyatt Davis got the most out of Staples High School.
He hosted a weekly radio show on WWPT-FM. He was an avid member of Best Buddies and the Photography Club, and the football team’s most ardent fan. Nearly every staff member and student knew him — and all loved him.
Not bad for a young man who — because of cerebral palsy — cannot speak, or use his extremities.
Wyatt is 21 years old. That’s the age limit for high school special education services. He graduated last June (while also attending community college).
In normal times, he’d move to a program like STAR. Like similar organizations around the state serving those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, its services would help Wyatt transition to the “real world.”
But these are not normal times.
In the absence of a state budget, Wyatt — and over 200 recent high school graduates like him — have been stranded in a hellish limbo.
“Wyatt uses a wheelchair for mobility, and needs 24/7 assistance to meet his basic health care needs,” says STAR executive director Katie Banzhaf.
But, she adds, “I don’t think of Wyatt that way. To me and all of us who know him, we see an amazing young man who loves photography (he takes great photos with adaptive devices), loves his iPad, has a great sense of humor, and will absolutely charm his way into your heart.”
Through STAR — which he became involved with last year — he has attended photography and music classes, and engaged in many activities.
But state legislators have not yet passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Governor Malloy’s interim budget cut funding for places like STAR by up to 18%.
Now Wyatt mostly stays home.
His parents have paid privately for STAR services, 3 days a week. They have other pressing needs — including Wyatt’s other health expenses, and a daughter in law school — and cannot afford that for much longer.
The other option is for his father or mother to quit their job, to stay home with Wyatt. But that won’t help him grow, develop and make friends.
“We’re trying to raise awareness and funds from the community so Wyatt can return to STAR for at least 1 to 2 months,” Banzhaf says. “That will give us time to find additional resources, so he can stay as long as he needs us.”
United Way of Coastal Fairfield County — and an anonymous donor’s contribution of $1,000 — have ensured that after major hip surgery last month, Wyatt can join STAR again next next week.
The organization hopes other neighbors and friends will help too. To donate — or for more information — call Peter Saverine, STAR director of philanthropy, at 203-846-9581, ext. 302, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.