Mary Schell Leads a Life of Service
For Mary Schell, service has long been a way of life. Her father was a dentist who taught his children tothink of the needs of others. So, in high school Mary helped at an orphanage, caring for children withdisabilities. Later, she joined the U.S. Navy and provided aid as a Registered Nurse.
Today, she is a philanthropist and a tenured volunteer leader at Hope Services, having served ten years as a Board Member and another twenty in philanthropic and advisory roles. She first connected with Hope over 30 years ago when her daughter, Laura, was diagnosed with William’s Syndrome.
“It had an impact on all of us,” Mary recalled. “Then, I thought ‘how can I move on here, and move forward as a parent.’”
Laura now lives in her own home with her dog and her caregiver of 14 years. A few days per week, she attends a community-based program at Hope offering her recreational and volunteer activities.
“I’m so lucky to be in this program,” Laura said. “It means so much to me, because they’re very nice people and I can be out in the community a lot of the time.”
Mary explains that while Laura has a place at Hope Services, there’s still much to be done in society. Laura isn’t so much bothered by public stares. But, a close friend of hers is hurt more deeply by it. “We talk about this within our family,” Mary said.
Throughout Laura’s life, Mary has worked to impart the same values of service instilled by her own upbringing, teaching Laura that there are individuals who are in wheelchairs, others that cannot see, hear, or speak.
Laura, herself, has embodied service, despite her own disability. She once served as a volunteer at Camp Harmon’s week-long program for those with physical disabilities. Throughout the entire week, she pushed those wheelchairs and helped them try new activities.
“We try to do our part, and lesson the discrimination, period,” Mary stated. “That’s what we focus on.”
Developing society’s acceptance of people with disabilities is a critical, but challenging mission, according to Mary.
“I can’t impart my really deep emotional feelings around the incredible value of a family member with special needs,” she shared. “The general population cannot feel that.”
She affirms that this is why Hope exists; that the solution is not simple, nor quickly achieved. It requires a community of allies committed to doing their part.
“Giving to Hope is one way I do that,” Mary shared.