What does the word “friendship” mean to you? For Kent & Wayne, it means being there for each other through good times and bad times. They aren’t just best friends…they’re like brothers!
Kent & Wayne’s friendship began in 1970 when they were living at the Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI) in Topeka. In the beginning, they would play together in the cafeteria and hang out in the tunnels that ran beneath and between the buildings. “Kent was very good at navigating the tunnels and was actually a courier between the units”, said Dani Halsel, Kent’s sister. “He knew the tunnels so well that when he boycotted school because they weren’t teaching him what he wanted to know, he’d camp out in them until it was time to go back to his unit."
Eventually, the two of them became inseparable. Soon after, they met Benjy and the duo quickly became a trio. In late 1997, their time at KNI was coming to an end and the following year they began receiving residential services through Individual Support Systems, Inc. (ISS) which is now Easter Seals Capper Foundation (ESCF).
“We were blessed that they could stay together and give thanks to Kathy Stiffler and Denita Hooks for making that happen as they were originally going to be placed separately”, said Dani. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if the brothers’ had been separated."
Over the next 15 years, the three of them enjoyed doing as many activities together as possible. In 2013, Benjy’s medical needs changed requiring him to return to KNI, leaving Kent and Wayne to adjust to a different lifestyle. They adjusted in time knowing that they would be able to visit him often.
Today, Kent & Wayne live in a duplex that is adapted to their needs. Both Wayne and Kent require supports for all tasks associated with daily living. Staff receive training specific to each gentlemen’s needs. Their supports, medical, social, and leisure are individualized. Staff focus on increasing independence and productivity by involving Wayne and Kent in all tasks that are completed on a daily basis. Both gentlemen are also encouraged to make choices that enhance their lives.
Although they are as close as brothers, both Wayne and Kent have opportunities to spend time away from each other. When they are together, they enjoy listening to music, sharing and teasing each other with toys especially Legos and gardening with the Shawnee County Master Gardeners.
Together, they have changed not only their lives but the lives of others by making profound, positive differences for the past 46 years!