Life was a daily challenge for the Gibsons. However, things got a bit easier when Bruce was 5. That's when the family found Easterseals in their community. At Easterseals, Bruce had the opportunity to attend the state's first half-day school in the state.
Marilyn recalls what a relief it was to finally have a place where Bruce could get help from caring professionals. Also, she and Bob met other parents of children with disabilities and they helped one another-setting up a carpool and sharing their struggles.
Unfortunately, as Bruce got older, there were fewer supports available and the difficult decision was made to institutionalize him when he was 18 years old. The decision never felt right.
"I don't think he got what he needed," Marilyn says. "We could see there needed to be programs," she adds-like education and therapy, as well as respite to help families cope.
Sadly, Bruce passed away from cancer in 1996 at the age of 34. Years later when her husband's health also began to fail, Marilyn says the couple established a trust to benefit Easterseals, as a "thank you" and a way to help future families.
Easterseals learned about the trust after Bob died in 2007. Bill Andreas, Easterseals' vice president of marketing/development in northwest Indiana, says it's always a delight to reconnect with families who were helped long ago. He regrets Easterseals often doesn't know about their planned gifts-until they're gone.
"A legacy gift is usually the largest gift a person makes," he says. "During your lifetime, why not celebrate it and make sure it's used as intended?"
After reestablishing contact with Easterseals, Marilyn got a tour of the center. She actually recognized some participants in the adult programs-she had carpooled them as children to and from Easterseals some 40 years ago!
In time, Marilyn—whose will now includes a bequest to benefit Easterseals—even started leading tours.
"They're doing such a super job out there," she says. I tell people: "The need is so great and your support is so welcome."