Twenty-four years ago my oldest son Geordi (Geo), was born with big blue eyes, dark curly hair and chubby little cheeks that made you want to smother them in kisses. He was also born “fussy” – not wanting to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and not feeding well. As time went on, he was also late to sit, crawl, walk and talk. By the age of two, he was diagnosed as, “developmentally delayed” – cause unknown.
And so, The Great Adventure, began.
It was the early 90s and there was no internet. Information was scarce and the ability to connect with other parents was limited to the few families you interacted with through the school system or met in support groups. There seemed to be a real sense of sadness about disability at that time, which my husband and I found depressing. We didn’t want to sit in support groups grieving the loss of the child that we had imagined we would have. We wanted to love, encourage and CELEBRATE the one that we did have. We decided to follow our heart in this matter and as time went on, Geo did the rest.
The Great Adventure has taken our family to many places. In 2004, Geo’s faithful prayers for a brother landed us in Guatemala, where we adopted a baby boy named Jacob. Seven years later, in 2011, we sat alongside 20,000 other Special Olympians and their families, cheering on the athletes and chanting, “Go for the Gold!” at the State Summer Games in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Another time, The Great Adventure took us to a doctor’s office, where we learned that after more than twenty years in the dark, we would finally be given an answer to the, “why?” question of Geo’s disability. The answer, we were told, was now available due to the mapping of the human genome and the leaps and bounds in genetic science over the past two decades.
Recently, we embarked on another chapter of The Great Adventure. Our family purchased a company, FATWHEELS, that makes adaptive training wheels that enable people with balance issues to ride a bike.
Geo used them when he was 10-years-old and having trouble riding a two-wheeler. They are an excellent product and since we took over the company, we have had the privilege of connecting with thousands of families whose lives are also touched by disability. We’ve donated to children’s hospitals, given seminars at school boards and sponsored adaptive cycling events all around our State. We’ve also worked with amazing doctors, therapists and volunteers from all across North America. It has been such an honor to meet these extraordinary people who have given so much of their time, talent and treasure to enrich the lives of people with special needs.
And so, The Great Adventure, continues.
We have no idea where it will take us next. One thing we do know is that despite all of the challenges of raising a child with a disability, we wouldn’t have missed this ride for the world. We’ve been so fortunate in the past and our family can’t wait to see where The Great Adventure takes us next.
Until next time….
Colleen Berlingieri is a Mom, & Disability Advocate . She lives in Plymouth Michigan with her husband Tony, her two sons, (Geo & Jake ), & their rescue dog Andi. Their family owns the FATWHEELS brand that makes adaptive training wheels that enable individuals with balance issues to ride a typical bike. Colleen’s dedication to raising her family & empowering individuals with disabilities is her life’s work and the driving force behind her company & all that she does.