Ray Canda was born with numerous disabilities, including autism, movement disorders and developmental delays. He exhibited self-abusive behavior, is completely nonverbal and didn’t walk until he was 9 years old.
Now 28, he lived at home with his father and grandmother until 15 years ago, when his father became seriously ill.
“His developmental issues are so profound and his behavior issues are so severe that we had a terrible time finding anyone to deal with them,” said his aunt, Chris Zimmer. Ray also takes numerous medications.
“Nobody wanted him,” said Marie “Teddy” Canda, his grandmother.
“Rose-Mary Center stepped up and accepted him in the respite program in January 2002,” said Chris. Soon after, her brother — Ray’s father – died. Teddy was unable to manage Ray on her own, so Rose-Mary Center in Euclid became his home. Ray has two full-time aides during the day and another at night. During the day, he goes to a vocational center.
“He was probably at his worst when he came to Rose-Mary. He can’t communicate and he gets frustrated,” Chris said, “but they worked with him to see if they could give him a better life and help him to express himself.”
Chris and Teddy describe the Rose-Mary staff as “angels on earth.”
“The people here really love him; they love all the residents. They look at them as individuals and want to give them the best life possible,” Chris said.
In July, Ray and three other young people moved from Rose-Mary Center, a Catholic Charities agency, to a specially equipped home in Richmond Heights. Each resident has his or her own room and they live in a family setting with supervision. The move was part of the process to vacate the old Rose-Mary facility in favor of smaller homes in the community. Some homes were built and others were retro-fitted to accommodate residents. Established in 1922, Rose-Mary continues the ministry of Jesus Christ by nurturing individuals with disabilities and celebrating love, family, dignity and faith.
Chris said Ray seems to enjoy his new home. He walked around smiling and clapping, one of his favorite pastimes, while he waited to eat lunch. She described her 6-foot nephew as a “big, hungry, strong baby, who everybody loves.”
Since he moved to his new home, a lot of his behavioral issues have disappeared,” Chris said, adding the staff even took him to a Cleveland Indians baseball game.
She and Teddy said Ray loves his new, larger bed and he seems to enjoy having his own room. He also likes to listen to country music, which helps soothe him. “He likes to cuddle and he likes hugs, especially when he feels distressed,” Chris said.
Chris, a parishioner at St. Mary in Mentor, and Teddy, a parishioner at St. Mary in Bedford, try to visit Ray at least once a week. “He may not understand our relationship to him – aunt and grandmother – but he seems to recognize us,” Chris said.
“We are grateful for the people who do this work. They care about Ray and are good at making him feel safe and loved. These are special people,” Chris said.