By Heather Collins
Donna Hammock knows firsthand the joy, heartbreak and struggles of raising a child with special needs.
Hammock’s 15-year-old grandson, Kevin, was born with Down syndrome, and she knew she would be the one to take care of him. When Hammock’s son died in July 2015, Hammock gained full custody of Kevin.
As Kevin grew into adolescence, Hammock and her husband struggled with Kevin’s behavioral issues. Kevin became aggressive with therapists and began to overpower Hammock and her husband.
Hammock said, like many parents of children with special needs, she needed help.
In June 2016, Hammock sent Kevin to Damar Services, an organization serving children and adults with developmental and behavioral disabilities, in hopes that he would learn proper psychological and social skills and develop solutions for his behavior.
“One of the hardest things that I ever did was to let my little kiddo go,” she said.
Hammock said it was heart-wrenching to take Kevin out of her home, but it was the best decision she’s ever made.
Now, she will help other parents in the same situation. Hammock has joined Damar Services as director of Parent Voices, a program that offers support and encouragement for parents as they navigate the care experience. In her role, Hammock helps connect Damar Services with the parent experience and lends a sympathetic and compassionate ear to parents with children in the residential facility.
“I’m grateful that I can have the opportunity to help other parents get through the struggles that they go through,” Hammock said.
Hammock has lived in Carmel for 11 years. She brings Kevin home as often as she can and said he’s an entirely different kid. Hammock credits the team at Damar Services for his transformation.
“He’s willing to work and he listens,” she said. “He processes things so much better, he talks better, his language is so much better. Everything about him is better.”
For information, visit damar.org.