Holly’s story: a star leads the way
“I’m a superstar,” Holly says as she throws her arms up in the air. And it’s not an exaggeration. Holly is truly a star. A Hollywood girl at heart, Holly’s name is befitting of her personality, as she dreams of becoming an actor.
“She was born a drama queen,” Robyn says, Holly’s mum.
Today, Holly’s dreams are coming true – she’s the star of her own film. Surrounded by lights and cameras, at a moment’s notice Holly assumes a character.
Dressed as Snow White, a costume made by her mum, Holly enacts the climactic scene where she eats the Evil Queen’s poisonous apple. As she falls to the floor, Holly enters her deep slumber while she waits for true love’s kiss from her Prince Charming. When the curse breaks, Holly swirls around with delightful glee and is whisked away for her happily ever after.
And it’s indeed a happily ever after. Holly, who has down syndrome, doesn’t let her condition stop her from living her best life.
“I just love to be just me. I just want to be free, more fun, and this is me. I want to do something that I love,” Holly says.
Wesley Mission Support Worker, Christine says, “She sees the best in everyone and she just sees the best in the day. She sees through how people see her and she just sees life as she wants to see it.”
Wesley Mission Home Care and Disability Services Team Leader Karen adds, “I've known Holly since she left school to a mature 26-year-old now. And during that time, she's had many challenges, but that has made Holly stronger. Holly’s a go-getter. She will bounce through the toughest obstacles she can. She’s a determined young woman.”
A supportive family
Holly is surrounded by a family who deeply love and care for her. And her family extends beyond her mum, sister, brother, nephews and niece, to her ‘Wesley Mission family’.
Her ‘Wesley Mission family’ are her support workers – Kristy, Christine and Rachel, led by Karen who manages Holly’s care plan. And there’s a deep bond between Holly and ‘her girls’, as they’re called.
“Yes, they're the carers, but they're her companions,” Robyn says.
Kristy is the creative one and together they enjoy rock painting. Christine teaches Holly to cook and takes her grocery shopping. Rachel works on Holly’s fitness and brings her to performing arts class. Behind each activity, there’s a teaching moment where Holly develops a life skill.
“They each have different skill sets,” Robyn explains. “Everything is a lesson. And the three of them, they just laugh and laugh and laugh with Holly all the time. And you can't ask for more than that.”
Karen adds, “Holly’s support workers have been with her for many years and helped Holly throughout different periods of her life. They encourage Holly to be who she is today.”
Leaning into faith during tough times
But life hasn’t always been smooth sailing. For many years Robyn cared for Holly on her own. And through those early years, Robyn struggled to manage Holly’s full-time therapy while working and caring for her home, husband and two other children.
“I just couldn't do it by myself. When Holly was about three, I crashed and burned. It was just so hard,” Robyn says.
Robyn leaned into her faith and found support, love and care through her church community – Holy Family Parish.
“They put a notice in the church bulletin and I had carers, friends of mine and people I didn't even know, come and help.
“Our whole family has a very strong faith and without the Lord and community helping us, I wouldn't get through the day. I couldn't – it would be impossible.
“Holly too has a really strong faith and she's teaching her niece and nephews how to say their prayers.”
Determined that Holly would receive the same education as her siblings, Robyn enrolled Holly in Holy Family Primary School and then Aquinas college, which are connected to the Holy Family Parish.
“She had a wonderful schooling. The inclusiveness in the primary school and the high school was amazing,” Robyn explains. “She still has friends from school. They still meet regularly.”
While there’s been both ups and downs over the years, Robyn’s resilience continues to grow. The love Robyn has for her daughter drives her every day to give Holly the best life.
“We taught her from day one to be independent,” Robyn says. “We've told her to think for herself, to lead a normal life, just like everybody else does. She went to a normal school. She goes out the same as everybody else.
“We just have to be a little bit more watchful. The understanding isn't there for everything. So, we have to teach her a few life skills along the way that we continually remind her about.”
A hopeful future
Sadly, tragedy once again entered Robyn’s life when her husband passed away. And prior to his passing, Holly’s caring demands grew overnight. Holly was diagnosed with postural hypertension, a condition that causes Holly’s blood pressure to fall, affecting her breathing and often causes Holly to faint.
Suddenly facing new pressures as a single parent, Robyn knew she needed more support. After Holly finished high school, Robyn contacted Wesley Mission upon recommendation from a family who receives Wesley Home Care and disability support. From the moment Robyn connected with Wesley Mission, life has never been the same.
Tears well up in Robyn’s eyes. “Wesley Mission’s really changed Holly's life. And they’ve changed my life as well. They care for me just as much as they care for Holly.
“Karen just gave me every single thing she could. She knew we were struggling. And when my husband died, it was tough. And she was just there for me.
“Honestly, I trust them with everything. I trust them with my daughter's life. I trust them with my life. And Holly could not live the life she does without them.
“And that's another reason why I chose Wesley Mission, because it's a Christian organisation.”
Supporting Holly to live life to the full is Robyn’s priority. And it shows. Holly is always her true self. She’s not afraid to reveal her full personality and share her joy with others.
“I'm in this industry because I love helping people, but Holly’s just a pure joy to be around,” says Rachel.
Karen says, “Holly has touched many hearts in our services, our workers and she’s grown into the most beautiful, caring, independent and loving soul.”