Bjorn, Danny & Tom: Feeling Right at Home

Produced in 2012 (Run time 6:35)


Karla Sherman: When Bjorn was born, I held him and I promised him that his life was going to be extraordinary. I think probably as an infant I imagined this.

Brenda Spires: Her dream was for him to live in his own place. And so she had this vision of her son living with friends, not in a group home living with people that he didn't know.

Karla Sherman: As I recall, I introduced the idea was skiing in the lodge and, you know, We're thinking of doing this. What do you think? And the other family said, Yeah, yeah. That's good.

Brenda Spires: So she just took a leap of faith and built the house and got the funding and had very high expectations about the people that she hired for her son and the life that her son was going to live.

Karla Sherman: They have 24/7 staffing, which they must. The staff is amazing, and we have very high expectations of them. And we love them unconditionally and want to make their job the best job of all.

Brenda Spires: There was a lot of thought and consideration taken in who is going to be in here and how they'll interact together. Tom is definitely the patriarch of the family, so he kinds of makes sure things are done.

Joe Oliver: Most of the times he's pretty wrapped up in what he does. But then you can see as soon as something goes wrong or as soon as someone's not feeling well, things like that, he just comes in and kind of hovers and takes care. And just has that caring, nurturing attitude. Most people downstairs have a really joyful, really happy, outgoing, but not necessarily caregivers. And Tom really is. So that's something really unique to him that I've seen.

Brenda Spires: Dan is the really just easygoing guy who wants everybody to be happy.

Steve Kozan: He's always been a runner.

Louis Kozan: Yeah, he loves to run

Steve Kozan: He runs the 5K, the last time at Mackinaw Island without stopping.

Louis Kozan: Well, he was trying to catch Brenda.

Brenda Spires: I think he lost like 75 pounds and started joining races, and the first race he did was on Mackinaw Island. It was 5.7 miles.

He did it because I was doing it, and I made it pretty clear that I was going to be competitive, and that when it started, I was going to run. And there was a staff there to run with Dan just to make sure that he knew the way. And, actually, he ran so fast, she couldn't keep up.

Louis Kozan: Oh, you know. It'll probably be an hour or two before Danny gets here, so we're just going to like go in and maybe get a cup of coffee. All of a sudden, here comes Danny and we're like, Oh, my gosh. And, oh, he was so proud.

Brenda Spires: Bjorn is just so incredibly cool. He's kind of off and does his own thing and just kind of checks in on the guys here and there. He doesn't have the same interests. Dan and Tom's interests are very similar. And Bjorn is more interested in surfing the web. He's interested in physics. He loves anything in the sky. You know, we do a lot of looking at different stars and planets and what's going to come into view. And he loves music.

Karla Sherman: When we first started surfing the web, I think he was in high school in Charlevoix, and he would go to the computer lab, and he would stayed glued to the web as long as anyone would work it for him. Whether it was art or music or checking out Jackson Hole, Wyoming where his sister lived

Joe Oliver: He'll have these days where he's just so focused. It's so clear. And you'll look at a magazine with him. And doesn't know how to read necessarily, but he could kind of get what each page is. And it's funny. He'll flip to a page and you'll start to flip to another one because he's not really paying attention, and all of a sudden he'll put his out and he'll just stop it. So to see him have his own interaction on his world is a really big thing.

Brenda Spires: Bjorn is truly making choices when he's taking me places. He's always taking me somewhere and showing me things that I haven't taken the time to notice. And that's probably why I look so happy when I'm following him around.

North Country Critters started because of Dan's mom, who is a volunteer at AC Paws. She was holding a bake sale and asked us if we would bake something in support of the sale. And when I sat down with Dan and Tom, they said, It's for the dogs. We're going to bake dog treats. And many people that bought them came up to me and said, We need some more.

Louis Kozan: Their first craft show was in Elk Rapids. People were kind of walking by and looking, but they'd keep going. And so this woman walks by and kind of glances over and looks at the boys but she kept going. And Danny goes, Whoops, there goes my favorite customer. And of course she had to turn around and come back after he said that, and she bought treats. So now it's like There's my favorite customer. He's a real salesman.

Brenda Spires: So the guys, you know, basically mix and measure and roll out the treats. We have to send each treat in for analysis when we first develop it. And we have to be licensed by the state of Michigan to do this, as well. It's starting to be more profitable that they can take bigger trips. They've had the opportunity to be part of their community. They attend church where they have friends. Have a business that they meet people. They grocery shop in their local store. They know everybody there. They have a rich, full life.

Louis Kozan: The guys don't have to do every single solitary thing together. They have their separate lives where they can go off and do different things and have different choices. Sometimes all three of them will go in a different direction.

Mary Ann McCullough: I feel, as Louis does, that their vocabularies have increased. They are more independent. Self-determination is our motto.

Karla Sherman: I'm just in it for all kids to have amazing lives. And I truly do believe that it takes a village, and I'm definitely part of that village.

Brenda Spires: It is just such a natural thing. You grow up, you get older, you get a job. And I just wish that could happen for people of all abilities. That that's just the natural rhythm of your life. You grow up, you get a job, you move out, you get a place of your own. It can happen.

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