A Path to a Full Life: Father and Son Find Personal Growth and Empowerment with Lifehouse

Lifehouse Richard Wheeler

If you asked James Ricks what the one single event that has had the most profound impact on shaping the person he is today, he would say it was the birth of his son Kwame. Kwame was born prematurely, fitting into the palm of James’ hand. Kwame’s premature birth introduced a whole new world of which James knew very little; being the parent of a child with significant and life-long disabilities.

James’ hopes for Kwame were unexpectedly and painfully shattered upon being told he would “not be able to talk or walk.” As many parents of intellectual and developmental disabilities, he felt alone in his sadness and loss. Gone was the luxury of “taking things for granted.” James had to learn to redefine the meaning of success and began to dream new dreams.

Lifehouse Richard Wheeler
Photo credit: Richard Wheeler

The issue that gave James the greatest anxiety and pulsed his vulnerability was, “What will happen to Kwame when I die? Who will care for him as I do? Will they love and protect him as I do? Will Kwame be supported in a way that allows him to explore and grow in ways both imaginative and without limits?”

James worries were soon alleviated, having “discovered” Lifehouse. The organization has offered a reassuring and caring environment for Kwame and for James. “If I could develop a script for what I wished for Kwame, it would be Lifehouse. As an organization, Lifehouse has exceeded my expectations in ways that are comforting. Before Lifehouse, I thought no one could possibly know how I felt about being the parent of a child with special needs. They proved otherwise; Lifehouse understood my anxieties and hopes. Lifehouse not only enhanced Kwame’s life, but mine as well. Indeed, it changed my entire identity and role as a father.”

Kwame with some friends

Lifehouse is a community that provides those with disabilities an enriching experience of personal growth, development and empowerment. As a result of this Lifehouse journey, James no longer concerns himself with the quality of life that Kwame will have when he is gone. Kwame’s gentle spirit will continue to be nourished, his compassionate heart will be nurtured, and his gift of humor, humility, and courage will be honored. Lifehouse recognizes the immense personal challenge of “letting go” of your child and supported James in this difficult transition. As a result, Lifehouse taught James that letting go is actually a way to embrace wonderful possibilities in personal growth and development for Kwame.

Kwame partying at a Lifehouse event with a bouquet of flowers
Great Chefs & Wineries Benefiting Lifehouse at Peacock Gap Clubhouse in San Rafael, CA (Photo – Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography)

“This has been the most important decision in my life, and, to be sure, for Kwame. Lifehouse has taught me that development, whether Kwame’s or mine, is exceptional and that there are no ordinary moments in life. Each moment, is, indeed, extraordinary,” James Ricks, Lifehouse Parent and Former Board Member.

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