When the Harding family emigrated from England in 1958, there were few services in their native country that could help them nurture a child with developmental disabilities. For then-10-year-old Kay Harding, the opportunities for learning life skills and socialization were slim.
Were it not for the services offered by AHRC Suffolk, Kay’s life may have been very different, her brother said.
“She really came into being when she came over to this country and got all of the services that she needed,” explained her brother, Sascha Harding, 65, of Holbrook.
So for him, the fourth annual AHRC Suffolk Polar Bear Splash on Saturday at the Bay Shore marina was an opportunity to help raise funds for the organization while paying tribute to his sister.
Kay Harding actively participated in daily AHRC Suffolk programs, and when it became difficult for their mother to care for her, she moved into an AHRC group home where she lived out her years until her death in 1990 at age 48.
“Without a doubt her life was made even more purposeful by AHRC,” Sascha Harding said. “It’s a great organization. They always need a lot of [financial] help.”
Jason Walsh, 37, who has been participating in AHRC Suffolk programs for the past 16 years, would agree with Harding. Walsh has been living in an AHRC group home since 1999 after his parents' death.
“It’s a really great cause to help people with developmental disabilities and to teach them all the stuff they want to know,” Walsh said.
Walsh, who lives in Huntington, has learned to cook on his own and do his laundry, in what he describes is the best way to “do stuff on my own so I can be more mature and to grow from it.”
Also among the 200 participants at Saturday's polar bear splash were several North Babylon High School students representing the school’s Students for a Better World Club, which aims to get students involved in charity events.
“Unfortunately in today’s climate, everything is just about a score and it shouldn’t be,” explained Patrick O’Boyle, a ninth-grade English teacher at North Babylon High. “What it should be about is a full, rounded education — and that is civic responsibility and learning to help your fellow neighbor.”