Penny received the first Freedom Bell awarded in 2016 on January 7. The first thing she did after ringing it loud and proud was to thank her husband Rick.
“You encouraged me and you wouldn’t give up on me,” she said after serving her grad meal to 60 guests, which included other family members and close friends from church, along with all the staff and students at the Center.
“It was a tough road,” she said of starting as a part-time student, then transitioning into full-time and living in our apartments on the south end of the Denver Metro area during the week, returning home to be with Rick on the north side of the Metro area on weekends.
“I know I needed it though,” she said on graduation day.
On her first visit to the Center with Rick, they met with Duncan Larsen.
“I didn’t like what I heard,” Penny said with a laugh, ” because “I wasn’t blind … Not me!”
Penny gradually began to pull herself out of that place where so many of us find themselves – afraid to acknowledge our blindness, but unable to do the simplest things independently. She first attended a weekly senior group with Rick, though she could hardly have qualified as a senior. Then she started in the Independence Training Program a couple of days a week. Eventually, she wanted more of the skills and confidence she was gaining part-time, and decided to become a full-time student to finish her program.
She threw herself into her training, coming in every day with a smile and a laugh and an attitude that drew others to her for guidance in encouragement. But on Friday afternoon, she headed back north for the weekend. In the very beginning, Rick came to get her. Gradually though, she made the trip all the way home on light rail and bus, flexing her independence and self-reliance. It was part of the process that led her to earning her Freedom Bell. She thanked and praised her teachers and her fellow students for all she had learned, but the biggest appreciation wass for her husband..
“I couldn’t have done this without your support,” she told Rick as she clutched her bell. “I love you so much!”