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There is no doubt that Kristen Doppelhammer likes to act a little silly sometimes. “Kristen has a great sense of humor,” says Maddie Moran, who has recently been working with Kristen. Kristen describes herself more specifically: “I’m goofy.” With a smile that lights up a room, this young woman brings joy to others, and admits that Reach has brought joy to her life, in turn. “I can tell I’ve never been happier,” she says of how Reach has helped her, also mentioning that the organization has “good people and lots of different stuff to do.”

Two young women stand at stove with saucepan

Kristen (left) and Maddie have cooked up some great ways for Kristen to experience success with independent living.

Her connection to Reach goes back over a dozen years, when she began receiving support for independent living. And learn to live independently she has! With a driver’s license and a steady job, Kristen gets out and about in the community, particularly being active with Special Olympics. But when she’s ready to unwind, she curls up at her own condo with her cat, Ditter. Maddie helped Kristen get settled there this past summer. Although it’s not Kristen’s first experience living on her own, she’s thrilled with her new location, where she is close to walking trails and enjoys various other amenities within the complex.

The condo provides a perfect setting for Reach staff members like Maddie to work with Kristen on skills for independent living, including budgeting, healthy eating, cleaning, organizing, and more. Kristen makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich and can tackle chicken fingers and chili, but her bathroom cleaning talents are still a work in progress. What Kristen likes most about her time with Maddie is talking, whether it is about new outcomes and goals, or simply advice on relationships. Referring to a current dating situation, she admits, “I don’t know where it’s going yet. I need to make sure he’s a good one.”

The “good one” currently in question is someone she met during Reach’s On The Town program. Kristen looks forward to the group dinners out and going to movies. “I’ve made a lot of friends,” she says.

Beyond the local scene, Kristen spends time traveling with her family, and has stamps for Peru, Norway, and Mexico in her passport. She has even ventured on her own, like when she flies to visit her sister in Colorado.

Kristen is a shining example of someone who has made great strides in gaining more independence. Lighting the way are her dazzling smile and infectious personality.