Lori and Vicki Thieberger were born only a year apart, both with Down syndrome. Their loving parents, Fred and Irene, and older brother, Paul, made sure that growing up neither of the sisters lacked for anything. Both were extremely active, and for the most part, self-sufficient. Lori was even a competitor and medal winner in the first International Special Olympics Summer Games held in Chicago in 1968. Their disability could not hold either of them down, especially with the strength of their family behind them.
Lori and Vicki have always shared a special bond. After school they both found employment with ServiceSource, a non-profit disability resource organization that provides a range of customized programs and supports for individuals with disabilities and their families, from employment and job placement to training, habilitation and housing. Lori and Vicki worked side-by-side at ServiceSource’s Employment Center for many years, until Vicki’s health began to take a downward turn. She was having many health complications, beginning to go blind, and doctors believe she had the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease. Vicki could no longer work and was enrolled in ServiceSource’s day habilitation program, where she could receive more intensive therapy and supports.
When Fred passed away in 2007, Irene did all she could take care of her daughters on her own. But in February of 2013 Paul and his wife of 30 years, Pam, got the call that she had fallen down and could not get up. At 95 years old, it became apparent that she needed more help. Paul and Pam made the decision to move the entire family into a new and larger home; a transition they have handled with grace and dignity. Pam even took a year of unpaid leave from her teaching job to care for Irene, Vicki, and Lori. “She’s the hero of all this,” Paul says.
Lori and Vicki were able to maintain full and active lives, thanks to the incredible support of their family and their participation in a full spectrum of services offered by ServiceSource. While Lori continued to earn a paycheck doing meaningful work, Vicki received intensive therapy and nursing services and enjoyed a range of expressive and recreational activities. The family also enrolled in ServiceSource’s Family Support Network program (FSN), which will ensure that services are continually customized to meet the family’s changing needs. The program is designed to provide not only the types of support they value now, but also peace of mind for the future. Currently, Paul and Pam utilize the program to connect with trustworthy providers so that they can take a trip together knowing that the rest of their family will be taken care of back home.
Sadly, Vicki lost a tough battle with pneumonia and passed away in November 2013. She is missed dearly. Vicki is remembered by her loving family and all of her friends at ServiceSource.
With a supportive community behind them, Lori, Paul, Pam and Irene continue to tackle challenges together. According to Paul, there was never another option. “Nothing is more important than family,” he says.