How the founders of a new company are on mission to enable loved ones with special needs to live purposeful, impactful lives
WORDS // CHRISTINA GRIFFITHS
When Phil Clark was four years old, his family welcomed his sister, Sarah, into the world. Instead of a celebration, the reaction was one that is all too familiar for many families of people with special needs.
“It wasn’t ‘congratulations.’ It was ‘I’m so sorry,’” says Phil.
Sarah was born with Down syndrome, and from the moment she was born, Phil says their family was constantly being told about the limitations she might face. However, as Sarah grew up, she began to rise above those limitations.
“One of the things they said is that most kids with Down syndrome don’t ever learn to read, but now as an adult, she is tutoring second grade kids in reading, and she loves social media,” says Phil. “My parents believed in her and pushed her out of that limited mindset.”
Phil says Sarah’s story is similar to one many people with special needs face. Often times, their families are told more about what they can’t do, rather than what they can do. That’s why in 2016, he and his wife Chelsea decided to start ENABLE Special Needs Planning, an organization that helps families strategically plan for their loved ones by focusing on not one, but five key areas of planning: vision, life, resource, financial and legal planning.
“The focus is‘how are we going to give our child an amazing life today and in the future?’” says Phil.
That’s what makes ENABLE’s approach so unique from traditional special needs planning, right down to that first step: the vision plan. Vision planning includes the parents’ hopes and dreams for their child’s life, as well as the child’s own hopes and dreams for the future. And it’s the continual revising of this first step for an individual that guides all the other steps in the process.
“You might be told something will never happen, but you can still hope and dream and find ways your son or daughter uniquely impacts others,” says Chelsea.
After graduating from Purdue University, Phil spent several years working for other special needs planning firms, but he soon learned those organizations focused more on the financial challenges families experience, rather than taking a holistic approach. He and Chelsea started ENABLE with the goal of getting families all the planning help they need, even if it may seem daunting.
“I knew from my own family that it was all about helping Sarah find purpose,” says Phil. “We believe God has given everybody the ability to be impactful, and we want to spread the hope that God has a plan for everyone.”
Phil and Chelsea say for many families, the church can play a major role in helping their child learn what that impact is. While they say they’d love to see more churches add programs for children and adults with special needs through camps, small groups or Sunday school programs, the most important thing is to simply offer acceptance and support.’
“Everybody was born on purpose for a purpose,” says Phil. “It’s gotta be shown that [the Church is] trying to pour into every individual, including individuals with special needs, so that they can go out and influence others, because they definitely have that ability to share God’s love.”
Now at 29 years old, Sarah is the inspiration behind the unique way Phil and Chelsea run their organization. As their company grows, so does Sarah’s impact, which Phil and Chelsea hope will continue to inspire others all over the world.
“People with special needs are not that different from you and me. They have their own unique needs, just like we do,” says Chelsea. “Everybody has the ability to be impactful in different ways.”’
Learn more about ENABLE Special Needs Planning at enablesnp.com.