La’a Kea Fall Festival

“He’ll be fine. He’s just a late bloomer.” These were the words I heard during the first year of my son’s life. Yet, I knew something wasn’t right by the time he was two months old.

I remember thinking, he should cry when his three-year old sister splashes soapy water in his face in the bath. Finally at fifteen months when he didn’t crawl or turn over they told me, “failure to thrive” – a polite way of saying my son had special needs and would probably never be able to live independently As a parent there were so many questions and ultimately I had to discover the answers.

Fast forward 20+ years and you will see my son, Ian, working at the La’a kea farm store on Baldwin Avenue in Upper Paia. We refer to him as the ‘Mayor of Paia’ because one of his goals is to meet three new people every day. Ian has an exceptional gift that once he learns your name he will never forget it. “I’m Ian from Paia,” he will tell you if you’re fortunate enough to meet him.

Ian is a very enthusiastic and happy person. He is also remarkably empathetic. Occasionally he will walk up to a stranger and say something like, “Did you have fun at work today?” The response is usually, “Hmm, fun at work? I never thought about that as an option. Yes, I guess I did.”

As his mother I am thrilled that he is able to live with his real peers in a safe yet independent living arrangement at Mele House, the La’a kea licensed group home. Ian has real friendships and is part of something where his meaningful contribution is seen daily in his activities.

La’a kea is an organic farm community that includes youth and adults with developmental disabilities. La’a kea is not a community for people with developmental disabilities. Although only one word different, the difference is paramount. This unique life-sharing model of community living recognizes that every person, regardless of ability or disability, deserves a meaningful life with friendship, productive work, affordable housing and opportunities for creative expression.

The 6th annual La’a Kea Fall Festival and Pie Contest is on Sunday, November 6th, 2016 from noon to 4pm at the La’a Kea Farm on 639 Baldwin Avenue in Paia. It is a fundraiser for La’a kea. There will be music by Eric Gilliom, games, hay rides, pie sampling, silent auction and more. Please come and join us. Ian will be the most excited person on every hay ride and admission is free!

La’a Kea is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Please call 808-579-8398 for more information or email us at

Image Credit: Andrea Hall Rodgers

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