“In politics, I think people can get de-sensitized to issues, and see people as a statistic or a line in an appropriations bill. It is rewarding to know someone with a disability as a person, with needs and desires and the same yearning for interaction and dignity as any of us would want.”
Max, welcome to the Open Options Board of Directors! Why did you initially become interested in joining us?
A friend of mine was on the board and asked if I was interested if a position opened up. I had been looking for an opportunity to engage with a community organization and when I learned that Open Options provided group home services to those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, I was even more eager to help. I met CEO Vincent Bustamante and after we hit it off, he offered me a tour of some of their homes. I was very impressed with the dignity and quality of life they provided to the residents.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the Kansas City area and attended law school at the University of Kansas. I am a political analyst for a government relations firm based in D.C., but I’m able to work remotely from my home in Prairie Village, where I live with my wife and three sons. She works as a nurse at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and has done everything from mom/baby to children’s oncology. My boys and I are active in Cub Scouts, and I play on an adult whiffle ball team and a beer league softball team. I’m a huge Royals fan – I’m the editor of Royals Review, a blog for fans of the team.
What excites you most about the mission of Open Options?
My sister-in-law is developmentally disabled and lives in a community home setting in Wichita so I know how important it is to have an organization you can trust to provide support and services, while still giving the residents the respect and dignity they deserve. Now more than ever we have an obligation to help those that cannot help themselves, and I am proud to be part of an organization that has compassion and inclusiveness. Everyone I have met at Open Options has had a wonderfully positive attitude, even in the face of great challenges.
What do you wish other people knew about developmental and intellectual disabilities?
That they can bring a smile to your face! People with developmental disabilities can be incredibly authentic and full of joy. All it takes is reaching out with a warm smile or a conversation or even just a hug. I think many times people are apprehensive about how to approach people with developmental disabilities out of fear or simply a lack of exposure. I’m particularly proud of the educational outreach programs Open Options offers to give people greater exposure and understanding of people with disabilities.
How rewarding is it to know someone with a disability?
In politics, I think people can get de-sensitized to issues, and see people as a statistic or a line in an appropriations bill. It is rewarding to know someone with a disability as a person, with needs and desires and the same yearning for interaction and dignity as any of us would want.