Brad and Barry Have Been Best Friends for Over Two Decades
One day in 1997, while working on a construction site in St. Charles County, Missouri, Brad Wolke met a gentleman named Barry. At the time, neither of them realized they would become lifelong friends.
Barry has always been fascinated with construction and building, and he started to visit the construction site often while Brad was working. The two hit it off and eventually, Barry asked Brad if he could help out on the jobsite. Brad learned that Barry, who has disabilities, was supported by a local provider in an Independent Supported Living (ISL) program. Brad contacted Barry’s guardian and asked if it would be alright for Barry to help out. The answer was yes, and they got along so well that Brad decided he would like to work with Barry, supporting him as a caregiver.
Brad applied with the agency that supported Barry and became a Direct Support Professional (DSP), working with Barry in his ISL program. 15 years later, Brad was still working with his friend Barry as a DSP. It was at that point when, after much discussion with Barry and his team, the two agreed that Barry would be better supported in a Host Home model, in which an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities lives in the private home of his or her Host Home provider.
Brad had previously worked with Tonya Williams, a Regional Director with Missouri MENTOR, and he reached out to her to discuss becoming a Host Home provider—or Mentor, as we call them—for Barry. In 2014, Brad and his wife Marsha became Mentors with Missouri MENTOR and opened their home to Barry, who came to live with them full-time. Since then, Barry has truly become a member of the family.
Over the years, no matter how his life has changed, Brad has made it a priority to ensure that Barry is happy, healthy and comfortable. They are a perfect match: they have the same hobbies, such as carpentry and working on cars; they like to volunteer for the same causes; and they even enjoy the same food. Brad continues to work in construction part-time, and Barry—with approval from his guardian—often visits him at the jobsite and lends a hand. Barry loves to help paint the houses and help out with other tasks, as well as the shoptalk with Brad and other workers on the job.
Brad and Barry also share a love of cars. The pair can frequently be found at a local racetrack or car show. Brad has a 1986 Chevy Camaro that they work on together. They are an exceptionally handy duo!
As in any friendship of more than 20 years, Brad and Barry have been through thick and thin. When Barry suffered mental health issues and had to be intermittently hospitalized, Brad never gave up on him. He advocated for Barry, bringing him to multiple doctors for treatment and second opinions, dilligently recording behaviors and actions, and giving him the unconditional love and support he needed to thrive—like taking him to his favorite restaurants for breakfast every day and doing the activities that he loved. Thanks in part to Brad’s unflagging support, commitment and care, Barry hasn’t required hospitalization in years.
Brad and Barry have an unshakable bond, and their chance meeting all those years ago was the start of a lifelong friendship. Brad is the epitome of a loving Mentor: he is a selfless advocate, a dedicated friend, and a committed caregiver. The two of them look forward to many more years of friendship to come.