Many of us were plunged into isolation at the start of the pandemic—working from home and discouraged from leaving our houses and seeing friends, with no end in sight.
And for 21-year-old Trevor Kelliher, who has cerebral palsy, meeting new friends in the middle of a pandemic was nearly impossible. He moved to Sarasota with his father shortly after graduating high school, but had trouble finding the same kind of community that he left in his hometown of Boston.
Instead of hoping things would change, Kelliher came up with an innovative idea. He envisioned a network for young adults like him, with developmental disabilities like autism or cerebral palsy. He would call it the All Friends Network because of its purpose: to connect people with similar backgrounds.
That was March 2020. Now, more than a year later, Kelliher, along with the help of his father Greg and longtime family friend and chief financial officer Paul Amato, has a website and an app for the nonprofit. The All Friends Network Live-LINK App is a free app and social network for those with developmental disabilities who want to make friends in the community.
The Kellihers are still in the grassroots stage of reaching out to local advocacy groups and trying to drum up members. In the past month, Trevor has made some good connections, but the three nonprofit leaders hit an unexpected bump two weeks ago: they all got Covid-19. In our Zoom interview, they were just recovering.
Trevor eventually envisions that the All Friends Network will help members find jobs and learn interview skills. Until recently, Trevor worked at Publix, and the family hopes to include the company as a recruiting tool in their work.
For now, they’re building memberships and planning pizza nights, monthly meetings and social events, like mini-golf outings. They’ve had interest from outside Florida, but they want to start local.
“At some point, it is going to turn on like a faucet,” Greg Kelliher said. “It is going to really take off, and that’s what we’re all in it for.”