Karen Hahne will probably never forget the advice she was given by a caseworker when she adopted her son Reed more 30 years ago. “Love him, but don’t expect much.” Most likely the advice was given with good intentions, but little information to go on regarding the potential of a child with Down syndrome. Luckily for Reed, Hahne wasn’t good at taking bad advice no matter how well intended. Instead, she made the decision to expect a lot from him.
“I went to a conference on Down syndrome in Washington, D.C. and listened to a presentation by Rud Turnbull, an expert in the field,” Hahne said. “He told us to close our eyes and think of the highest accomplishment he [Reed] could ever make. Then he told us to open our eyes and double that and then we would be close to his potential.”
Whatever Hahne envisioned that day must have been powerful based on the long list of Reed's accomplishments today. He graduated from high school with his peers with a 3.9 GPA and was on the National Honors list. In addition, he was a student body officer and earned his rank of Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts of America. When Reed started high school, he sat down at a table full of girls and opened his Mountain View planner. He immediately started filling in all of the dances for the year with the names of all of the girls who were at the table. Interestingly, there was one more girl than dances for his first year, so he put the extra name on his first dance of the following year.
After high school, Reed went on two missions. The first was a service mission at Utah Valley University and the second was with his parents in Nauvoo, Ill.
“On Reed’s first day of his service mission at UVU he came home with a list of girl’s names that he wanted to get to know," Hahne said. "I reminded him that he was on a mission and that by the time his mission was over and he was free to start dating, most likely these girls will have graduated or gotten married.”
She chuckled as she remembered Reed’s profound response, “Well then I will make a new list. If only we could all overcome the obstacles in our lives that way.”
Reed currently works at Orem City Library as a page. He started as a volunteer and then eventually was hired. He completes a variety of tasks in this position including processing books, keeping the library organized, scanning applications and other important duties. When he is not working, he is participating in productions at the SCERA and Hale theaters. Currently Reed is playing a gangster in “Guys and Dolls.”
“Many people come to me after the show to tell me that they come to see him because they have children or grandchildren with various disabilities and seeing what Reed is doing gives them hope," Hahne said.
Reed got his first taste of the theater early when he was introduced to Mark Shipley and the PALS, Performing Artists Lengthening Strides, program. From there he continued in theater in high school. His love of all musicals led him to take voice lessons after high school, which has resulted in his being part of the choir at UVU. He has participated in many musicals including "Phantom of the Opera," "Hello Dolly," "Children of Eden" and "Les Miserables." He also played the Ghost of Christmas Future in the “Christmas Carol” at the Hale Center Theater Orem.
Although he is currently taking a break, Reed has also recently been enrolled at UVU taking classes in special education.
“I want to be a teacher’s aide,” he said. “I want to help children with disabilities.”
It’s hard to imagine what Reed’s life would be like had his parents taken the advice of the caseworker. Hopefully, Reed's story will inspire other family members, caretakers, teachers, employers, friends, neighbors and all of us to see other people in our communities with disabilities who are also trying to fit in. Maybe we should all close our eyes, envision their potential, and then open our eyes, and well, you know the rest.