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Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories highlighting the The Arc - Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which celebrates its Arc Walk for Independence on March 23.
DOWNEY - Donald Earles has never been happier living the bachelor life.
At the age of 64, the Downey resident has been living independently the last three years, cooking his own meals, washing his own clothes, spending evenings watching his favorite movies on DVD.
While this lifestyle may seem rudimentary to most, Earles' self-sufficiency is reason for celebration at The Arc - Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which sees Earles as model of success for other clients to follow.
"Donald's a trooper," said Linda Ripley, coordinator of adult education at The Arc. "After his mother passed in 2009, he moved into an apartment and started working on making it a home. He does everything on his own."
With help from The Arc, Earles now lives independently after spending nearly 60 years with his mother who first brought him to The Arc 45 years ago.
"Mother passed on Aug. 12, 2009 and I moved from Bellflower to Downey into my apartment on May 1, 2010," said Earles. "It was difficult...I had to learn to cook and move around on my own."
But Earles says he now enjoys an independent life that he's always dreamed about.
Administrators at The Arc are hopeful stories like Earles' will help motivate the community to support the 17th annual Arc Walk for Independence, which is expected to draw nearly 4,000 participants on March 23 in support of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Since 1997, the Arc Walk has raised funds and awareness for The Arc's various educational and occupational programs by inviting community members to walk either a one or three-mile route around Stonewood Center.
Starting at 8 a.m., registered walkers who donate $15 to The Arc will set out on the course, walking for independence.
Beginning at Acapulco Restaurant and Cantina, the 3-mile walk travels west on Firestone Boulevard to Lakewood Boulevard, up to Florence Avenue, around to Woodruff Avenue and back to Firestone. The Arc has seen its annual fundraising event grow from just 250 walkers in 1997 to nearly 4,000 last year.
This year will be Earles' fourth Arc Walk.
"I'll walk the one mile," he said with a gentle grin. "The walk helps The Arc to help people be independent."
Ripley, who helped Earles make the transition to independent living, echoed his sentiments.
"Yes, there is a big need in that direction. We provide assistance to those who can live on their own and take care of themselves," Ripley said. "The more people support the walk, the more we can help."
Community support facilitator Mallory Dicorato spends 15 hours each week assisting Earles, helping him to transportation and making sure he's eating nutritious meals.
"I make sure not to do things for him, we want him to live as independently as possible," she said. "I come to make sure things are going good - it's really rewarding."
Ripley says Earles hasn't taken his free time for granted, but has instead penned three books, several poems, and enjoys weekly bingo games at The Arc's senior program.
"He keeps his mind alert," said Ripley wrapping an arm around Earles. "I've learned so much from Donald...It doesn't matter how old you are, if you're determined you can make a beautiful life."
"Try it, keep trying," he added with a laugh.
To register for the Arc Walk for Independence, visit www.thearclaoc.org.
Published: February 28, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 46