The MENTOR Network

Ken Oates Mentor, Arizona MENTOR

Ken Oates found his passion for supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities while volunteering with Dream Catchers, an equestrian program for individuals with special needs in rural Northern Arizona. His first introduction to Dream Catchers was on a visit as a favor to a friend to fix one of the program’s tractors. That same day, he met the two men supported by Arizona MENTOR, who eventually moved into his home. That was 10 years ago.

Over the years, the two men Ken opened his home to have grown tremendously in their self-care, independence and ability to deal with challenges that may arise as a result of their disabilities.

“Classes don’t prepare you for this stuff, but I’ve always been good at adapting,” said Ken, who has spent much of his life working in technology. “When curve balls come—you know they are coming at some point—you just deal with it.”

In addition to increasingly taking on more challenges, whether it be fixing a car or learning to barbeque, the three men compete in a bowling league together and on the weekends enjoy a host of other activities, such as camping, fishing and riding quads. Vacations and visits with each other’s families are also the norm.

With a deep belief in the ability of all individuals to reach their goals, Ken has created opportunities beyond his household. In 2001, Ken helped expand a bowling league in the nearby town of Show Low for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The league grew from 8 members to more than 40 in just a few years.