Kenneth Prather is on disability retirement due to a chronic disorder called Ankylosing Spondylitis. He was also severely hurt in 1998, resulting in him being on life support for 32 days, three months in a long term intensive care hospital and three years in a nursing home. It was in the nursing home where he founded the outreach program titled Reaching For Joy. It is a volunteer outreach program with eight components falling under the umbrella program. Kenneth serves as a volunteer Hospice Grief and Transition Counselor and he also makes Hospice presentations called “Memories: Healing From Within.”
In addition, Kenneth is also a Docent at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo where, under Reaching For Joy’s Care-A-Van program, he and other volunteers take zoo animals to visit with sick children at the local Children’s Hospital. Kenneth and the other volunteers go room to room and even into the ICU rooms when requested. His latest program within Reaching For Joy is titled A Day Away. The Day Away programs helps dreams come true for children who are terminal or have a chronic illness. The children and their families are taken and given a behind the scenes tour at the local zoo or one of two wildlife refuges were Kenneth also volunteers. The Day Away programs, along with all his other services, are totally funded by Kenneth’s disability check and small donations.
Kenneth volunteers so he can see a smile on a face that has not smiled for a long time. He volunteers to see a family finally be able to laugh, to see a tear that is a tear of joy and to give comfort to grieving families.
Kenneth and the Reaching For Joys program has made a definite impact in his community. Many families have been touched, and there has been such a buzz about him that all the major newspapers in his area have written articles about his service. Kenneth believed Reaching For Joy really shows people something special. If you reach for joy, you may grasp it. The first place you will find it is within but then it can bring positive energy all around.
Kenneth believes if you have never volunteered, you are missing out. You are missing out on giving back to your community but you are also missing out on giving back to yourself.