Disabled animal lover seeks safe, stable home and job

Photography by Greg Lovett

Nominated by The Arc of Palm Beach County

If a kind heart and a friendly disposition could guarantee a comfortable life, we wouldn’t be talking about Bobby Hart.

The 25-year-old was born with developmental delays, a result of meningitis and encephalitis and high fevers just after birth. His young mother had arranged a private adoption, but when it fell through, Bobby was alone. He survived the infections, but he needed more than medical care. He needed a 24/7 mother.

Christi Hart stepped up. No one knew how much damage the infections had done to Bobby’s tiny brain, but Christi forged ahead.

“I became a parent to a 3-month-old infant overnight. On Labor Day with no labor,” she says jokingly.

Now an adult, Bobby has surprised everyone with what he’s accomplished, but he will never be able to live on his own without guidance and supervision. That doesn’t mean he’s not eager to contribute to society — he loves to work.

“I used to volunteer at Busch Wildlife. I would cut up the food for the turtles,” says Bobby of his time at the Jupiter sanctuary.

As Christi was preparing her son for his next step toward independence — a group home where he could spread his wings a bit more — fate forced the mother’s hand. She lost her job and the health problems she was battling got worse with stress. Then her 34-year marriage imploded and she and Bobby had to flee. They found temporary shelter with a relative, but the situation accelerated Christi’s plan to get Bobby out on his own.

Now Bobby is living in a group home in western Lake Worth. It’s a challenge, not having his mom there to help him for the first time, but they keep in touch by phone. He has chores, he’s learning and gaining some independence. He is blind in one eye and sees poorly out of the other. And while he can do simple things like operate the microwave — the stove is off-limits — his meals are prepared for him and he gets help with his medication.

What Bobby really wants is a job. The ARC provides daily transportation, temporarily, so he can attend its programs, a critical source of enrichment for Bobby. He joined The ARC’s mobile work team, which pays him minimum wage while he gets job training for a few hours a week as long as he can get there. He’s grateful for the work, stuffing envelopes, but those who know him agree Bobby has more to offer.

He loves to travel and study maps. He has a passion for animals. He had to surrender his dog when he and his mother were homeless, so his best friend now is Henry, the ARC’s guinea pig. The little animal chirps with happiness whenever Bobby picks him up.

“I take care of Henry,” he says. “I give him fresh water and clean his cage.”

In a perfect world, Christi says, Bobby would have a job at a zoo or sanctuary. As for Bobby, he just loves to work.

“I don’t like to sit around,” he says.

BOBBY’S WISH

Bobby Hart, a friendly 25-year-old man with developmental delays since birth, is transitioning to living on his own in a group home. He needs stability and long-term placement in a facility where he can be supervised. He attends a job training program, but needs a way to get there. He also needs dental work to close some gaps in his teeth, which cause him to drool. He is blind in one eye and sees poorly out of the other. It’s possible eye surgery would improve the vision in the eye he has left. Bobby’s clothing and possessions were left behind when he and his mother lost their home. He needs clothes — he says he loves camouflage because “it makes me think of going camping” — walking shoes and gift cards for personal grooming supplies.

Nominated by: The ARC of Palm Beach County, 561-842-3213 (ext. 105)

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