A half century ago the life of a retarded child or adult in Mercer County, Pa., would have been much different than it is today. It would not have been nearly as rich.
Many retarded children were essentially invisible members of society. For the adults, there was no sheltered workshop. There were no group homes. The opportunity for retarded children to blossom and for retarded adults to live independent and productive lives were very limited.
One of the organizations that helped change that is now marking its 50th anniversary, the Mercer County Association for the Retarded.
Results: The MCAR has earned the gratitude of the thousands of children and adults it has served over five decades. It has earned, as well, the gratitude of society at large for the role the MCAR has played in helping everyone see and accept retarded children and adults as equal partners in the daily life of a community.
As recounted in a recent news story by The Vindicator's Harold Gwin, the association grew out of a meeting of parents of retarded children at Buhl Park. Ann Jarocki, 83, of Farrell, one of those founders, recalled: "It was just to let the kids get together." They taught them large motor skills, such as riding a bike and playing ball.
But we suspect that the parents may also have been learning -- learning that their children could do more than perhaps even they knew. And from that realization -- coupled with millions of hours of hard work -- grew an organization and a movement that has improved countless lives.