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Tim’s Place

Tim Harris

Keith and Jeannie Harris admit they began to think about their son Tim's future when he was just a baby. "[Our] first thoughts were maybe more about fear for his future, then they became what can we do to help him get any edge that could make a difference," his mother explains.

Tim's parents didn't sit idly by and wait for the future to come to them. They began therapies for Tim at 3 weeks old and also began attending the National Down Syndrome Congress's annual conference.

"We were surrounded by families and people with Down syndrome of all ages," Jeannie remarks. "We had many glimpses into a possible future for Tim. People with Down syndrome were going to their own workshops, attending dances, sitting in the lounges and laughing with their friends and speaking in front of hundreds of people. They were fearless!"

A love of people — and food!

As Tim entered the teenage years, his parents began to think seriously about options. "When his dad told him that maybe he could go into business for himself, a restaurant seemed obvious. Tim loves food and he loves people," Jeannie says. "The idea began to grow."

"I am happy every day. I love my life and I share that love to the world."

Tim's Place opened in 2010, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Tim has never looked back. "Nothing can stop me," he says, when asked if having Down syndrome keeps him from doing anything.

"I am happy every day," the 27-year-old explains. "I love my life and I share that love to the world." His favorite menu item? Free hugs.

"Not everyone wants a hug but they do want to feel love and be happy," Tim says of his customers. "They are surprised sometimes to find out Tim's Place is owned by me. Some of them even cry. Sometimes it makes me cry too — even when they are happy tears. I have the same emotions and feelings of other people."

They are going to be OK

Jeannie and Keith say the best advice anyone shared was to trust themselves and their expertise in their own child. "Sometimes you look to the future and plan for what's ahead. Other times you just live day-by-day and do your best," Jeannie says.

The Harrises look back on Tim's upbringing and wish they'd done just one thing differently. "We would follow advice the advice our son Tim gives to other families when asked. Tim says, 'You need to just relax and love your kid. They are going to be OK.'"

Growing opportunities

While Andrew's, Christian's and Tim's stories are unique, the dream of helping children with disabilities thrive and contribute to their communities is the common denominator for their parents — as well as the keen ability to recognize their children’s strengths and genuine loves.

"It's exciting to see more and more individuals with Down syndrome becoming business owners," says Sara Weir, vice president, advocacy and affiliate relations, National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). "This is a great example of competitive and integrated employment."

Weir says NDSS supports a new National Governor's Association (NGA) initiative called A Blueprint for Governors, which specifically focuses on A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities. Weir says the blueprint "serves as a road map of concrete and practical things that governors can do to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities in their states."

More resources

Read more about Down syndrome

More ad campaigns feature children with Down syndrome
Nonprofit film turns camera on teens with Down syndrome
Divorce: Does "Down syndrome advantage" exist?

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Comments on "I have Down syndrome and run my own business"

Maureen Wallace September 09, 2013 | 6:01 AM

Rachel - what an interesting comment! In my case, I'm always way over my poor editors' word limits, so using "individual" vs. "man or woman" is all about word count. But I'm tucking this thought away for the next time. Can you share any additional context to why it means more? Thanks for sharing!

rachel cooper September 09, 2013 | 2:59 AM

I promise I don't mean this to be a criticism, but I'd really love to see the words 'man' and woman' used, instead of 'individual'. PS. I've had the same experience of the impact on the workforce of employing young people with IDs. Young employees sometimes have that "you're so lucky I show up" and "work is so boring" approach. Bring in a few awesome young men and women with IDs who are honestly enjoying themselves- it changes everything.

Maureen Wallace September 06, 2013 | 7:53 PM

Kerry, thank you so much for your kind words, but most importantly, thank you for operating a business that has opened its eyes to the benefits of employing individuals who happen to have a disability. Thank you, also, for opening your hearts and your doors. I will go out of my way to shop where I know inclusion and diversity aren't just mission statements but realities.

Kerry Bertram September 05, 2013 | 9:06 AM

Thank you for the wonderful article. I know Tim and have visited his delicious restaurant many times. It was refreshing to read about Charlie and Christian as well. Our small business, Stride, Inc. has been employing adults with special needs in an integrated setting for 33 years. I can attest to Mike's statement, "I've never met a person with a disability who doesn't wish he or she could work and make a paycheck and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from that." I'll further contend that they are the BEST workforce an employer could ever have. The joy they have each morning is always contagious! How many bosses hear "thank you for giving me a job," every morning?! A quick search on Facebook found all three of these young men have their businesses listed, I encourage everyone to like their pages and follow them!

Maureen Wallace September 03, 2013 | 11:46 AM

Kelly, I agree! That said, it's so nice to have a little moral support from hearing about these successful and inspirational individuals... it can be tough to imagine such a productive future when I'm working each day to help my 3-year-old son learn to speak. This article helped remind me that we have so much more in store for us!

Kelly September 03, 2013 | 11:26 AM

The next generation of kids are certainly going to make their mark on the world as stereotypes and assumptions are broken down. Most parents of kids with Ds expect their children will live at least semi independently and work at something they enjoy. I have purchased a piece of Christian Royal's work as a gift. It was so beautiful I wanted to keep it for myself!

Maureen Wallace September 02, 2013 | 2:50 PM

Awwww, now I want to see pictures of your 2-year-old, Cori Anne! I know I've spent too much time worrying about my son, Charlie's future. I need to take a page from these amazing parents' book and just let his loves and interests evolve. Good things will happen if we support what Charlie wants! Best of luck to you and your little one, and thanks so much for posting!

Cori Anne Richardson September 02, 2013 | 12:45 PM

I very much appreciated this article! I too have a young daughter of just age 2. It is inspiring and encouraging to read about other's successes! Andrew lives just 20 minutes away! We had a great visit this summer with him and his Mom Karen! Please keep up this kind of article! Thank you once again!

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