FCBDD board member spotlight: Board President Marie Crawford advocates for families

smiling woman in glasses and black sweater

After more than a decade as a member of the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Marie Crawford remains crystal-clear about her mission. “First and foremost,” said Crawford, who is serving as Board President this year, “I am there for the families.”

Crawford and her husband are parents to three adult sons, two of whom have developmental disabilities: Peter, 32, has Down syndrome, and Patrick, 30, has autism and is nonverbal. Crawford knew from the beginning that making sure her boys would lead fulfilling lives meant taking on the role of advocate.

But you didn’t want to speak just for your own family, right?

I guess I always felt like I wanted to help others. If I have information, then I want them to have it, too. I’m not afraid to ask questions.

Some of your jobs put you in the parent-advocacy seat, and some have put you, literally, in the driver’s seat.

I can barely count all the jobs I’ve had! I always had to make the timing work with the boys. I was a Nisonger LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) trainee under Pat Cloppert, who also has sons with disabilities. She was my mentor. For a while I drove for Tri-Star, taking special-needs kids to schools and appointments. Now I’m a part-time bus driver for Worthington schools.

How are Peter and Patrick doing?

They’re doing well; they live together in an apartment now. What’s interesting is that Peter has taken on the big brother role – he’s a good caregiver. Pat definitely knows everything that’s going on; he just doesn’t have the language. Pat goes to Spark and they are out in the community. Peter is active with Open Door and does the Pathways to Independence Doggy Daycare. He loves dogs. Animals are so good for our guys.

Any particular focus this year as you lead the board?

The world is changing – every day – for our folks. I really want to make sure that our families are finding, and receiving, good information and resources. I’m here for them. So I want us to be responsive.

You and your family obviously have faced many challenges. You still laugh a lot.

You have to! One day I had to call my husband home from work because the refrigerator door fell off. Pat had opened and closed it so many times, it just gave way. I couldn’t clean up everything and block two big boys from the kitchen at the same time. For us, that was a crisis.

Golf is a favorite pastime, you said. But it’s even more fun being a grandma to your older son’s two girls.

I love being their “Gam.” They always put a smile on my face and I can’t get enough of them. They love being silly with Uncle Pete!

Crawford’s son Peter loves having fun with his nieces
Pat was always happy to head to the pool at West Central School.