John Goldfarb and Rich Bushnell, a Founding Trustee of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation had the chance to discuss Rich’s leadership role and great insights in a recent interview:
John: How did you become involved as a Founding Trustee of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle (DJF) Foundation?
Rich: I’ve been a longtime friend and neighbor of Linda and Fred (DJF Foundation co-founders) and my children grew up with Danny (Danny Fiddle for whom DJF Foundation is named) so I knew firsthand the love and the spirit that was a part of Danny. My kids certainly enjoyed playing with Danny and being with him. There was a strong personal connection between our families, and certainly with my sons and Danny. When Linda and Fred decided to start the DJF Foundation, it was something I felt I wanted to be a part of to assure the ongoing legacy and memory of Danny.
John: What is your role on the DJF Foundation Board and why is it important to you?
Rich: My role on the Board has been to head up grants management of the over 100 programs and numerous community resources DJF Foundation has developed and funded during the past 12 years. As the organization has evolved, we have grown in the diversity of programs and resources we have created, including model DJF Signature Programs that have become blueprints for adult autism program development throughout the United States. We have always maintained our focus on transition and adult life for people living with autism and we have opened many doors of opportunity where none existed before. Another key aspect of being apart of the Board is being able to offer direction and work with Linda and the rest of the board members to create ways to address underserved needs. It has been very rewarding to work with the other board members and to be part of the team that guides and sustains the organization.
John: Would you please tell me about your job outside of DJF Foundation?
Rich: I am an executive at General Electric Corporation and I am head of one of the business development areas.
John: How has your connection to autism grown over the years and what have you learned from it?
Rich: Through DJF Foundation, I’ve met a number of families who have a family member on the spectrum and of course I have met many individuals who have participated in our programs and contributed their experiences and ideas to DJF’s efforts. It has been extremely rewarding to see the impact our programs and resources have had on individuals and families. It makes me continually realize how valued and needed the work of the DJF Foundation is to those we serve.
John: What can a person who does not have direct connection, like a relative, do to be a better neighbor and friend to someone on the autism spectrum?
Rich: Although my family does not have any autistic members, living next door to Danny gave us all, especially our sons, the opportunity to learn more about autism. My sons played with Danny and had many good times with him because they liked Danny and he was fun to be with, and we all cared for him because of the person he was and his lively personality. The fact that he was autistic was just part of him, but not all of him. There is no special way to act if your neighbor or friend is autistic, just accept them for who they are, like you would anyone else.
John: What do you think the future holds for people living with autism?
Rich: Well I think it’s getting better because there is more general awareness about autism. We need to continue to expand awareness that autism impacts individuals for a lifetime and that when children grow up there needs to be supports and services to help them live as independently as possible. This is why the advocacy efforts of DJF Foundation are so important and Linda with her broad expertise is making an impact. We need to always value and listen to people who live with autism. Our DJF Advisory Board is led by people on the spectrum and it is a great model for society to listen to those who are directly affected and be guided by their hopes and dreams.