Patrick McLester gazed at the sky smiling, watching as a cluster of green and yellow helium balloons launched Friday afternoon floated in the air in celebration of the Hagerstown United Cerebral Palsy Center's grand opening.
It was McLester's idea to include the balloons as part of the ceremony. The 26-year-old Hagerstown man, who suffers from several disabilities, said he has built more self-respect and confidence since enrolling in the center's new College 4 Living program, which teaches its disabled students life skills through lectures and interactive trips.
After the ribbons were cut in front of the new South Pointe Shopping Center site, McLester happily recalled to his family and friends the balloon launch and acknowledged, as the center's director Jennifer Maust had, that the balloons were "really a good idea."
"They teach them respect, and you have to learn what respect is before you can give it to someone else," said his mother, Gail McLester. She raved about the program and its benefits for her son, who had had problems adjusting to other programs in which he had been enrolled.