ViaServices – Special Lives… Special Challenges… Special Needs…
In the early 1940s, public schools were not required to provide educational services to children with disabilities. Children and adults with disabilities most often lived idle, isolated existences with little community contact and no educational or recreational opportunities.
In 1945, two women in the community, Frances Anderson and Faye Braely, became aware of one 13-year old boy with cerebral palsy. His single mother worked fulltime to support her family. Because school was not mandated for children with disabilities, his mother was forced to leave her son alone every day. She positioned his wheelchair by the window, placed his food on a nearby table and reluctantly left him there from early morning until she could return from work in the evening.
Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Braely approached the mother about taking her son on weekly excursions and she welcomed their help. Climbing two flights of narrow stairs, they would first bring down the boy’s heavy wheelchair and then climb the stairs again, carrying the boy down in a chair they made with their arms. They took the boy on short field trips and city excursions, expanding his horizons.
The grateful mother told other families, and soon the two volunteers found themselves caring for five youngsters with various disabilities. When lifting and transporting the children became too demanding for the women physically, they contacted the Yellow Cab Company who generously provided free transportation for the community excursions. Another friend, Marti Hecker, contacted the Shriners who loaned a bus to accommodate the increasing number of children involved in the activities. Mrs. Hecker learned of a house on Monroe Street (in Santa Clara) that had been vacant for some time, and she convinced the owner to let her use the house until it was sold. With borrowed chairs and tables, the growing group of volunteers provided lunch, entertainment and day activities at Via’s first formal center.
Via Services was established in 1945 and incorporated in 1947. Originally known as the Crippled Children’s Society of Santa Clara County, Inc., the organization changed its name in 1995 to Via (meaning path) to better position its programs as a path to independence and richer lives for people with disabilities.
Via, in partnership with community volunteers, clients and their families, and a grassroots constituency, has developed a proud history of implementing quality programs that fill critical services gaps for children and adults with special needs.