When you use your head, anything is possible
Tom Owens is a man on a mission. Now a locally-acclaimed artist, Tom was born 59 years ago with cerebral palsy and is unable to fully use his hands, painting his stunning nature watercolors wearing a hat on his head to which a binder clip with a brush is attached. Not your typical artist.
Once introduced to watercolor painting using this non-traditional method by teacher Doug Harnden five years ago, Tom hasn’t stopped, spending hours at a time on each creation.
An electric wheelchair user, Tom has only partial use of his left hand, which he uses to maneuver the wheelchair, and his head, which he uses to paint. Tom is also deaf and uses hearing aids. He speaks slowly and with difficulty and communicates best with people by spelling and reading American Sign Language.
It is through the daily support of LifeShare and other organizations that Tom maintains his independence at Betty’s Dream in Portsmouth, NH, a residence created more than 20 years ago to enable disabled adults to live independently while receiving care and assistance.
His LifeShare LifeCoach, Catherine Booth, works with Tom Monday through Friday to ensure he is connected with his community, attends his many medical appointments, and follows a plan in which Tom participated in and made decisions about what his goals and interests were.
“He is an amazing man,” said Booth. “He always has a smile for everyone he sees and his laugh is unmistakable.”
Tom’s mission? To raise money so that he can purchase a wheel-chair van, “not just for me, but to be also to show others that just because you can’t use a part of your body, if you want something bad enough, you can overcome any and all obstacles,” he wrote.
Tom wants to bring his story to others around the Granite State. “I want to be able to show younger people in wheelchairs that anything can be done!”
“He also wants to be able to travel and paint in natural settings,” added Booth. “Right now everything he paints comes from his own mind.”
Tom sells his paintings, with the money going towards the wheelchair van fund. His work can be seen on his Facebook page (Thomas Owens Jr) and up and down the hallways of Betty’s Dream residence. He had a gallery showing at the New Hampshire Art Association’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery at the University of New Hampshire in 2013, where he sold six of his paintings.
An accomplished painter, Tom has dozens of watercolors he’s created available for purchase. He also maintains a “Go Fund Me” site for contributions athttp://www.gofundme.com/hslz80.
LifeShare, with locations in eight states and its corporate office in Manchester, provides a person-centered, community-based approach to serving children and adults diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disability, including intellectual/developmental disabilities, autism, traumatic brain injury, serious mental illness, and/or co-occurring disorders.
LifeShare is a national leader in the areas of shared living, child welfare, integrated care coordination, crisis stabilization, and community transition from institutional settings. LifeShare’s goal is to fill the gaps, remove the barriers, and coordinate better outcomes for individuals to realize their goals and potential.
LifeShare also consults with Medicaid Managed Care organizations, commercial insurers, and state governments. For more information, visit www.lifeshareusa.com or call 603-625-8825.