Barbara Roos was a beauty queen from Enid, Oklahoma. Her titles included Rattlesnake Queen and 1st Runner up in the Miss. Oklahoma contest. Her years at Oklahoma University were spent pursuing a Journalism degree.
In 1958 Barbara met and married Donald Brennan. Their life together was rapidly enlarged by the birth of five children. Joey, their third child was born with hydrocephalus and it is Joey who took Barbara and the rest of the Brennan family on a journey that has enhanced not only their lives, but the live of countless others.
Born at Georgetown Hospital in 1962, Barbara and Don went into delivery with the anticipation of giving birth to twins; what they got instead was a beautiful boy with an immense head due to the water on his brain. At the time, they were advised to institutionalize their baby; nurses cautioned Barbara against holding her son for fear she would bond to him. In 1962 this was the prevailing wisdom but it was anything but wisdom for Barbara who demanded to see her son, held him, cuddled him, loved him and brought him home to raise with her other children.
Every bit of joy and affection showered on Joey was returned ten-fold. He had a great belly laugh, loved applesauce and a Bozo the Clown doll and became quite adept at climbing. Blind by the time he was three, never learning to walk or talk Joey was the impetus of Barbara's lifetime of commitment to people with developmental disabilities.
Barbara's life was extraordinarily busy during the years that followed. A fourth child arrived and there was no support for her child with disabilities, no mainstreaming and no schools. Barbara's first course of action was to find other mothers in the same position and start a school. Initially a summer program, Barbara enlisted teenagers willing to volunteer their time, a church with a basement and eventually funding from the state and federal government.
Joey’s life ended just a few days before his eighth birthday but his story didn't end there, he was the impetuous for a life of working for and with people with different needs. Barbara and Don started Stride, Inc. which has been employing a special workforce since 1988. Originally started six years earlier as a “sheltered workshop” a not-for-profit, the goal of the business was to employ people with disabilities and eventually move people from a protected environment into the regular workforce. They did this with a governmental funding, employing one able bodied person for every two with different needs. Barbara was the general manager of the operation and loved her work but conducting business was frustrating trying to compete in the corporate world as a not-for-profit. She and Don started questioning, why use government funding? Why not operate a for-profit with a mission of employing people with different needs? They bought the business and started on a grand adventure to do just that.
Three months after they purchased the business, Don suddenly died. Barbara found herself needing to carry on their dream alone.
Today Stride, Inc. sells their office products to all the major contract stationers and wholesalers in the business. Half of their employment is adults with disabilities and countless others have left Stride to work in the community. Her life is a lesson in determination and an example that you can run a successful for profit business with a mission to employ people with different needs.