I’d like to introduce Sally and Dale Wise. In a world with few frontiers waiting to be discovered, eighteen years ago, Sally and Dale not only found one, they crossed it without trepidation. That line of demarcation has a name. It’s called the world of child care.
Since 1980, Sally and Dale have been foster parents. They have cared for children with a variety of needs – never called problems. When someone asks, they recognize terms that categorize children: Emotionally strained children, pregnant teenagers, drug addicted infants, medically challenged children, and others. Children from towns like Needham or Wellesley, suburban towns. But in looking at children, they don’t see labels or use them. They see human beings, each with a potential. The challenge is to build self-esteem. Their home, in keeping with their goal, is appropriately called “Sesame Street West.”
One of their children who has helped build their family is Andy. He has been with the Wises since he was an infant. He has had to overcome spina bifida, and he continues to do so. To say that he’s active is an understatement. While confined to a wheelchair, he plays basketball, baseball, and more recently hockey on a sled. The bond between Andy and the Wises was sealed by adoption.
Many of the most inspirational stories are told in the lives of those who have had to overcome personal tragedy. This is true with the Wise family. Perhaps that is where, in part, they get their strength. Dale faced cancer. He lost a leg before winning his fight. He returned to his position as a police officer for the town of Dover. He now has twenty years of service.
To tell their story possibly infers two parts, but it is really indivisible. A family that sometimes expands and contracts but always with a central caring part, and logistical brilliance. Think of the components: doctor appointments, special needs programs, shopping, cooking, cleaning, caring and loving time. And from the outside, sigh with admiration.
But there is also an outside life that starts with no clear single beginning. Possibly with Dale’s organizing of programs for disabled athletes, and becoming a participant. He was the one who started the Boston Blades, a hockey team made up of disabled former hockey players who are amputees or paraplegics. Hockey is played on sleds, using pointed sticks for propulsion. During this past winter, the Blades played for six minutes between periods of a Bruins’ game. They left to a standing ovation from a capacity crowd.
Sally and Dale work together. They are so well-known that many other foster parents and professional workers call on them for advice and opinion. They don’t use numbers to recall their children, but the number over the years adds up to over a hundred. With Sally’s support, Dale is now president of the New England Wheelchair Association, which organizes races for disabled adults and children. He serves also on the Needham Committee for disabilities.
Their accomplishments speak far more eloquently than any words that might be used. In this award, we humbly and gratefully recognize their unequalled contribution to special children and a society plaintively calling for such involvement.