The Real Meaning of Thumbs Up

The Real Meaning of Thumbs Up

Randy Verbanic and Harry Spilker never had the opportunity to meet. In fact, they lived about 200 miles from one another, but one day fate intervened and their life stories crossed paths in Mechanicsburg, PA.  

Randy was a long-time resident of one of Family Services of Western Pennsylvania’s group homes. He  passed away a number of years ago, but his family was so impressed with the care that he had received here that they endowed an award in his memory. 

The Thumbs Up Award recognizes a different direct care staff member each quarter from among our Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Residential and Vocational, MH Residential and Peer Support programs for their outstanding work advocating and caring for individuals who receive services here. Why the Thumbs Up? Well, from mood to food, whenever Randy was pleased his family and our staff were sure to get a “thumbs up.” 

Some time ago, while attending a community event in Mechanicsburg, PA, a few of his family members came upon a young artist, Harry Spilker.  Harry is a 19 year old with Down syndrome.  His artistic medium is photography and he had a wide array of framed work.  Impressed with his work, the family members offered to commission Harry for an original piece depicting a “thumbs up.” Harry politely responded, “No, why can’t you take one of these?”  Pointing to his existing works, Randy’s family members asked if he could do a “thumbs up” like one of those and provided Harry’s mom with their contact information, not ever expecting to hear anything back. 

In early June of 2013, a few weeks before the agency’s annual awards luncheon, Harry’s Mom called and said the work was complete.  She admitted it took some prodding, but their Pastor had talked about the meaning of the thumbs up symbol at their church picnic.  Perhaps it was meant to be. It inspired Harry to get the job done.

Harry’s creative expression of Randy’s spirit is pictured. Thank you both for inspiring all of us!

To read more inspirational stories, please go here.