Born with no legs and only one fully developed arm, Mary Ann Riojas is no stranger to adversity. After graduating from high school, Mary Ann fell in love, got married and had four children. Soon after the birth of her fourth child, the marriage ended. She enrolled in college and for the first time in her life and she got her driver's license. With renewed independence, she earned her Associates Degree in business and immediately got a job working with the Easter Seals, the same organization that was of great support to her development.
In 2006, she put a down payment on her first home with the help of the Housing Authority. A year later, she took a position with the Housing Authority to counsel other struggling families find housing. Although Mary
Ann's own home has led to many serious injuries and challenges, being a homeowner remains a source of great pride for her. To get into the bathroom and the one bedroom her three daughters share, she has to leave her wheelchair and scoot across the floor. The steps leading into the living room, garage and backyard are all equally frustrating. She's unable to cook in her kitchen and reach many items throughout the home. Her children are greatly concerned about their mother¹s care and safety when she¹s home alone.
When you look at the old house, it's a perfectly fine house. It was a great starter house. But the reality is, is that no home is designed for somebody that has special needs like Mary Ann. Things like the sinks, and the bathtub, the toilet, and the shower; Appliances, drawers, cabinets, none of that works for her. The house actually works against her. We're taking it down. We're gonna build a new home that gives her the freedom, the independence that she's never actually had.
To make it happen, we have the most wonderful builder this week, Jerry and his wife Paula DeYoung from DeYoung Properties. And there three children. This is actually the third generation, and they've been building homes in the Fresno area for many years. They actually built the house directly across the street from Mary Anne's house and I just know that they're here for all the right reasons.
This week I'm in charge of all the common areas in the house: the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and the laundry room. My goal is to make sure that Mary Anne can go anywhere, and do anything without any obstacles getting in her way. It's gonna be fully accessible, but that doesn't mean it's gonna be sterile. I'll be using all of her favorite colors, all of her favorite elements, this is a young family and I want the house to reflect that.
We all face challenges every day. And life is not easy, certainly not for Mary Ann, but she has never let anything stop her. Nothing gets in her way. The only thing that got in her way in the past was that house. Well, that's gone now and there's nothing that Mary Ann can't do.