Irene Bodanis, Co-Founder of Jake’s House at Event © Courtesy of Jake’s House
Imagine, if you will, waking up every day for over 30 years with the knowledge that before you think about your personal needs, you must address the needs of two other individuals.
Irene Bodanis has three beautiful sons, two of them with autism. From the onset, Irene has cared for her two sons, Jake and Jonathan, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, demanding her full attention and commitment, never taking a day off. Immediately upon their diagnosis, she made it her life’s mission to ensure her son’s lives were made as typical as possible—without giving a second thought to all the sacrifices she was going to have to make along the way.
Selfless dedication to her sons for almost three decades directly speaks to Irene’s character. But really, it’s only a chapter of her story.
In 2004, she co-founded Jake’s House along with her husband, David. With a genuine understanding of the impact autism has on a family, Irene set out to better prepare others for the challenges that she herself has faced in raising her family. It is this selflessness that makes Irene so special. With everything that Irene does, she brings her experience, her wisdom and her unrelenting enthusiasm to the thousands of parents who’ve now benefited from her commitment. Irene has inspired others through her lived experience, helping to evolve our Annual Community Events, the Legends Mentoring program, the Employment Mentoring Program and most recently, Jake’s House Community Residences.
Always striving to make a meaningful contribution, Irene continues to lead by example through her lifetime dedication to her own children and many others. Creating a family beyond and inclusive of her own children, Irene lives by the simple motto of “spend 10 per cent of your time on identifying the problem and 90 per cent of your time finding the solution.” She has uniquely inspired the continuum of services that the charity now provides to the autism community.
Irene has an elegance in her simplicity of welcoming those she understands well into the Jake’s House community. “Our first and most important goal—is to show families we understand their children and that we care about them and that they will always be welcomed at our events, as they are.”
There are no exceptions—no one will be left behind because they are different.
In the almost 20 years since its inception, Jake’s House has grown immensely, supporting thousands of families with the help of thousands of volunteers. Irene figured it out very early on, “As parents, we all want the very best for our children. We don’t worry about what they can’t do, but instead we focus on what they can achieve.”
Irene’s magical gift was teaching the rest of the world how to see things in the same manner that she does, “They are simply our children and without exception, everyone wants to live in a loving home and to be part of a family.”
On behalf of families everywhere, thank you, Irene, for building a loving home for us all.
Jake’s House is a community that understands and cares, providing practical help and lasting hope to families living with autism.