There were no superheroes with Down syndrome. So this dad invented one.

Chip Reece was always a huge fan of comic books. But when his son, Ollie, was born with Down syndrome, Reece wondered if that was something they'd ever be able to share.

Reece says Ollie, who was born in 2010, is a happy kid and that the two have a great relationship. "In the morning we have a routine where I get my breakfast and he sits right next to me until I'm finished," he writes in an email. "Given how busy he can be, that's a pretty sweet thing. I'd say we're buds."

Chip and Ollie. All images by Chip Reece (artwork by Kelly Williams) used with permission.


Like any dad, he worries about his son and his son's future. He wants Ollie to see that anything is possible for him, that he can dream just as big as any other kid.

When Reece was young, he looked up to the larger-than-life superheroes in his favorite comics. But there aren't a lot of stories out there that feature a hero with Down syndrome for Ollie to look up to. And that bothered him.

So Reece decided to write a comic book of his own.

"I wanted Ollie to see that people with Down syndrome could be superheroes too," he says.

Though not an artist or storyteller by trade, Reece dug deep into his love of comics, and his love for his son, and went about designing a story he pulled very much from Ollie's real life.

The comic, called "Metaphase," follows a young boy named Ollie whose dad has Superman-like powers.

Of course, comic book character Ollie wants to follow in his father's footsteps and get in on the whole saving the world thing. But Super Dad, for all his cosmic strength, is too afraid of what might happen to his son while fighting villains.

"As Ollie gets older he becomes tired of his dad's overprotection and unwillingness to include him in his superhero adventures," Reece wrote on a Kickstarter page for the project. "Ollie has lived his life listening to the world tell him he will be limited in what he can do, with the added frustration of comparing to a dad with unlimited ability."

Ollie begs a scientist to bestow super powers upon him.

Eventually, Ollie seeks out a mysterious corporation that promises to give anyone super powers via a little genetic tampering.

Unfazed by his disability, and the limits placed on him by his dad and the world around him, Ollie refuses to let anything stop him from becoming the world's next great hero.

Woohoo! Ollie celebrates on his journey to become a superhero.

With over 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome, and very, very little representation in pop culture, "Metaphase" is a much needed addition to the superhero universe.

As for Ollie? He just recently realized that the book is actually about him, and he loves it. All the attention doesn't get Ollie too excited though, Reece says, and he's plenty happy to just sit and listen to music or toss a ball around.

"There is more to him than having Down syndrome," Reece told People. "He is his own person and has his own personality, and with everything he has been through, he really is a superhero."

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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