In 1973 a handful of families in Fairview, TN decided to make waves and change the trajectory of the lives of their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The creation of a nonprofit to provide day programming and support for adults with IDD started small, but over the course of 50 years thousands of lives have changed for the better. In the 1970’s the standard of care for adults was to be institutionalized. A belief existed that the best care took place in a sterile environment behind locked doors with minimal contact with the outside world. These families did not believe this should be the only option and felt a better quality of life existed through inclusive activities and building independent living skills, thus Waves, Inc. was formed in September of 1973.

Fifty years later, Waves is still operating that original day program along with a variety of other services that empower children and adults to progress toward their full potential. Adult Day programs, residential support, employment services, community integration, and developmental therapy make up the list of services available through Waves. A common thread exists in every aspect of our services—building a foundation for each person supported to live as independently as possible. This is no easy task, but it’s a mission each staff member both enjoys and takes seriously.

The idea of empowerment has been constant at Waves throughout the agency’s first 50 years of services, as has been the presence of Mr. Roger Sullivan. Roger was one of the first adults supported at Waves when it first began in 1973. Today, Roger is still benefiting from the programs offered by the agency as he remains an active participant at the Fairview Day Program, the original service that started the organization. In addition, Roger also lives in one of the homes managed by Waves. His residency at Waves has helped shape the organization and serves as a reminder of how far the organization has come.

Mr. Roger Sullivan, Now & Then.

A lot of changes have occurred over 50 years, but change is good. To think if institutions were still the standard of care, our community would be missing so many connections and relations with our friends and neighbors with intellectual and developmental disabilities that contribute to the beauty of our daily existence. The adults supported at Waves are part of the workforce, contributing to this society just like any other adult that wants to work. They are living in our neighborhoods in community-integrated homes. They are attending and participating in local events and gatherings. The presence of a disability does not mean that person has less to offer than anyone else, but it can mean there are more opportunities for them to contribute to their, and our, community.  And that contribution is more than most people expect.

As Waves celebrates its 50th Anniversary, you are invited to celebrate with them. With reflection on the past, there is a lot of planning for the future— including continued growth and expansion of services. As a nonprofit, the support of the community has been a vital part of the growth and sustainability of Waves. As the organization looks to the next 50 years, will you be part of their story? Will you choose to make waves? A donation to their 50th Anniversary campaign will help change the lives of so many families.

You can donate today, online at or by mailing a check to 1325 West Main St. Ste. 104 with “anniversary” in the memo.