His passion for trains finds outlet through individualized home supports offered by ProAct

A chance meeting turned into so much more for train enthusiast and ProAct participant Matthew Bignell in Lake City.

“He has a huge model train collection and loves to see trains, as well as talk about what he has learned about them,” said ProAct Program Manager Pam Veith in Red Wing.

New program, library visit

Bignell was out doing some research at the public library with support from ProAct Case Coordinator Steve Whitmore. The two meet weekly as part of a new Individualized Home Supports program.

Another man in the library overheard the young man talking to Whitmore about his search for train information. That man, Dave Diskerud, is a retired train engineer who moved to Lake City.

He asked if he could talk with Bignell more about the topic and said he had a collection of train items to pass on to someone. “Dave wanted to find the right person to give them to and after meeting Matthew, he decided it was a great match,” said Veith.

Red Wing train group engages

To further satisfy his appetite for what runs on rails, Bignell meets weekly with the Gandy Dancers, a group of retired train enthusiasts in Red Wing who enjoy each other’s collections. He and his family also find many train shows and activities to attend in the area on a regular basis, Veith explains.

ProAct in-home supports help Bignell to engage with the community, increasing his social skills and exercise levels while learning the skills needed for independent living, said Veith.

This chapter in Bignell’s story has a fine ending. While Whitmore provided support, he and Diskerud exchanged phone numbers. They planned to meet a week later along with Bignell’s mother at the same library.

Kindness, sharing tangible train items

Diskerud gave Matthew a (model) train, a spike from the tracks, and some books on trains. “Matthew was thrilled to get these items and could have spent all day talking with Dave about them,” said Veith.

The leader of ProAct’s Red Wing site was elated after a chance meeting soon led to a bond over the men’s mutual love for trains.

Check out the Gandy Dancers’ recent display of model trains at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing: