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Painter of glass leaves his mark on Arc Nature Coast

SPRING HILL — Each time Ian Mischloney sells a set of painted wine glasses or salt and pepper shakers, he hides the money in a secret spot in his bedroom.

It's in stow for a special reason, said the 24-year-old Mischloney, who has a multiple chromosome disorder and struggles to speak. He wants to "leave a mark on the Arc."

Selling the painted glass items for $16 to $25, Mischloney has raised and donated $3,575 to the Arc Nature Coast, an organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities in Hernando County. The money will go toward the Arc's new $1.6 million training and emergency evacuation center, which is scheduled to open in the spring.

In the Spring Hill home where he lives with his mom and stepdad, Mischloney spends hours painting at his art studio, a small, wooden table that overlooks a pond.

He chooses the design, often grape leaves, chili peppers or horses. And he picks out his paints from a purple treasure chest.

"It's really quite amazing," said his mom, Michele Hardin. "Ian chooses the colors and does most of the work. I just clear up the drips and make sure everything is okay when he's done with it."

Dozens of Mischloney's art pieces are on display in the sunshine-filled Florida room where he works, each labeled with a signature and a number.

His most recent accomplishment, four wine glasses with bright green leaves and blue grapes, bears the number 328.

"Ian can't express himself through words very well, but he expresses himself through his art," Hardin said. "We never put him on a schedule; he just paints when he wants to."

Mischloney joined the Arc Nature Coast three years ago, when he turned 21. And he immediately excelled at horseback riding and bowling — he's on a team called the Arc Sharks.

It's there that Mischloney met a young woman named Jeannie, on whom he's sweet.

"Ian and Jeannie are quite the item," said Hardin, as her son smiled. "He's taking her to the Arc dance on Feb. 11."

The Arc came to mean so much to Mischloney that he decided he wanted his savings to go toward the new building, Hardin said.

"Ian was actually having some revenue from his painting," she said. "And when I told him that the Arc was trying to raise money for their new center, Ian told me he wanted to donate all of his money."

A part of Mischloney's disorder affects the speech center of his brain, so it takes about 15 seconds for his brain to connect with his mouth so he can smile or speak.

To understand Mischloney's words, it's necessary to speak "Ian language," an affectionate term his family uses to refer to the code only they can understand.

Yet, spending time with Mischloney is a social experience, even for a stranger.

His smiles are genuine and frequent. And he's generous about showing off his horse pictures and sports memorabilia, including a signed picture of pro basketball player Shaquille O'Neill, that hangs in his room.

Michael Hardin, Mischloney's stepdad, bonded with Mischloney quickly after they met about 10 years ago. They would go fishing and play sports together. One day, when the two of them were doing yard work, Hardin asked Mischloney to move some plants from the back yard to the front.

"He forgot to dig the roots up," Hardin said, with an affectionate smile. "He just cut the plants off right at the dirt."

Mischloney was a premature baby, his mom said — born 2 pounds, 6 ounces.

"I knew from the time Ian was born that he was going to be very special," his mom said.

Yet, nobody was sure of the exact nature of his disorder.

When Mischloney was 9 years old, a team of geneticists came from California to the University of South Florida to research the boy's disorder. Although they looked at cases in North America, South America and Asia, the researchers couldn't find any other people whose chromosomes behaved like Mischloney's.

The researchers wrote about young Ian in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Michele Hardin said.

"They do everything through case numbers and files," she said. "He was Case 1, File 1."

For Mischloney and his family, the disability has been a blessing, said his mom, as she wiped tears from her eyes.

"There are just so many things that revolve around Ian, " Hardin said. "To live without having a person with disabilities in your home, I can't imagine. I just can't imagine. It's a very, very special world, and if you have not been a part of it, you're really missing out."

In October, Mischloney was the first disabled person to win the "Spirit of Philanthropy Award" presented by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.

"He practiced and practiced and practiced for his speech," said his mom. "We had a portable PA system at the house and a microphone set up so he could practice."

On the big day, in front of about 200 people, Mischloney stood at the podium, projected his voice and spoke the words exactly as he had gone over them.

"My name is Ian Mischloney," he began. "Leave your mark on The Arc. Thank you, and have a nice day."

Painter of glass leaves his mark on Arc Nature Coast 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 12:46pm]
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