Good Morning America Features LifeTown

The popular morning talk show Good Morning America aired a feature about LifeTown on September 6. Kate and Charlie Gibson tour the facility, lingering in the LifeTown Shoppes area, emphasizing the skills people with autism and other disabilities can learn in each of the 15 storefronts, from the cinema to the nail salon.

Playing with a larger-than-life set of teeth in the dentist’s office, petting a guinea pig in the pet store, and perusing the snacks in the grocery store, they walk away with a deeper understanding of what LifeTown really has to offer. 

“Society has a lot to learn about those who come to LifeTown, and those who come to LifeTown do learn a lot about how to deal with society,” said Charlie.

Footage of participants and volunteers on the playground, in the pool, at the shops, in the sand and the sensory rooms provide the visual backdrop through most of the five-minute segment, part of the Gibsons’ “Book Case” podcast. 

“There are no outsiders here. No behavior is unexpected or unaccepted, and small victories: learning how to make a doctor’s appointment, how to navigate a stop light, how to handle money, all are to be celebrated,” said Charlie. “Anyone can come back again and again, and they do.”

LifeTown supporters and Words bookstore owners Jonah and Ellen Zimiles serve as hosts, articulating the facility’s mission, goals, and philosophy. The piece originated as a focus on their independent bookstore in Maplewood, and the Zimiles took the opportunity to introduce the Gibsons to LifeTown, where they have a satellite location.

“This is a place where…you feel comfortable, you feel accepted, you know how to do things, you feel competent in your own abilities,” said Ellen Zimiles, as the foursome sits in the LifeTown Words bookstore.

Reflecting on the visit, Kate concludes, “So there’s a dual purpose. [LifeTown] gets them more comfortable with the world, and gets the world more comfortable with them.” 

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