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A Mother’s unwavering love: Building a village for her son, Daniel.

This is a story about Daniel, a young man with Down syndrome, and his incredible mother, Claire. Daniel is 23 years old and non-verbal, but his smile and infectious enthusiasm are a language all their own. He’s also the face of “Daniel & Co,” a venture that began as a baking project and blossomed into a vibrant community hub.
Claire’s Journey: From Accountant to Teacher, and Champion for her Son
Before Daniel’s arrival, Claire was a chartered accountant. After welcoming her two other children, Matthew and Sophie, she pursued a teaching degree. When Daniel finished school in 2018, Claire embarked on a personal “gap year” to find ways to enrich his adult life. The result? A transformative journey for both of them.
Fueling Independence Through Food Education
Claire has a passion for teaching people with disabilities valuable life skills, particularly related to food. She noticed a pattern: parents of Daniel’s classmates with intellectual disabilities often relied on frozen meals. This inspired Claire to empower Daniel by teaching him basic cooking skills.
Taking a Chance: A Culinary Course Ignites a Spark
Living in Perth at the time, Claire discovered a local kitchen operations course. While Daniel had enjoyed helping out in the school cafeteria, gardening seemed to be his true passion. Despite this, Claire enrolled him in the program, alongside six other students, for four half-day sessions each week. One afternoon, she picked Daniel up to find him beaming, proudly presenting a batch of freshly baked scones. This moment solidified Claire’s vision for the future.
Building a Dream: From Home Kitchen to Community Hub
A move to Brisbane was on the horizon, and the Hunter family’s house-hunting criteria took on a new dimension. They sought a property with ample space for a future kitchen garden, access to well water for irrigation, and a separate dwelling for Daniel. This additional unit would eventually become his home, but for now, it served as the heart of “Daniel & Co,” a commercial kitchen where muffins and other delicious treats were baked weekly for the local Saturday market. They also supplied two cafes, with plans for further expansion.
Beyond Profit: Building a Supportive Network
Claire’s vision extended far beyond financial gain. She witnessed the positive impact this engagement had on Daniel, and her heart yearned to create similar opportunities for others. While cooking was Daniel’s passion, Claire envisioned catering to young adults with intellectual disabilities who thrived in a gardening environment.
“Imagine having a dedicated gardener tending to an acre of vegetables,” Claire shared excitedly. “We could have two or three young adults with disabilities working alongside them, supplying fresh produce for Daniel & Co’s baking needs.”
Controlled Growth: Quality over Quantity
Claire is committed to measured expansion. Her goal is to secure partnerships with a select group of cafes that align with their values. “It’s about organic growth,” she explained. “We’re not driven by profit; we’re building a village for Daniel and others like him.”
From a Fragile Start to a Place of Hope
Looking back at Daniel’s early days, it’s hard to imagine the vibrant young man he is today. Born with a heart condition, doctors initially gave him a slim chance of survival. “Down syndrome was secondary – our focus was on him living,” Claire remembers. While he defied medical expectations, the emotional toll was immense. “I cried every day for the first eleven days,” Claire confided. “Her rock throughout this ordeal was her husband, Michael. ‘Daniel didn’t ask for this,’ he said. ‘We’ll get him through it.'”
Building a Life Beyond the Hospital
After 23 days in intensive care, they were finally able to take Daniel home. However, their world remained confined due to his underdeveloped lungs. Social interaction came in the form of visits from specialists and therapists. Claire gravitated towards families whose children were older than Daniel, seeking a glimpse into their future.
Finding Balance: Family Time and Support Services
Feeling overwhelmed by the constant healthcare appointments, Claire yearned for a sense of normalcy. “I had a conversation with a social worker who asked, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to do this?'” Claire recalled. “‘Just to be a family,’ I replied. It was the first time I’d voiced that sentiment.”
A New Chapter in Adelaide
A job relocation for Michael brought them to Adelaide, where they embraced the specialized education system. This environment catered to Daniel’s unique communication needs, fostered an understanding of his behavior, and provided him with a supportive learning environment. Despite his challenges with verbal communication, Daniel possessed remarkable comprehension skills.

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Adarsh Dutt

Adarsh Dutt is an award-winning accountant. – Winner Chief Financial Officer of the Year 2021 – Finalist Non Profit Accountant of the year Articles by Adarsh
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