2010 disABILITIES Film Festival Archive


Profoundly Normal

OCTOBER 1, 2010
7:30 PM – 10:00 PM 


Based on a True Story!

The only thing they considered special....was their love.

Based on the true story of Donna and Ricardo Thornton, this film depicts how two individuals with developmental disabilities overcome extraordinary circumstances to build a life together as husband and wife. 

Kirstie Alley stars as Donna Thornton, a woman who from the age of 8, lived at Forest Haven, an institution for people with developmental disabilities of varying ages and levels of ability in Laurel, Maryland. There she meets fellow resident Ricardo (Delroy Lindo), and they quickly form a bond of friendship. Donna and Ricardo cope with the strict regime at Forest Haven. Despite personal abuse and neglect, they never give up their dream of finding a better life outside the walls of the institution. 

When Forest Haven is closed by a court order, Donna and Ricardo face an entirely new set of challenges – how to care for themselves in the outside world. Simple tasks such as reading, cooking and taking the bus are all enormous obstacles for them to overcome. 

Their friendship blossoms into love, and Ricardo eventually proposes marriage. Donna and Ricardo faced heavy opposition from Social Services but with the help of their social worker, the couple embarks on a courageous journey to exchange wedding vows receiving overwhelming support from the general population in the process. 

Eventually, the couple decided to have a baby and again faced tough critics who did not think the couple should bring a child into the world. Donna delivered a healthy baby boy, Ricky, in December 1986. Together, Donna and Ricardo work hard to raise their child in an uncertain world and rely upon their love for each other to bring them through even the toughest of circumstances.

Running time: 86 minutes

Rating: Unrated


Donna and Ricardo Thornton 

Ricardo and Donna Thornton are active and strong self-advocates in the Nation’s Capital, the District of Columbia. They married over 26 years ago and have a son, Ricky, Jr., who is 23 years old. A movie of their life was made, entitled “Profoundly Normal,” and they have had multiple interviews with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes about their life as one of Washington DC’s first couples with developmental disabilities to be married. Both Ricardo and Donna are former residents of DC’s institution for people with developmental disabilities, Forest Haven.

Both Ricardo and Donna are active members of the self-advocacy group, Project ACTION!, a coalition of adults with disabilities. Ricardo and Donna have both received many awards and were recognized as "Washingtonians of the Year" in 1997.

Ricardo has worked for over 30 years at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and Donna has worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They both are active in their faith-community (Ricardo) is a Deacon and in a theatre group where they perform in annual productions.

Ricardo is active in Special Olympics, on a variety of boards and committees, and he is a mentor and strong advocate for his peers. Donna serves on the Board of the ARC of DC. Ricardo travelled to Morroco for a leadership conference this summer to share his thoughts on the progress and future of Special Olympics.

Mr. and Mrs. Thornton are highly sought-after speakers at advocacy and parenting conferences locally and nation-wide.


OCTOBER 11, 2010

Film: Profoundly Normal 

Speaker: Donna and Ricardo Thornton

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