Niagara Gazette

Opinion

February 23, 2013

GUEST VIEW: New era, same commitment to developmentally disabled

Niagara Gazette — As I assume the mantle of leadership at Niagara Cerebral Palsy, I am humbled to have the unwavering support of our board of directors, including our new president Dr. Salvatore Passanese from Niagara County Community College. The members of our board sacrifice their time and are 100 percent committed to serving some of our most vulnerable citizens in our community — the developmentally disabled.

I also would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the dedication and commitment of our tremendous staff that provide the developmentally disabled with such compassionate care. It takes special people to provide such care and our organization is fortunate to have so many who provide this care on a daily basis.

Rather than communicate anecdotally about the dedication and commitment of our board and staff, I would like to share a couple of real-life stories. Don Napoleon has served on our agency’s board for the past 22 years. His daughter, Becky, started in our pre-school special education program when she was 3 years old and through the years has received physical, occupational and speech therapy. Becky is 31 years old today and according to her father has maintained the same infectious smile since she arrived at our agency all those years ago.

As Don will tell you, Becky is simply trapped inside a body that doesn’t work. She cannot speak and goes about her day in a powered wheel chair. She brings home a paycheck through a work program at our Community Vocational Rehabilitation Center. The paycheck Becky earns every two weeks from the center fills her with great pride because she loves to work.

Don Napoleon serves on our board because he is his daughter’s voice; as Don has conveyed to his fellow board members and others in our community throughout his years of service, it’s easy to sweep the developmentally disabled under the proverbial rug, especially when it comes to the legislative process. The fact is, programs and services for the developmentally disabled are in jeopardy every budget cycle. Our board can never rest or be content because of this threat.

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