What a wonderful week for everyone in the Aspire of WNY family! Here is a recap of what happened all around Western New York.
June 22- Aspire Center for Learning Graduation Ceremony
A lifetime of memories were made at the Center for Learning, when 26 students and their proud families were able to celebrate all of their hard work and dedication at the graduation ceremony. Two graduates received their diplomas and everyone participated in a program which highlighted the successes of students. Oh, and of course there was cake!
June 23- Aspire Teams Up for Chase Corporate Challenge
Aspire of WNY continued its regular participation in the Chase Corporate Challenge and does so as part of its comprehensive Corporate Wellness program. Over 30 Aspire employees chose to run/walk in this year’s event held at Delaware Park.
Aspire joined staff from People Inc. and The Summit Center to collectively educate the community on “Disabling the Label” seeking to end any derogatory terms when referencing the developmental disability community. Kudos to all participants!
June 24- 5th iXpress Annual Art at the Athenaeum
Aspire of WNY and its iXpress program held the 5th annual Art at the Athenaeum at the Chautauqua Institution last Friday. The annual event is an opportunity to showcase paintings from iXpress artists and to make the art and related products available for sale. A beautiful evening in a beautiful setting.
June 29th- iXpress Gallery Opening at SUNY Fredonia Incubator Gallery
Individuals, staff, families and friends celebrated wonderful collection of artistic expression. Aspire of WNY is proud to announce that members of iXpress were honored with an extensive exhibition at the Fredonia Technology Incubator. 29 artists blessed with unbridled creativity share a multitude of drawings and paintings with the public.
What a wonderful week of celebration of individuals making the most of their opportunity all over the region! This busy week is but one representation of just how much passion, inspiration, and connection being brought together by everyone affiliated with Aspire of WNY. From Allegany County, to Chautauqua County up to Niagara County, the difference can be felt all over Western New York! Stay Tuned to the Aspire of WNY blog for continuous stories of inspiration and connection, & stay tuned to our Facebook page, which has updates each and every day!
Being a father means something different to every family. Some fathers may excel in teaching their son how to throw a baseball. Some fathers may provide a shoulder to cry on. Some fathers may take on a role of disciplinarian. Some fathers help pick out the perfect prom dress.
When a child is born, a man’s life eternally changes, as does his role in life. When a child is born with a developmental disability, fatherhood takes on a completely different form. Aspire of WNY would like to pay homage to all of the fathers in Buffalo and Western New York who commit their lives to the unconditional love of their children, but extend special appreciation for those who unconditionally love their developmentally disabled children.
Fathers of children with developmental disabilities face many of the same issues as any other Dad, but the emotional strength they hold in coping and working each and every day to make their child live a happy life cannot be understated. Despite the tribulations that disabilities cause for their children, their wives, and themselves, they stand strong and provide unconditional love.
In 2014, America was given a closeup look at this unconditional love and devotion, when Dick and Rick Hoyt were featured by several major media outlets.
Rick was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. His father was told by doctors that his son was hopeless, unable to walk or talk. The words no father wants to hear. Despite the emotional burden, Dick fought to include his son in all different kinds of activities. Rick would eventually be outfitted with a communication device which showed he was intelligent, and allowed him to attend public school.
At the age of 15, a local lacrosse player was paralyzed and Rick asked his Dad if he would push him in the 5-mile fund-raising road race.
It was then when Dick heard the words every father of a quadriplegic child wants to hear.
“When I’m running I don’t feel handicapped.”
The Hoyts would go on to run, bike, swim together, father pushing son, in over 1,000 road races, marathons, and triathlons, gaining a following all over the world for their inspiring relationship.
The 2014 Boston Marathon marked their 32nd and final Boston Marathon race as a duo. Today Dick is 75 and Rick is 54, and after almost 40 years, over 1100 endurance events, their love remains, and continues to inspire others. Though Dick’s age has prevented him from running every race, Team Hoyt still runs today.
Despite being deemed “hopeless” at birth, Rick was able to graduate from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in Special Education, and later work at Boston College in a computer lab, helping to develop systems to aid in communication and other tasks for people with disabilities.
Had it not been for the unconditional love that Dick and his wife provided for their son, Rick couldn’t have experienced the joy and success he has in life.
This is a truly remarkable tale of what it means to be the father of a developmentally disabled child. For the fathers in Western New York who love their sons and daughters unconditionally, despite what they are forced to endure in life, everyone at Aspire of WNY salutes YOU!
Happy Father’s Day Gentlemen!
Cerebral Palsy is a condition that doesn’t discriminate, it truly affects a cross section of life. While no community, race, gender or socioeconomic class is spared, it’s when communities come together that real understanding and progress can be achieved.
Buffalo Bill Eric Wood knows the perils of CP all too well. While the hulking 6’4, 310-pound Center focuses on battling fellow behemoths on Sundays, he has experienced the emotions — struggles and victories that accompany supporting a family member with the condition. His younger brother suffered from severe CP and unfortunately passed away when Eric was just 14-years-old.
His first-hand experience of how CP affects families served as the inspiration for his philanthropic efforts through the Eric Wood Foundation, founded in 2014. The organization works to both raise aid to give individuals with CP “exciting experiences” and provide financial relief to their families in Buffalo and Louisville, KY where Wood attended college.
Wood held his second annual “Dinner for a Difference” this past Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom in Downtown Buffalo. The event serves as an outlet to give back to both communities that have influenced his life.
The 3-course dinner provided opportunity to converse over cocktails, bid on select memorabilia and meet other members of the Buffalo Bills — all while raising money to support the CP community. Several of Wood’s teammates, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Richie Incognito, and Sammy Watkins, served Hors d’oeuvres as diners were treated to live music along with the memorable evening.
Wood’s initiative spotlights Individuals with special needs in Buffalo, NY as he remembers what kind of issues members of his family worked through.
“My brother spent the majority of his life in a home or at the hospital. so when I meet families with sick children, I feel like I can relate,” Wood said. “The times that my brother was at home, we had a nurse in our house 24-7—that’s invasive on a family. I understand a lot of the struggle financially and emotionally that happens. So when I set out to start a foundation, we had a few goals.”
Wood’s foundation augments community efforts and brings additional positive attention to developmental disabilities in Erie County. Assistance is available including therapies, assistive technology/devices and vocational training for the developmentally disabled in WNY
Last year’s event alone raised $60,000 that has and will continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of ill children. Whether an individual suffers from Cerebral Palsy personally or has been affected by a family member who does, Eric Wood’s outreach continues to teach important lessons. Specifically that community is an integral part of establishing support, understanding and most importantly….progress.
Have you seen the video? What an amazing capture of an autistic boy being moved by seeing his favorite band in person. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.
Luis Noel, a little boy in Mexico City, walked into a Coldplay concert with his Dad on April 16th excited to see them live and in person. What he and his Dad didn’t know is the tears of joy that MILLIONS of people around the entire WORLD would have to choke back after seeing Luis’s emotional reaction to his favorite song, “Fix You.”
The video went viral and has over 4 million views on YouTube. Even Chris Martin and Coldplay tweeted out and shared the video, with a message.
“This kind of thing makes it all worthwhile. Hola Luis y tu hijo hermoso! Love cgqj&p”
As National Autism Awareness comes to a close, this heartwarming story brought an unmeasurable amount of awareness to the reality that those with autism have their own feelings and emotions. Seeing the fatherly love for a son with a developmentally disability is uplifting to say the least. Luis Sr, the father in the video responded to Coldplay and all of the viewers on twitter, showing he cares about raising awareness of the number of people living with autism.
Aspire of WNY is dedicated to helping those with developmental disabilities, of all ages. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more inspiring stories from all over Buffalo and WNY!
Three years ago, a group of friends took a major step and were able to live independently for the first time. The best part? They were able to move into their own place, all under one roof. Last week, the seven young men from Western New were the stars of a heartwarming story of friendship, togetherness, and freedom. You may have seen the video via WIVB Buffalo, or read about it in the Buffalo News.
David, Jared, Jeff, Patrick, Craig, William, & Michael have always been close. For years, their families’ hoped that they could get their own place, but with such a large amount of people on the New York State list, it was a pleasant surprise for everyone.
It was a winding journey for the families of the 7 bachelors, which started about seven years ago. Much like any other mid-to-upper 20’s guy, they each wanted to branch out and have their own life, but thoughts of isolation or lack of assistance is the fear for any parent of an individual with a developmental disability. After looking at over 20 properties, everything took a positive turn when they, along with Aspire, were able to meet with state developmental disability officials to seek approval of the “non-certified residence” on Main St. & Eggert Rd.
With each of the guys all standing in each meeting to show state officials that this was their choice, the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities approved the budget, Aspire bought the house, and the bachelor pad was born.
Today the “bachelor pad” offers the guys’ the freedom to live a fulfilling, independent life while providing peace of mind for their families. Despite the fact that each of the guys’ have down syndrome, this household isn’t much different than other male millennials,
“You walk in the house, a couple of guys will be sitting on the couch with their iPads, someone will be in his room listening to music, someone else doing laundry or playing board games,” said Fred Suchman, one of the staff members from ASPIRE of WNY. “It’s a normal house.” Buffalo News
Each of the housemates meet weekly to discuss chores, scheduling, and when the next Bills or Sabres game is on. They frequently watch the games together on their flat screen televisions, talk a little smack over a game of billiards, and they each have their own certain amount of money through their jobs and social security.
Jeffrey’s father had this to say about his son’s lifestyle.
“He’s so independent that he blows me off when I have a barbecue or something, he says, ‘Sorry, I’m busy, Dad.’ ”
Although the house is staffed 24 hours a day by Aspire, the guys live very independent lives. They all have their own jobs and six of them skate for SABAH, another organization that aims to enrich the lives of individuals challenged by physical, cognitive, and/or emotional disabilities. SABAH executive Director Sheila O’Brien told the News how the guys have matured since moving in together.
“I can see over the last two or three years, they take things more seriously and they watch out for each other more. They’ve grown up.”
Living together, living independently, living safely. The seven stars of the story don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the month of March 1987 as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. I invite all individuals, agencies, and organizations concerned with the problem of developmental disabilities to observe this month with appropriate observances and activities directed toward increasing public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities. I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”
28 years of raising awareness for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This is the proclamation from President Reagan in 1987.
Aspire of WNY has been working for and alongside individuals with developmental disabilities around Buffalo since first creating the Cerebral Palsy Association of Western New York in 1947. In March of 2003, the organization became known as Aspire of Western New York.
Today we stand stronger than ever, serving individuals and families in Erie County, Niagara County, Chautauqua County, and Cattaraugus County. We celebrate the reality that those with disabilities not only possess the ability to be a functioning, constructive member of society, but deserve to.
We will continue to strive for the advancement and betterment of the lives of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities all over Western New York because that’s what we are here to do.
This March, take notice of someone you may know or not know who was born a little different. Contact Us about job opportunities, volunteering, or if you know someone who could benefit from any of our programs.