Monday, March 30, 2009

The Power of One

This week's Central Park Challenge superstar is Julie, who has a disability and lives in a YAI group residence in New Rochelle. Every year, Julie (pictured at left with Papa Baffour-Awuah, a member of our CPC team) raises substantial funds for the Central Park Challenge using old-fashioned grass-roots methods. We spoke to Julie earlier today to find out the secret to her success and what keeps her motivated.

CPC: How much have you raised this year, Julie?
Julie: So far I've raised over $3,000!

CPC: Wow, that's so impressive! How have you managed to do this?
Julie: I go out into the community independently, I talk to people, let them know what YAI is and how it helps people with disabilities. I tell them that the Central Park Challenge raises money. If they say, "no thank you," I just say, "OK, have a nice day." But most people do give me money.

CPC: How long have you been doing this?
Julie: Since either 1987 or 1988, around there.

CPC: Why do you think it's so important to raise funds through the Central Park Challenge?
Julie: I live in a group home, I think it's important to raise money for group homes, to keep them looking good and so that people can have everything they need, if they are high-functioning or if they are low-functioning. We have great staff here, they're always so good to talk to and support me. It's a great place.

CPC: So what do you do when you're not fundraising?
Julie: Well, I don't like watching TV or going to the movies, because I get bored. But I do have a new landscaping job through YAI and I get paid every two weeks, which makes me feel very good. I got laid off of my old job last year, so I like working again!

CPC: What's your favorite thing about the day of the Central Park Challenge?
Julie: I like being in the park -- it's so big and beautiful. I like hearing the band play oldies music and walking around and talking to people. It's a really nice day.

It's amazing that Julie is able to raise so much money all by herself -- simply by asking. Julie is also spreading a message that she believes in to members of her community. We know that not everyone has Julie's stamina, which is why, for most people, fundraising online is the way to go. If you haven't already, set up your personal page today!


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Friday, March 27, 2009

Fred and the Spirit of Service


Recently, we heard from Fred, a man who receives services from YAI. We were so inspired by his story that we had to share it with you.

Fred lives in Manhattan, in a YAI supportive apartment. He works full time as a law firm messenger in midtown with support from our Employment Initiatives Department, and is pursuing his GED.

One of the major highlights of Fred's recent past was attending the Presidential Inauguration. He traveled down to Washington, D.C. with his mother, saw a star-studded concert and watched as President Obama was sworn in. Fred was inspired by the President’s speech, especially his call to service.

“What he meant was for all Americans to work together to stick to our goals and give back to our country through things like volunteering,” said Fred, who knows a lot about giving back. While he was in D.C., Fred helped a local organization serve meals to the homeless. Back home in Manhattan, he volunteers weekly delivering meals to elderly people.

“I volunteer to show people that there are people that do care,” Fred said.

But Fred is doing even more, this time closer to home: In addition to volunteering at the Central Park Challenge, Fred donates his time and talent as a D.J. at monthly CPC fundraising parties held by YAI’s Manhattan Supportive Living program. “It’s important to fundraise because we want programs to help people who are fortunate like me to have YAI,” he said. “YAI has given me lots of opportunities and has opened the door to anything that I can achieve.”

When you support the Central Park Challenge, you are helping Fred and thousands of other people achieve their dreams and ultimately do their part to give back too.

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Have you seen us on TV?

Great news! Lynn Berman, a member of our CPC team, saw the Central Park Challenge video on ESPN2, right before the "Mike and Mike" show, while she was at the gym this morning.

"After all the work that we put into producing the video, it's really gratifying to see it on TV and know that our message is being spread," Lynn said.

Have you seen the Central Park Challenge video on TV? Let us know by leaving a comment or emailing us at cpc@yai.org.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Erasing the 'R' Word


Last week a group of self-advocates--people with disabilities who are connected to YAI--launched a campaign to erase the "R" word.

For most people with any kind of disability, the "R" word (retard or retarded, to those not in the know) is extremely hurtful, demeaning and stigmatizing. Even when the word is used in casual conversation and not directed toward a person, it perpetuates terribly negative ideas about disability. For the members of the Self Advocate Association at YAI, having a disability isn't something negative--it's part of who they are and erasing the "R" word is important to them.

“The word retarded is hurtful and you should say disabled instead,” said Sandra, a self-advocate.

“Or just call us human beings because that’s what we all are,” added Robert.

“This campaign is important because it will open up dialogue with the community about the way people with disabilities feel and that will help dispel common stereotypes and build more tolerance and acceptance,” said Tom Ott, a YAI staff member who advises the Self Advocate Association.

The self-advocates have been delighted with the positive response they have received from the conversation-starting buttons that they made to kick off the campagin, which they plan to continue at YAI events.

When you support the Central Park Challenge, you are supporting the continuing empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities in your community!


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Profile in Partnership

Rick Moldan, a Family Service Specialist, at YAI’s Long Island Project A.S.S.I.S.T., knows all about how creativity and community partnership can raise support for the Central Park Challenge.

Rick’s wife, Marian, belongs to a knitting group at The Knitters’ Knitche in Miller Place. Last month, they coordinated a knit-a-thon that ended up raising $1,500.

Sponsors supported a day of knitting, and one knitter worked with Pfizer, where she works, to match the funds she raised! “The group thought it was great that doing something they loved translated into helping people with disabilities,” said Rick.

“It never hurts to talk to business owners to see if you can come up with an idea like this,” said Darlinda Donlon, owner of the Knitters’ Kniche. “It was so much fun and brought together so many people from different walks of life. Everybody’s gung-ho to do it again next year!”

“The knitters told me that they loved fundraising for people with disabilities,” Rick said. “One woman mentioned to me that next year she will get her bowling league involved as well. It was very gratifying to see an idea, involving people from the community, become reality and mean so much to all those involved.”

Great work, Rick.

If you have a story like this one that you would like to share, shoot us an email at cpc@yai.org!


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Check out our 2009 CPC video!


Please leave us a comment to let us know what you think.



... and check out the spanish version on youtube!

If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting Ready to Walk

Today's post is by Dr. Philip H. Levy, Co-CEO and President of the YAI/NIPD Network

It's already the middle of March, which in my world, means that it's time to get ready for the 2009 Central Park Challenge. This picture shows Zak, the little boy who represented the CPC last year, giving me a hug. I don't think I will ever forget that moment--how I understood on such a deep level how much Zak, and thousands of other kids and their families, depend on YAI to give them a good start in life. Obviously, this is something I have known for the four decades I've worked at YAI, but that day Zak really drove it home for me.

This year, we'll be joined by my new friend Siobhan. Like Zak, Siobhan has a dynamite personality—she just lights up the room. And like Zak, Siobhan and her family count on YAI's services, which are supported in part by the Central Park Challenge. When we walk together in Central Park, we are making a huge difference in their lives.

I've already set up and personalized my CPC page. Have you set up yours? Time to get walking; I’ll see you June 6!

If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the
official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Astoria Has Heart!

Team Astoria Has Heart, the official Central Park Challenge team of YAI/NIPD's Astoria Day Habilitation, has created an exciting partnership with two restaurants in Midtown Manhattan!

From March 23-29, Uncle Nick's Restaurant and Ouzaria Greek Tapas will donate 15%-20% of your total bill (excluding tax and tip, of course) to Team Astoria Has Heart. Simply click on the flier at left, print it out and present it to the restaurant at the time of purchase. That's all!

We love this type of fundraising because it builds partnerships in the community, spreads the word and widens the scope of the YAI family. Congratulations to Team Astoria Has Heart for the creativity and community involvement.

If you can't make it to Midtown during the week of March 23-29, you can still support Team Astoria's fundraising efforts by clicking here!


If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Have You Seen Our Awesome Video?

We are so proud of the 2009 Central Park Challenge video, which has truly been a labor of love for many of us at YAI. But the best part is that you can get a closer look at Siobhan, the adorable 2-year-old who is helping us to promote the CPC this year, and her mom and dad.

Special thanks to Jerry Weinstock, Dorian Chandler, Todd Medland, Lynn U Berman and Siobhan and her family for all their work on this year's video!


If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

This is why we believe in the Central Park Challenge

Last week, Dr. Bernadette Flynn (pictured), Director of the New York League for Early Learning--one of YAI's member agencies--received a friendly but mysterious e-mail.

The subject was: “Your Former Student Andre” and all it said was “THANK YOU!”

Bernadette remembered Andre, who was one of her very first students in the mid-1980s, when she was a new teacher at what is now the NYL William O’Connor Bay Ridge School in Brooklyn.

“Andre was a handsome and bright child,” Bernadette recalled. “Diagnoses for PDD or Asperger's were not really given back then, but he had speech delays and stayed to himself.” Andre’s family remained connected to the school for a few years after Andre graduated, but then lost touch.

Bernadette responded to Andre's e-mail to say that it was good to hear from him and to ask why he was thanking her. He wrote back:

I just graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. When I was two-and-a-half years old my parents were told that I would never go beyond the fifth grade. I was happy to disprove that analysis. Thank you for all your support when I needed you.

Andre’s message brought tears to Bernadette’s eyes. “It just speaks to what the YAI/NIPD Network is,” she said.

Andre’s story really is about the YAI Spirit and the “can-do” attitude that infuses all of our programs. It is about never giving up hope and working together to make dreams come true. It is a reminder that every day, each and every one of you has the opportunity to truly change a life and to create hope, opportunity and success that will last a lifetime. When you participate in the Central Park Challenge, you are providing hope to all of the Andres of the world.

Remember, if you have stories like this one, share them with us a cpc@yai.org. For information on services for people with autism, please visit the YAI Autism Center.

If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Delicious and nutritious...


This just in: We have a brand new addition to the refreshment area at this year's Central Park Challenge! Participants will enjoy snacking on Popchips, a brand-new, all-natural potato chip. We're loving that they are low in fat yet, still crispy and delicious. They are not baked or fried but popped! Plus, their website is a lot of fun. Healthful snacks are a very important part of the Central Park Challenge and we're looking forward to everyone trying our newest addition.

And remember: If you know any food or beverage companies who might be interested in sponsoring us, shoot us an email at cpc@yai.org!

If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.