Monday, April 27, 2009

Save Money While You Fundraise

Thanks to a partnership between Syms, the discount clothing store, and YAI, from May 3-9, you can take 10 percent off your purchase, with 5 percent donated directly back to YAI!

A socially conscious company, Syms in Elmsford, NY has employed two people with disabilities from YAI's Westchester Supported Work and Training Program for more than two years. When the store's manager approached Marlene Kelly, a YAI Employment Training Specialist, about partnering for a community service shopping event, she immediately thought of the Central Park Challenge. "At the end of the week, Syms will tally all of the sales generated by the YAI coupons and give us five percent back," Marlene explained.

Simply click on the coupon, print it out and take it to your nearest Syms for a great value and an easy way to give back to YAI.

This is a great example of how an existing community partnership can make for virtually efortless fundraising. Do you have a story like this to share? Shoot us an e-mail at

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Profile in Partnership: Grandma Betty Team

Today's post is an interview with Anna Perales, Team Captain of Grandma Betty Team and the mother of two boys, who believes in making a difference in her community. Thanks to her fundraising efforts and her employer's matching program, Anna has already raised over $1100 for the Central Park Challenge and YAI's Brooklyn Children and Adolescents Program!

Q: What motivates you to support the Central Park Challenge and YAI's Brooklyn Children and Adolescents Program?
A: I feel very strongly about helping out, walking and playing in order to bring hope and help to those who need it. More so in today's difficult times, it is an honor for me and I feel lucky and thankful that I am able to do this. I live in Brooklyn and so I decided that by making the donation locally, it might help potential donors relate better to my requests. Children are always my first priority. We used to live in Belgium and every holiday, my elder son would go to day camp based in the community where we lived, which included all youths from the area, abled and disabled. The groups were divided to include all the children and teach them to work and live and build their projects together.

Q: You have named your team after your grandmother. Tell us about this fantastic lady whom you have chosen to honor.
A: When I first registered for the Walk with my sons, Nicole Sheahan, the CPC Manager, suggested I become a Team Captain. My wonderful beloved Grandma passed away at that time. She was an incredible person and we all miss her very much. I decided to honor this tremendous lady by naming the team after her: The Grandma Betty Team. Some of the donations we have received have been donations honoring her memory.

Q: You have done a really good job leveraging your employer's matching program for employee donations. How did you go about doing this?
A: I just started working for GUARD Insurance Group in January. When I began sending off e-mails for the Central Park Challenge to various colleagues, I was told that there was such a thing as 100 percent matching by GUARD and that the Central Park Challenge fit the profile perfectly for matching. GUARD employees have been and continue to be very generous and the company is involved in many charitable actions. It is nice working for a company that cares so much for its community.

Q: Do you have fundraising tips for others?
A: I have been soliciting donations via e-mail and talking about it to people. I will be out this weekend with the boys going round the neighborhood. Isaac, my eldest, is very excited about it!

Inspired by Anna's story? Support her efforts!

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Join us for the Savor the Flavor Wine Tasting!

Sponsored by the YAI/NIPD Day Services Program Resource Department, this fundraising event will directly benefit programs and services for people with disabilities and their families!

When: May 21, 2009, 5-9 p.m.
Where: The Wine Room of Forest Hills
96-09 69th Avenue (between Groton and Harrow Streets) Forest Hills, NY (see map)
Cost: $15 per ticket (raffle sale at the event too!)

parking available

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Proven Strategies to Help You Raise Funds and Awareness

One of the many exciting things about working on an event like the Central Park Challenge, is seeing how creative people are in raising funds and reaching out to their communities. It inspires us that people raise funds through book clubs, knitting, DJ-ing and plain old asking. It just shows that no matter who you are and where your interests lie, you can find a way to leverage your passions and hobbies to raise funds and awareness for people with disabilities.

Fortunately, for those of who may not have time to spare, there are easy, fast and proven strategies that can ensure your fund and awareness raising success:

Send 20 e-mails. If five of those people donate $20 each, you’ll raise $100 right there.

Personalize your page by editing the text and adding a photo. Did you know that participants who add a story and photo to their personal pages raise as much as 10 times more than those who don’t?

Recruit friends, family and contacts to participate in the event.

Brainstorm! Think of ways to use your favorite social networking sites to drive friends to your personal fundraising page. Try our new Facebook application, blog about your participation,"tweet" about it on Twitter, share our video on YouTube, add your fundraising to your LinkedIn profile and more!

Let us know what works for you by posting a comment or e-mailing us at!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Why We Love the Central Park Challenge

Today's post is by Katie and Doug Harter.

After our son Jack was born with a disability, our loving and supportive family and friends wanted to do something to help. First, we held a fundraiser for Blythedale Children's Hospital, where Jack was born. It was a huge success and a way for us to "move on" from hospital life to our new life at home.

For our next fundraising effort, we wanted to give back to YAI. LifeStart, a YAI early intervention program, provided us with wonderful therapists who came into our home every day from the very first day we brought Jack home when he was four months old. We couldn't believe that all of this was free of charge and we will forever be grateful for our therapists' patience, hard work and love. They would never be able to "fix" Jack's disability, but they treated him as someone with great potential and who can learn to do things at his own pace in his own way. Giving back to the YAI/NIPD Network's LifeStart through the Central Park Challenge was our way to thank the therapists and we wanted them to join Jack's Team so that our family and friends could get to know them.

This year, Jack's Team will be walking and running for Roosevelt Children's Center, Jack's new preschool at the YAI/NIPD Network. At a certain point last year, it became evident that he was ready for a change and a new challenge. He loves socializing and the structure of school. He has thrived at Roosevelt, thanks to the care and dedication of his special education teachers and therapists. They have made him feel comfortable in his new surroundings while pushing him to experience new things. We could not be more grateful that Jack is in school and that there is a place like Roosevelt Children's Center for him. Also, we are proud of the fact that Jack's two new baby sisters, Meghan and Caroline, will be with us at the event, co-hosting!

We love that the Central Park Challenge is something families can do together, as opposed to a cocktail party, and that children with special needs can participate alongside typically developing kids. We love that our family and friends see how many people come out to support YAI and how important the organization is to so many people. Seeing everyone stream into the meeting spot on the day of the race, watching the team literally come to life as more and more people show up, is one of our favorite aspects of the day. We proudly handed out stickers which said, "I'm on Jack's Team" and loved seeing our team members wear them and embody all that the statement means to us. Watching the runners from the curb run by with their "Jack's Team" stickers and cheering extra loudly for them was a highlight as well as getting the whole team, walkers and runners, together at the end for a group photo.

We don't like asking our friends to donate huge sums of money and we are so happy that the Central Park Challenge only asks people to donate a small amount for the registration fees. Then it's completely up the donors as to whether or not they'd like to donate more. This has really worked well for us and has taken any pressure off our family and friends, while providing a great cause for those who do want to make a big donation in Jack's name. We support YAI because it's what really matters to Jack now and makes a difference in the quality of his life.

One additional thought: YAI staff have been so helpful in getting the team page online up and running for us and making us feel like we're the only ones they're helping out even though we know they're doing so much to prepare for the event. Nicole always responds so quickly to my questions and suggestions and has implemented our suggestions, too. It really goes a long way to let us know how much they value our support and to make the fundraising efforts that much easier. They are a pleasure to work with and so grateful for what we're doing without ever being pushy.

Inspired by the Harters' story? Support Jack's Team.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meet JoJo's Joggers

Today's post is an interview with Lisa Capoziello, a parent of a little boy with a disability. Her family's team, JoJo's Joggers, has been dedicated to raising funds and awareness for people with disabilities at the Central Park Challenge for several years now.

CPC: What originally motivated you to become so involved in the Central Park Challenge?
LC: My son Joseph, who was 3 at the time, was attending the the New York League for Early Learning William O'Connor School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. There he received services and was placed in a classroom of an amazing teacher, Ms. Gina Zizzo. Joseph was born with microcephaly and never in my wildest dreams, after hearing his long term prognosis, did I believe that he would reach as many goals as he had. I felt it was my duty as a mother to tell others about this great organization that had helped my son. Lack of knowledge of people who are there to help can be detrimental to children like Joseph who just needed to be given a chance.

CPC: What do you love most about the day of the Central Park Challenge?
LC: The most inspiring aspect of this fundraiser are the staff and volunteers who help to make it happen. Walking through the park on the morning of the event is always an emotional time for me. I think about how amazing it will be and how wonderful it is to see all those people who came to support such a great organization. My son's smile takes the cake as he goes to look for his sign and is greeted by all those YAI team members who recognize him from previous years. He is like my celebrity for a day; I am proud to show how far he has come and he is proud too! It is a great day for my entire family!

CPC: What's your favorite memory from attending the Central Park Challenge?
LC: My favorite memory from the CPC had to be last year when David Eigenberg told the entire country on Channel 7 News how he was hanging out with his friend JOJO! I was utterly star struck and impressed. He told me how amazing of a personality my son had and all I could do was stutter. (I was beet-red and instead of thanking him, I said how I was going to see his movie [Sex and the City] that had come out the night before.) I think he made my day and helped me to realize that I am not the only one who see's how amazing my son is, and how far he has come.

Inspired by JoJo and his family? Support their fundraising efforts!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Manhattan Day Has WillPower!

Today's post is by Team WillPower's captain, Karen Abbe

On June 6, we the staff and program participants of YAI's Manhattan Day Program, will be participating in the Central Park Challenge. This year, our team is walking in honor of William, a friend and co-worker at Manhattan Day.

In November 2008, William was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has not been back to work since, and his absence has left a tremendous void in our program.

William is an incredible man who has had a huge impact on the people with disabilities who he has worked with for the past 11 years. He can always be counted on to do the right thing and to do it with a smile! He has a great attitude, which adds to the overall tone of our program. Staff around the building respect his work and dedication to people with disabilities and the agency.

Everyday, William is missed so much by his co-workers and the program participants. The CPC is our way of honoring William and his amazing courage as he continues his battle with cancer.

Click here to support Team WillPower and YAI/NIPD's Manhattan Day Habilitation Program, which provides essential services to adults with developmental disabilites.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Love At First Billboard...

Today's post is an interview with Kerin Nadler, a member of YAI's Brighter Futures Society.

CPC: How did you first get involved with the Central Park Challenge?
KN: One Wednesday morning, last spring, I was walking up Tenth Avenue from Equinox in Chelsea to my old office on 57th and Broadway. I wasn’t preoccupied with a phone or iPod, so I was really paying attention to things. And on my walk, I saw a billboard with an adorable little boy with eyeglasses. [CPC: Those billboards are graciously donated by our good friends at Clear Channel Outdoor!] Kids with eyeglasses make me melt! And then I read, "Central Park Challenge, Run. Walk. Play." I LOVED that the word “Play” was incorporated. I had no idea what YAI was, but I took down the e-mail address.

I e-mailed YAI when I got to my office and said, “I have no idea what you do or what this event is, but I want to help out.” Shortly after, I got an e-mail from YAI’s volunteer coordinator. The rest is history….

CPC: What is your favorite thing about the Central Park Challenge?
KN: I’ve only been to one Central Park Challenge, but I can’t wait for this year's and every one that follows. The energy, the smiles and the camaraderie are overwhelmingly beautiful.

CPC: What has been the most inspiring aspect of fundraising for YAI?
KN: The fundraisers that I’ve helped YAI with so far are the Brighter Futures Society Camp Scholarships and The Royale, which is the Brighter Futures Society's charity event this year. It’s surprising to me that no matter how many caterers I call and no matter how many people I ask for donations, I cannot help but ooze with passion for this organization.

I have truly loved every single second of working with YAI. I remember sitting at my first Brighter Futures Society meeting feeling exciting and ready to be a go-getter. I sat at that meeting thinking, “YES! YES! YES!” It set the standards quite high for everything else that I choose to give my time too.

Every single YAI employee that I have been fortunate enough to meet has been an absolute pleasure. They’re kind, altruistic, silly and each and every one has a heart of gold.

And the people with disabilities who are served by YAI are full of life and enthusiasm. You can’t help wanting to do anything you can for them. They appreciate YAI so much. It feels great to be just a tiny fraction of what brings them this satisfaction.

CPC: What's your favorite memory from attending the Central Park Challenge?
KN: I was dog-sitting my parents’ puppy the weekend of Central Park Challenge. I got permission from YAI to bring him along. Mojo the Puppy was only a few months old and was very very shy. He would hide behind me whenever he saw a stranger.

When I was done with registration that morning, Mojo and I walked around to see everything else that was going on. A person with a disability was sitting on a bench and asked us to come toward her so she could pet Mojo. We sat with her for about an hour. Mojo sat on her lap and didn’t move. It was the first stranger he ever felt comfortable being with. The woman and Mojo found so much comfort in each other and she had me take so many pictures of the two of them. She kept on telling me that Mojo was her best friend and she started to sing a song to him. “Pride and joy, pride and joy, my baby boy.”

CPC: What message do you have for other young professionals who might be considering getting involved with YAI for the first time?
KN: Is the above not enough?! Get involved! Jump in with two feet. There is no need to hesitate this decision. You will be welcomed with open arms and you will be applauded for anything you do – nothing is too small! Every contribution is much appreciated. You can’t help falling in love with YAI.

To join the Brighter Futures Society, a group of young professionals dedicated to supporting the mission of YAI, please contact Dario Mallerman at 212-273-6588 or

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Literary League Gets Reading for the CPC

Today's guest post is by Alexandria D'Auria

We formed our book club, The Ladies Literary League, because we all share a deep love of literature--from the classics to contemporary fiction. Each month we meet at a different member’s house and have lively discussions about the books we have read. We indulge in sweet treats, delicious drinks, and lots of fun and laughter. We challenge our minds every month with the literature we read.

Now we are eager to challenge our hearts and bodies as we prepare to Walk and Run for a Day of Hope.

One of our members, who is an employee of YAI, first brought our attention to YAI and Broadview Networks Central Park Challenge. She enlightened us about the “Day of Hope” and the funds and awareness this immeasurable event raises for children and adults with developmental disabilities. This cause is also very close to our hearts because one of our other members has a sister who benefits from the remarkable services of a YAI day habilitation program. We know that she, along with hundreds of other individuals, will gain from our efforts and contributions at the Central Park Challenge.

This is just one amazingly creative way that a family member and a staff member have used to leverage their interests to help people with disabilities. Do you have a story like this one? Let us know by emailing us at

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Introducing YAI Autism Community

Have you seen our latest blog? YAI Autism Community is a Web site affiliated with the YAI Autism Center. It's a great resource for families and professionals who are interested in autism. The site is science-based, provides a variety of perspectives and reflects the abilities-based approach of the YAI Autism Center.

This week, Dr. Charles Cartwright, Director of the YAI Autism Center, has been blogging about Justin, a young artist with autism.

Are you a person with autism, a family member or a professional who works with people with autism? We're looking for guest bloggers. Send an email to the YAI Autism Community admin at

The YAI/NIPD Network has been providing services for people with autism for more than 50 years! When you support our Central Park Challenge, you are helping thousands of people with autism and their families!

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