Page 1

Winter 2011â€

Volume 2 / Issue 1


From the heart SHANE GRAY

Willing and confident SARAH HIGLEY

Headed for the future



There’s a new

friend waiting to meet you! For special needs kids and adults, AbilityFirst Camp Paivika is an oasis of possibility. It is a place where lifelong friendships are made, and where campers blossom and thrive. It is a place of safety and compassion. Campers experience the wonders and fun of camp including horseback riding, swimming, adaptive sports and recreation, and more. The rewards are great. Families gain a much needed respite.

Camp Paivika Memories and friendships that last a lifetime.

Camp Paivika


600 Playground Drive


Crestline, California 92325


Camp Paivika is an equal opportunity provider and operates under special use permit with the San Bernardino National Forest.


In this issue Dear Readers,





Jey Giuliano

Jaclyn Smith

Volunteer helps program

From the heart, as an AbilityFirst Honorary Chairperson



Jim and Blanka Douglass



Superior Press AbilityFirst provides consistent reliability


Shane Gray

creative support

confident because


friends show their support

of the Harry A. Mier Center


Headed for the Future

Around AbilityFirst

Best regards,


More Than a Job

With summer approaching, the staff at Camp Paivika is planning for the arrival of hundreds of campers. For Camp Director Kelly Kunsek and her family, running camp is not just a job — it’s a labor of love that gives families additional peace of mind.


to offer the world


Sarah Higley, the vivacious “cover girl” from our Newport-Mesa Center, has blossomed from a quiet 12-year-old to a poised young adult able to make friends and work in the community. Socialization activities through AbilityFirst have enhanced Sarah’s life and set the foundation for her success.

Thank you for your philanthropic gifts that sustain our mission and help us provide high quality services. California state budget cuts are continuing, impacting the future of children and adults with disabilities, our most vulnerable population. If it is within your means, please consider increasing your support of AbilityFirst. Every gift is meaningful and appreciated.

Sarah Higley has a lot


Hundreds of AbilityFirst


Willing and

Passionate about the

Big Events


provide financial and

Comerica Bank


interest in music

Legacy Society members



participants take a deeper

This is the most exciting time of year at AbilityFirst. We are in the middle of our largest fundraising activity, the Marathon Campaign, presented by Comerica Bank! Through May 13, our families, board members, employees and corporate teams will be eagerly collecting dollars for our quality programs. Cheer them on by visiting our website and making a pledge of support. We welcome Skechers as our Gold Medal Sponsor and thank them, and all our corporate sponsor partners, for their involvement with, and commitment to AbilityFirst. Partnerships are critical to AbilityFirst. In this edition of AbilityFirst Magazine, you will learn about two of them.



Directory and Leadership

Lori Gangemi President and CEO

Our mission

Design FreeAssociates

AbilityFirst provides programs and services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential throughout their lives.

Photography Jim Douglass, Ed Krieger and Nancy Newman


Building love and family at Camp Paivika Editor Carolyn Aguayo Writing Lynne Heffley

fromh 2



heart J AC LY N S M I T H / H O N O R A RY C H A I R P E R S O N



This multi-talented “Angel” finds strength and hope through her work with, and support of, AbilityFirst.


uring my long relationship

Julie would become a regular visitor to

campaign to build a much-needed and

with AbilityFirst,” observes

Jaclyn’s home for many years afterward,

expanded facility.

former “Charlie’s Angel” and

celebrating special occasions with Jaclyn

long-time AbilityFirst supporter Jaclyn

Smith, “there have been many changes over the years, but change means progress

and her family.

“Of course, she’s grown up now and I

“It was a delightful day,” Jaclyn notes, and meeting the young program participants

“makes you say, O.K., I need to stand

haven’t seen her for many years, but

strong for these beautiful children who are

from elementary until middle school,

fighting so hard. Their parents are heroes

she came to my children’s birthday parties

to me, too,” she adds. “Their lives are

Learning too much about the real person

and many of our Christmases. She was

turned upside down and they give, give

behind an admired public persona can be a

always part of the fun, enjoying herself

and give.”

when your heart’s in the right place—and theirs is.”

disappointment. Not so with Jaclyn, whose

just as much as anyone else. I credit her

grace and beauty are more than skin deep.

dad, who made her feel that she could do

This wife and mom, actor, designer and

anything and that nothing was going to

entrepreneur, who has been on the “Most

stand in her way.”

Beautiful People” lists of Harper’s Bazaar, US, TV Guide and People Magazine, believes in giving back. Her involvement with AbilityFirst began

Born in Houston, Jaclyn originally pursued a career in dancing, but her striking beauty caught the attention of casting directors, and in 1976 she became part of TV history

After her introduction to AbilityFirst,

as Kelly on “Charlie’s Angels.” Multiple

Jaclyn set out to learn more, visiting its

screen appearances and miniseries

offices and meeting with representatives.

followed, as did a star on the Hollywood

When she was invited to become an

Walk of Fame and a Golden Globe

some 30 years ago when Jaclyn was one of

Honorary Chairperson, she agreed.

nomination for her portrayal of Jacqueline

several celebrities who signed autographs

“Although when they first approached me, I

Kennedy. In recent years, Jaclyn co-starred

at a Christmas party given by the then-

was sort of emotional and I said no, I was

in the CBS drama, “The District” and was

Crippled Children’s Society.

brought to tears at that Christmas party.

celebrity host of Bravo’s competitive reality

But they said just try it, you’ll get stronger.”

series, “Shear Genius.”

“I still cry when anything moves me,” she

Jaclyn’s entrepreneurial interests led to

“It was a beautiful party,” she says, “and I was very touched by the love that went into it and by the effort on the part of so

says wryly. “It’s a fact of life for me. But

her first collection of women’s apparel and

many people to make it something special

that’s just who I am and I’ve learned that

accessories for Kmart in 1985 and a best-

for the children.”

where there are tears, there can be laughter

selling signature fragrance for Max Factor,

on the other side.”

California, launched in 1989.

Recently, Jaclyn, along with fellow

A continuing relationship with Kmart

Jaclyn was especially moved by Julie, a little girl in a wheelchair, who was close in age to Jaclyn’s own son and daughter. “Her

actor Jane Kaczmarek, another staunch

includes Jaclyn’s bed and bath collection

mother had abandoned her and she was

AbilityFirst supporter, visited the Harry

and outdoor living, home décor and home

there with her dad. She was so open and

A. Mier Center in Inglewood, which

furnishings. With noted stylist Jo´se Eber,

loving and I was just so moved by her.”

is the focus of the agency’s capital

Jaclyn has created STYLE , a line of wigs Continued on page 16


Superior press


hat makes

site and in the presence of a

accommodate both plates and


Superior Press supervisor. Its

documents. And possessing

record of consistent reliability,”

previous vendor was not able

its own valued reputation

Traut says. “They never

to meet this need.

for reliability, AbilityFirst fit

promise something they

the bill.

can’t deliver. It’s very rare,

Business Services

the problem-solving solution

for its many satisfied corporate clients? Just ask Robert Traut, President and CEO of Superior Press in Santa Fe Springs, California. “AbilityFirst is cost-competitive,” Traut says, “and when you consider their level of service and professionalism, we think they’re the best in the industry. They’re certainly the best we’ve ever encountered.”

“We were shredding the plastic plates ourselves, but we were

The relationship has been

hoping to find a company that

“outstanding,” Traut says.

could shred printing plates

“AbilityFirst is a large

and documents at our site

improvement over our

under our supervision,”

previous vendor in a number

Traut says.

of ways. First, they have given

Not just any service would do. Established in 1931, Superior Press is a tier one security company with a long-standing reputation to uphold as a

us the service that we require and they have accommodated

proactive. Should anything disrupt scheduling, we never have to guess or wonder. They are well-managed.”

AbilityFirst “gives individuals who are challenged real jobs

when schedules or volumes

and a sense of purpose. It’s

have to be altered.”

a great company,” he says.

for a new vendor to safely and

material. Its facility, including

In addition, AbilityFirst

securely shred documents and

all cyber and electronics

staff “both in the office and

plastic printing plates used

operations, is secured.

in the field are always very

the service be conducted on-

time of arrival. They are very

when we need them to be;

with highly confidential

Shredding service could

phone call with an estimated

are flexible on those occasions

AbilityFirst in 2009, looking

AbilityFirst’s Mobile

on route, we always get a

Traut is also appreciative that

trusted organization dealing

to print security documents.

but if their truck is delayed

our timelines. Second, they

Superior Press came to

The company requested that

“AbilityFirst has maintained a

professional and helpful. We know that we can count on them to do what they say they are going to do.”

“We’re proud to recommend AbilityFirst to any business or organization.”




(first left) AbilityFirst NewportMesa Center Director Joy Thomas with Comerica Bank Assistant Vice President Steven Smyth at the 2010 Santa Anita Derby Day 5K. (left) The Comerica Bank Marathon Campaign Team at Derby Day 2010.

CORPORATE PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: COMERICA BANK Sponsorships and personal, hands-on involvement with locally based organizations are typical of Comerica Bank. A Presenting Sponsor of the AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign since 2007, it is part of the valued family of corporate partners that are critical to AbilityFirst’s fundraising success. With offices near many AbilityFirst locations, Comerica encourages its employees to support the AbilityFirst center in their community. Many give their time, gathering donations of support, volunteering at special events, or contributing professional advice. This commitment is also demonstrated at Comerica’s executive level too. Rick Arcaro, Comerica’s Vice President Middle Market, sits on AbilityFirst’s Board of Directors. “We stress not just contributing dollars, but having our people out and involved in the community as part of our culture,” said Mike Dokmanovich, Comerica’s Executive Vice President Middle Market Lending Manager. “We specifically wanted to find an organization that was a good partner and fit our footprint. AbilityFirst has been great. It’s a positive relationship.” At Comerica, “they are genuine about wanting to give back,” said AbilityFirst Newport-Mesa Center Director Joy Thomas. It shows, she

said, in her Center’s relationship with the banking institution that began in 2009 with a call from Steven Smyth, Assistant Vice President at Comerica in Costa Mesa. “He sought us out,” Thomas said. “He was interested in learning what we were all about.” Smyth personally participated in AbilityFirst’s Marathon Campaign, joining the Newport-Mesa Center team and walking alongside other AbilityFirst supporters at the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K Run/Walk in 2010. This year, Smyth is putting together a team of employees from his office for the 5K and has pledged to raise $1,500 of the Center’s total $4,700 fundraising goal for 2011. “We are very excited that Steven is so passionate about being involved with his community—and that we can tap into that passion,” Thomas said. The AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign consists of two events, the Los Angeles Marathon on March 20 and the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K on April 9, 2011. For more information, visit www.abilityfirst.org/marathoncampaign.

CANDLELIGHT PAVILION PRESENTS SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN BENEFITTING THE CLAREMONT CENTER. SILENT AUCTION • DINNER • SHOW Sunday, May 1, 4 p.m. Tickets and information: 909.621.4727 or jmartin@abilityfirst.org


Big events


October is a busy month at AbilityFirst as two long-time annual events draw hundreds of people who support our mission.


he Gourmet Festival of Fall, presented by Union Bank, took

place at the home of Mark and Phaedra Ledbetter, the historic Laurabelle A. Robinson House in Pasadena. Proceeds from the food and wine-tasting event, and silent and live auctions, benefited the Lawrence L. Frank Center and Pasadena Work Center.


ainbows for Children, the Long Beach Center Guild of AbilityFirst’s

luncheon, fashion show, boutique and silent auction was held at The Grand in Long Beach. The Guild raises funds Enjoying good food and company are (l-r) Board Members Ray Cherry and Steve Brockmeyer, and Chief Development Officer Reggie Ingram. With the beautiful Arroyo as a backdrop are (l-r) Board Member Richard R. Frank, Lori Gangemi, Honorary Chair Jane Kaczmarek, Steering Committee Member Gale Kohl, Homeowners Phaedra Ledbetter and Mark Ledbetter, and Board Member Mark Fedde. About to take a tour of the Robinson House are (l-r) Mary Alice Frank, Honorary Board Member Richard N. Frank, Kathleen Schaefer, Richard R. Frank and Lori Gangemi.

to augment and enrich the services offered at the Long Beach Center. This year, the Guild’s fund raising focus was the renovation of the center’s fitness room.

Children’s Benefit League Members (l-r) Hannah Gough and Arlene Fillius with Long Beach Center Director Barbara Schlosser. (l-r) Guild Board Member/2010 Ways & Means Chair Iris Schutz, Guild Board Member Wanda Sewak, AbilityFirst Honorary Chair Lee Meriwether, Guild President Annemarie Forster, Lori Gangemi and Barbara Schlosser. (l-r) AbilityFirst Board Member Jay Henneberry, Lee Meriwether, Guild Member Liz Minor, Lori Gangemi and Roberta Manshel.

J I M A N D B L A N K A D O U G L A S S / L E G AC Y S O C I E T Y



Design giving FOR

Legacy Society Members Jim and Blanka Douglass


observed kids and adults participating in

Honorary Board member. He donates

the programs.”

his photographic services to the

“It impressed me to see so many people dedicated to providing care for those who in the past were on the fringes of society

organization in collaboration with Blanka, who is also his creative partner. “It was my experience that brought Blanka

usy photography professionals

and given no opportunities to develop

into it and she became an enthusiast, too,”

Jim and Blanka Douglass became

their skills.”

he said, laughing.

AbilityFirst Legacy Society

members three years ago. It was a

comfortable decision.

It affected him deeply. Douglass had

Through their company, DEUXGLASS

observed first-hand how bad things could

Productions, the couple has found yet

be for the most vulnerable members of

another way to benefit AbilityFirst, with an

“We feel particularly blessed in the ways

society. While in college, he had once

innovative and eco-friendly new greeting

that life has been kind to us,” said Jim

had a summer job in an institution for

card and wall art venture, combining

Douglass, speaking by phone from his

the disabled, he said. “It was a time

original photography and digital design.

Santa Monica studio. “And while there are

when many children with developmental

The venture, at www.deuxglass.com, is

lots of mainstream causes that get plenty

disabilities were just warehoused. At the

set to launch officially at the National

of attention and funding, AbilityFirst is a

time, I guess it was the only alternative

Stationery Show in New York in May 2011.

great cause and a local organization that

that families could see, because there was

AbilityFirst will receive 10% of the profits.

we can participate in directly,” he said,

no support for them in the community.”

“not only with money, but with our time.” “We can be more involved than we could with a larger organization and that’s an important distinction: AbilityFirst is something that you can be more personally connected with because it is community oriented.” The couple’s relationship with AbilityFirst began when Douglass was hired in the late 1990s to create a photographic record of all of the various centers and services that AbilityFirst—formerly the Crippled Children’s Society—had to offer. Because AbilityFirst operates programs in multiple Southern California locations, “it was difficult for them to describe their facilities and services to visitors without having some visual support,” Douglass said. “So over a period of a year or two, we worked on this project. I went to all the properties, met with the staff and

Jim and Blanka Douglass portrayed in a photo illustration, a trademark image used in their greeting card line.

“AbilityFirst helps families,” he said simply. “They answer a great need by providing a great service.” Douglass has also served on the AbilityFirst Board and is now an

For information on how you can help AbilityFirst by making a planned gift, contact Juliana Otis, AbilityFirst Development Manager, at 626.639.1734 or visit www.abilityfirst.org/plannedgiving.


head fu


Sarah Higley, AbilityFirst Newport-Mesa Center


arah, you’re going to be on the cover of a magazine!”

AbilityFirst program participant

Sarah Higley, who had arrived at the

AbilityFirst Newport-Mesa Center to be photographed for this story, met Director Joy Thomas’ enthusiastic observation with airy aplomb. After all, being the center of attention doesn’t bother 19-year-old Sarah a bit. Using her favorite teen magazines as inspiration, the bouncy brunette with gray-green eyes and an infectious smile took direction like a pro, patiently submitted to hair touch-ups and chatted with the photographer during breaks. “What kind of camera is that? My sister has a camera.” A typical teenager in many ways, Sarah plays video games, loves shopping and makes jewelry to wear and give to her friends, and adores trendy clothes and having her hair done—“we call her our fashionista,” Thomas says.

ded uture S A R A H H I G L E Y / P RO G R A M PA RT I C I PA N T




community four hours a day, four days a

Camp Paivika a try for the first time

that Sarah is challenged by cerebral palsy

week, rotating through several working

last summer. Previously, she had been

and acute developmental delay.

environments, Higley explained. So far,

to Camp Paivika for day trips with her

A casual observer might not even notice

This vivacious teen has come a long way since she first came to the after school program at the AbilityFirst Newport-Mesa Center as a quiet 12-year-old with limited social skills. Before joining the program, Sarah was in a good private in-home care situation, said her mother, Cathy Higley, a transportation engineer. “But when I found AbilityFirst, I was excited because it gave Sarah the chance to do things with kids her own age.” Now she has “lots of friends,” and the skill sets that Sarah has acquired through AbilityFirst are key to her chances for future independence, Higley said. In addition to helping her daughter to learn how to function in the broader community—from crossing streets to using the bus—AbilityFirst “has

Sarah has worked at a pizza restaurant,

Newport-Mesa peers and for a two-night

stocked shelves at stores and has helped

Winter Camp Weekend.

serve meals at a senior center. “Everybody considers Sarah to be very

such a great program in a beautiful setting.

she’s become a kind of leader at the Center.

Everything is adapted for accessibility and

She has developed a good sense about

the staff are very friendly and outgoing.”

who likes to do what and who may be at risk doing something that isn’t safe. Sarah likes helping the staff, too,” Higley added. “And they are great peer role models for her because they’re just a little older than she is.” “Sarah is funny, she loves to joke, she’s enjoyable company and she’s a good person who brings out the best in others,” said Thomas. “She’s got a lot to offer the world and the potential to do many things above her current development level.” “Our kids are no different than other kids,” Thomas added. “We can hinder

skills,” that compensate for her limited

or encourage their growth by the things

academic ability.

we do and say around them. If you give

Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s work transition program after graduating from her high school in June. There she receives job coaching and works in the

went,” Higley said. “But it turned out to be

capable,” her mother said proudly. “And

helped Sarah develop tremendous social

So much so, that Sarah was able to join the

“I was so nervous the first time Sarah

Sarah a chance, she just opens up like a flower. That is what happened at the photo shoot—Sarah was totally in her element and she loved it.” Sarah took another step toward independence when she gave AbilityFirst’s

Sarah’s five-night stay at summer camp proved challenging when homesickness set in after four nights. “But when I picked her up,” Higley said, “she was jabbering all the way down the mountain about everything she had done and what a great time she had.” “I like Camp Paivika,” Sarah chimed in. “They do shows and stuff. I like riding the horses and dancing.” Because Sarah is going to live independently one day, programs like Camp Paivika—“where they get to be away and find out how much they are able to do without Mom right there—are extremely helpful,” Higley said. “I will be encouraging her to try it again now that she is a year older.” Transitioning out of school is difficult “even for unchallenged kids. So things like Continued on page 16

morej 10

Building Love and Family at Camp Paivika


t AbilityFirst’s picturesque Camp

Paivika in the San Bernardino Mountains, morning-to-evening

Several years later she left the Crippled

Children’s Society to join the Peace Corps

kid gets to sit around the campfire with

to work with impoverished special needs

100 people every night and do skits and

children and their families in Paraguay.

sing songs.”

When Kelly returned home in 1995, “it just so happened that they needed a director

up at Camp Paivika,” she said. “I figured

I’d do that for a year. I never left.”

fun is warmed and shaped by a sense of

In 1999, Kelly married Camp Paivika

family among campers and staff who come

Facilities Manager Kenny Kunsek. He had

together in mutual fellowship and form

begun doing repair work at the camp right

long-lasting bonds of friendship.

out of high school, returning after college

For Director Kelly Kunsek, Camp Paivika is family, in more ways than one. “As a young AbilityFirst camp counselor, I did a lot of my growing up at camp and I remember a couple of very defining

to work there on a weekly basis as an independent contractor. “The first time I met him he was up on a roof,” said Kelly, laughing. “I’d be here at 8 a.m., rain or shine, to get

moments when I was overwhelmed with a

to my list of projects,” Kenny said. “I got

spirit of joy and love and acceptance from

to be a regular around here. The reward of

the campers. It was where I felt the best, I

doing that was that I got to see what I was

think. And I still feel that way.”

doing it for. Being in construction, you go

Kelly came to AbilityFirst in 1980 as a 17-year-old counselor at the then-Crippled

on a job, do the job and walk away. Camp Paivika was completely different.”

Children’s Society’s former Camp Joan

The Kunseks aren’t the only ones who

Mier. During off-season, she was a special

have found soul mates at Camp Paivika.

education assistant for the Los Angeles

There have been more than 20 marriages

Unified School District. In 1988, as she

among staff “over the last 10 or 12 years as

was working on her special education

a result of this place,” Kenny noted.

teaching credential, Kelly became director of Camp Joan Mier and then went on to become the director of the Crippled Children’s Society Camp Programs, overseeing both Camp Joan Mier and Camp Paivika.

“She’s just figured out that not every

The couple’s 8-year-old daughter Sydney, born at the end of one of the camp’s summer sessions, is a true Paivikan. “So many of the campers feel that she partially belongs to them because they have watched her grow up,” Kelly said.

Sydney is happy to help out, too.

One long-time adult camper, who uses

a wheelchair and is unable to speak, can become upset in her struggle to communicate a need, “but when Sydney comes and stands beside her and holds her hand,” Kelly said, “she calms down so that we can communicate better.” “Sydney is very in tune with the campers. She’s grown up in this environment so she’s very comfortable with people of all different backgrounds and levels of disability and ability.” Camp Paivika “is really fun,” Sydney enthused, “because you get to do all of these things, and it’s really fun to help the kids learn and do stuff.” Mentoring staff through the daily challenges of camp life and giving them the sense that they are part of the Paivika family is of paramount importance to Kelly, too. In-depth staff training encompasses learning to deal with behavioral problems and “completely caring for another human being,” Kelly said. “Everything from lifting them in and out of their wheelchair to shaving and toileting them.”

job THAN A

Homesickness among campers is another major challenge that is comprehensively

addressed by the entire Paivika staff.

Many campers have never been away from home before. Helping them successfully

take that “huge, huge step,” Kelly said, is

a priority.

“And it’s not just campers,” she added. “Sometimes they do just fine and it’s mom and dad who have the problem.” If separation is a concern, Kelly encourages families to let their loved one spend a night away from home with a relative. Camp Paivika’s two-night weekend program is geared to help with the transition, as is an Open House orientation held at the start of each summer, offering a sampling of camp activities, a barbecue, a camp tour and a question-and-answer session. “Our training is very intense with staff. We do a whole section on just the homesickness issue, on putting the campers to bed at night and reading a story and tucking them in. We spend a lot of time trying to make it work and we work with parents every step of the way.” “Yes, Camp Paivika is our work,” Kelly observed thoughtfully, “but being here 24/7, it’s really our life—and our extended family.”

The Kunsek family (l-r), Kelly, Sydney and Kenny inside the lodge at Camp Paivika.





Leader band OF THE

AbilityFirst Volunteer Jey Giuliano Shares His Love for Music

“celebrities.” Watching the excitement and

movies and TV. “I tell them a little bit about

fun that attendees experienced, touched

what jazz is, they learn how to be a good

Giuliano so deeply—“I was blown away”—

audience and they clap when I’m done.”

that he filled out a volunteer form.

The enthusiastic audience then lines up

Volunteers—whether long-term or short-

Giuliano started coming to the Center

term—are a valued part of the AbilityFirst

once a week, making snacks and joining

high hat, snare drum and tom-toms. To


in other activities. “At first, when I’d sit

accommodate those in wheelchairs or

New volunteers are often surprised to learn of the varied ways that their individual skills, talents and life experiences can contribute to the

for a turn on the cymbals, bass drum,

with kids, it didn’t seem like they needed

those with little upper body strength,

me. Then I realized that just by being there

Giuliano adjusts the height and angle of

and talking and interacting, you are doing

the instruments.


“Joy just comes across their faces,” Giuliano

enrichment of AbilityFirst program

Within a few months, after “I got

said. “People that I have never seen smile

participants of all ages.

comfortable with them and they got

will get up there and, whack!—and this

comfortable with me,” Giuliano brought

big smile comes.”

Jey Giuliano, a financial administrator

his musical skills into the mix. A drummer

at Caltech in Pasadena and a part-time

and flute player, Giuliano thought the kids

Program Supervisor Delia Valenzuela.“We

professional musician, was hesitant about

might enjoy seeing him perform and want

know that like most people Jey has a lot of

becoming a volunteer at first. The idea of

to take a deeper interest in music.

things going on, but he makes it a priority

volunteering “was not even on my radar,” he said. “I had thought about working with special needs kids, but I didn’t think emotionally I could take it. So it was a leap for me.”

Aware that many participants are dealing with autism and can be sensitive to loud

Giuliano said, laughing. “My family doesn’t ask me how my day at work was,

fascination with what you’re doing will

they say “How was AbilityFirst?’”

he accompanied his wife, Abby Delman,

may have.”

annual event at AbilityFirst’s Lawrence L. Frank Center in Pasadena. Recreating a Hollywood premiere, adult program participants in evening attire arrive in limousines to cheering crowds, walk the red carpet and mingle with

“Basically, I feel like I should pay them,”

noises, however, Giuliano first checked

override any negative reaction that they

College, to “Hooray for Hollywood,” an

to be here as often as possible.”

with the staff, who said, “Do it. The

Giuliano took that leap two years ago after a psychology professor at Pasadena City

“We’re thankful that he comes,” said

His 14-year-old daughter Roxi began volunteering, too. “We go and play

He took care to play lightly at first, he said.

basketball with the kids, run with them,

His delighted audience, however, “wanted

help with a craft. Whatever activity they’re

it louder and faster—they wanted it all.”

involved in,” Giuliano said. “Now when

Every few months—in addition to his weekly volunteer service—Giuliano

they see me, they say, ‘Jey’s here!’ And then, ‘when’s Roxi coming back?’ ”

performs short programs of jazz pieces,

If you are interested in becoming an

familiar show tunes and themes from

AbilityFirst volunteer, contact Chris Otero at 626.243.4841 or cotero@abilityfirst.org.

S H A N E G R AY / W I L L I N G A N D C O N F I D E N T

Shane Gray Thrives at the Harry A. Mier Center Shane Gray has come a long way since 2008, the year he

A great deal of that confidence

latest objective, Bell said:

Expanded services for

blossomed when Shane

learning the value of money.

participants will include job

discovered swimming. A key component in the Center’s After School Program, swim time provides participants

“He is able now to go into the community with staff and make a purchase by himself.”

with supervised and

Shane’s growing confidence

supported therapy, exercise—

and real-world skills are

and fun—in an indoor warm

already a big help to his

water pool. (Aquatics at the

mother. (Shane, his mother

Shane, who is autistic, was

Center are also available to

and twin sister live in

a shy and withdrawn little

residents in the community.)

AbilityFirst’s Pacific Rim

became a program participant at AbilityFirst’s Harry A. Mier Center in Inglewood.

boy when he entered the AbilityFirst After School Program. That Shane bears little resemblance to the social, helpful 11-year-old he is today. “If you’re not familiar with

“Swimming has really helped

Apartments, in Inglewood).

Shane,” McLeod said. “It

Her son is “learning about

keeps him calm and relaxed.

money and he’s good in math,”

He talks about it a lot!”

said McLeod, adding proudly,

Swimming has proved to be a powerful incentive to help Shane learn and focus,

Hattie Bell, the Center’s

a behavioral problem now

Shane will be able to acquire

veteran After School Program

and then, but all you have to

additional skills when

supervisor. “He interacts with

say to him is ‘you may lose

construction on the new Joan

the other children and they

your swim time’ and he will

and Harry A. Mier Center

love him. He’s a very kind-


that he doesn’t have anymore,”

the community at large as he

noted Angela McLeod,

grows. Program participants

Shane’s mother. “He’s much

take frequent local field trips

more confident now.”

highest potential,” Bell said. “The new center will mean a lot to Shane,” his mother said, “because now he is saying that he wants to get a job when he finishes school. I am surprised by the big progress Shane has made since he has been going to AbilityFirst,” she added. “Surprised and happy.”

he was outstanding in math.

typical child, he might have

are helping Shane function in

that can help Shane “reach his

He also helps me at the store

that Shane has it now,” said

“And he used to have a stutter

training and other programs

his school and his aides said

too, Bell said. “Like any

Other activities at the Center


“I had a parent’s conference at

autism, you wouldn’t know

hearted young man.”


by picking out groceries.”

is completed. Thanks to the ongoing $5 million capital campaign, launched in 2007, the new Center will more than double the capacity of the existing facility.

to gain everyday skills and Shane is doing well with his

Willing confident AND

A confident Shane Gray enjoys reading aloud to other children at the Harry A. Mier Center.

aroun 14








1 AbilityFirst Honorary Chairs Jane

3 Campers from Camp Paivika

4 Staff from the Irvine Ranch Outdoor

6 The Paul Weston Work Center

Kaczmarek and Jaclyn Smith, with After

attended the United States Adaptive

Education Center suit-up and secure

in Woodland Hills provides business

School Program Participants (l-r) Jason

Recreation Center at Bear Mountain for a

Long Beach Center After School Program

services for companies in the San

Gayfield, Corinthia Brown and Khadiya

day of skiing. Camper David Bermingham

Participant Molly Herman for an

Fernando Valley. Work Center Employee

Walker, recently toured the Harry A. Mier

(left) receives direction from instructor

afternoon of zip lining.

Paul Cooke packages hair accessories

Center, and enjoyed a tea party prepared

Lee Aaker.

by program participants and staff.

2 Anaheim Program After School Participant Mark Wolffer (center) reaches new heights on a roller coaster at Adventure City in Anaheim.

5 Residents and staff from Crown House and Sierra Rose pose in front of the iconic Universal Studios globe on a recent visit to Universal Studios Hollywood.

for di PRIMA hair products based in Sherman Oaks.












7 Participants from the Claremont Center’s Saturday Recreation and Leisure Program traveled to Norco for a day of horseback riding. Program Participant Julie Hayes rides a horse with support from an event volunteer.

8 Louis Jones from the Pasadena Work Center proudly shows off his job offer letter from STAPLES Center/ NOKIA Theatre/L.A. LIVE. Through Employment Services, Louis received the training and guidance he needed to successfully interview for his new job.

9 AbilityFirst Long Beach Center Guild Member Mary Alice Braly attended the taping of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” an a

cappella singing competition series, at the Long Beach Center. Jerry Lawson (left) and the Talk of the Town, series finalists, performed at the Center for excited adult program participants and cameras. The segment aired during the series’ season finale and can be seen on the AbilityFirst website.

10 Children from the Lawrence L. Frank Center present AbilityFirst Legacy Society Members John and Diane Mullin (center) with a thank you card for creating a spectacular holiday party for them. In addition to providing designer décor, toy train and giant gingerbread hosue, the Mullins gave each child a giant stocking filled with gifts.

11 The 2011 AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign, presented by Comerica Bank, was kicked off at a luncheon at Santa Anita Park. Attendees included board members, donors, sponsors, corporate teams, program participants and employees. AbilityFirst Honorary Chair Jane Kaczmarek emceed the event. Pictured (l-r) from the L. L. Frank Work Center are Josie Garcia, Gabriela Funes, Jadon Benjamin, Jane Kaczmarek, Angel Ubrina and Sammy Garcia.

12 The CarMax Foundation awarded AbilityFirst a $5,000 grant as part of the Foundation’s Regional Giving Program. The grant will be utilized to enhance AbilityFirst’s After School Programs.

CarMax Chief Development Officer Dennis Hayes presents Lori Gangemi with the check.

13 Comerica Bank Assistant Vice President for Los Angeles Shelly Guan (right) is supporting the East Los Angeles Center’s Marathon Campaign team. Shelly joined (l-r) East Los Angeles Center Parent Isela Tiznado and son Luis Ibarra, and Center Program Supervisor Claudia Galicia, at the Marathon Campaign Kick-Off Luncheon at Santa Anita Park.


Continued from page 3

Continued from page 9



and hairpieces for Paula Young; and she

Camp Paivika—where they can socialize

is now working on an exclusive fabric and

with a peer group and with counselors,

trimming program with textile wholesaler

and where they do things that are


challenging but fun—I want them to be

Jaclyn also lends her support to many

DID YOU KNOW THAT ABILITYFIRST HAS FOUR POOLS OPEN TO THE COMMUNITY? Aquatic programs include warm water exercise, open swim, and group and private swim lessons.

organizations, among them the American

Higley is pleased that the Newport-

Heart Association (her husband, Bradley

Mesa Center has grown steadily since

Allen, is a pediatric cardiac surgeon) and

Sarah started there, and that it is adding

the John Wayne Cancer Institute. A breast

activities for older participants, with more

cancer survivor, Jaclyn supports Susan

community-based activities “like shopping

G. Komen for the Cure and she designed

trips, the movies and Friday night socials

a special collection of apparel and home

where the kids can come back and hang

products for Kmart for Breast Cancer

like any teenager would like to do.

Awareness Month this year. A dollar from each item sold went to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“They ride the city buses a lot, they take vans on outings and go on field trips to the larger AbilityFirst Long Beach Center.

“Kmart is as much a part of my history as

They had a big Halloween dance and twice

Charlie’s Angels,” says Jaclyn of her 25-

now a boy has asked Sarah to dance. And

year collaboration with the retail company,

they went to Disneyland and were out

“and it means a lot to me to be associated

until midnight,” Higley said.

with a company that believes in giving back. My grandfather was a Methodist minister—he lived to be 101—and it was always about giving back,” she said. “My parents, too, encouraged giving and living by the golden rule. So, I was raised in a family where at Christmas we would do for people less fortunate—presents for needy children, cooking meals for families.” Smith’s own children grew up with the same values, she says, “and my husband is constantly giving back through

Check locations and schedules at www.abilityfirst.org/aquatics

part of Sarah’s life forever.”

his medical research.” Yet, despite her many other commitments, Jaclyn is glad to contribute her time, as well as financial support, to AbilityFirst. “Sometimes, when you’re invited to different functions to help raise money, it’s a red carpet this or that, but AbilityFirst is not about the fanfare of celebrity appearances. It truly is about going there and seeing people giving for all the right reasons. It’s real and genuine and their desire to make things better for others comes from the heart.”

“It’s so great. It’s what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re a teenager.” Higley and other Newport-Mesa Center parents are hoping to see services expand even further as older children grow into adults. “It’s important. Providing opportunities for socialization will help enable our kids ultimately to be integrated in society. If Sarah can approach a group with poise and carry on a conversation that is appropriate and behave as a young adult,” Higley said, “that’s what’s going to make a successful life for her.” “AbilityFirst is a huge program for Sarah. Even if I had to relocate, I’d hope to have her involved with AbilityFirst for the rest of her life.”


Directory Headquarters Headquarters 1300 East Green Street Pasadena CA 91106-2606 626.396.1010 626.396.1021 fax info@abilityfirst.org www.abilityfirst.org

Department Managers Carolyn Aguayo, Director of Communications Laura Beck, Director of Human Resources

Joel Bronson, Director of Information Technology

Dan Detwiler, Facilities Manager Syed Kazmi, Controller Isis McDonald, Director of Business and Employment Services

Neomia Phillips, Director of Housing Kelly Privitt, Director of Programs

Camp CAMP PAIVIKA Kelly Kunsek, Director mail: PO Box 3367 Crestline CA 92325 location : 600 Playground Drive Crestline CA 92322 909.338.1102

Community Centers ANAHEIM PROGRAM Cindy Valencia, Director 2660 West Broadway Anaheim CA 92804 714.821.7448

CLAREMONT CENTER Julie Martin, Director 480 South Indian Hill Boulevard Claremont CA 91711 909.621.4727 EAST LOS ANGELES CENTER Monica Alcantar, Director 154 North Gage Avenue Los Angeles CA 90063 323.268.8178 HARRY A. MIER CENTER Monique Watts, Director 8090 Crenshaw Boulevard Inglewood CA 90305 323.753.3101 LAWRENCE L. FRANK CENTER Michael Barkyoumb, Director 201 South Kinneloa Avenue Pasadena CA 91107 626.449.5661 LONG BEACH CENTER Barbara Schlosser, Director 3770 East Willow Street Long Beach CA 90815 562.426.6161 NEWPORT-MESA CENTER Joy Thomas, Director mail: PO Box 3985 Costa Mesa, CA 92628 location : 1060 Paularino Avenue Room A Costa Mesa CA 92626 714.546.6727

Employment Services Eddie Zhang, Supported Employment Manager 3447 Atlantic Avenue, 3rd floor Long Beach, CA 90807 562.570.3667

Housing ABILITYFIRST APARTMENTS HEMET 1360 East Acacia Street Hemet CA 92544 951.766.7089 ABILITYFIRST APARTMENTS IRVINE 14501 Harvard Avenue Irvine, CA 92606 949.559.5902 CROWN HOUSE 3055 East Del Mar Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91107 626.440.9090


SEA BREEZE MANOR APARTMENTS 2067 Alamitos Avenue Signal Hill, CA 90755 562.494.9086 SIERRA ROSE 3053 ½ East Del Mar Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91107 626.578.0118 VILLA MALAGA APARTMENTS 4704 East Dozier Street Los Angeles, CA 90022 323.980.8402

Work Centers

IVY GLEN APARTMENTS 133 North Cedar Street Glendale, CA 91206 818.241.3888

L.L. FRANK WORK CENTER Fennie Washington, Director 3812 South Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90037 213.748.7309

LAKELAND MANOR APARTMENTS 13331 Lakeland Road Santa Fe Springs, CA 90605 562.944.9650

PASADENA WORK CENTER Peter Yoou, Director 2570 East Foothill Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91107 626.449.5662

MAPLE PARK APARTMENTS 711 East Maple Street Glendale, CA 91205 818.507.1969

PAUL WESTON WORK CENTER Richard Briseño, Director 6530 Winnetka Avenue Woodland Hills, CA 91367 818.884.5112

MORENO VALLEY APARTMENTS 24545 Bay Avenue Moreno Valley, CA 92553 951.247.0230 PACIFIC RIM APARTMENTS 230 South Grevillea Avenue Inglewood, CA 90301 310.672.7221 RANCHO DEL VALLE APARTMENTS 6560 Winnetka Avenue Woodland Hills, CA 91367 818.347.1440

Leadership Board of Directors EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Carol Llewellyn, Chair Richard R. Frank, Vice Chair Berlinda Fontenot-Jamerson, Secretary David W. King, Treasurer Steve Brockmeyer MEMBERS Rick M. Arcaro Charles F. Axelson, Honorary Russell Burkett, Honorary Ray C. Cherry Marshal Chuang, Honorary Jim Douglass, Honorary

Mark Fedde Maria French, Ph.D. Richard N. Frank, Honorary Jay R. Henneberry John Kelly John Kmett, Honorary Ralph Laster, Honorary Mordena Moore Andrew Peterson, Esq., Honorary Angela J. Reddock, Esq. Randy Repp David M. Seastrom Kenneth Simon, Honorary Sanford “Sandy” L. Smith Patricia Vick, Esq.


Honorary Chairpersons Jane Kaczmarek Lee Meriwether Jaclyn Smith

Housing Governance Board Jose Marquez, Chair Albert Y.M. Huang, Vice Chair John Elizalde, Treasurer David Oesterreich, Secretary

MEMBERS Barbara Feiga Estabrook “Skip” Glosser Luis M. Gonzalez Darrin Lyons Michael Prabhu Herbert H. Simmons Mark Trabing Betty R. Wilson CORPORATE OFFICERS Lori E. Gangemi, President and CEO Reginald K. Ingram, Jr., Chief Development Officer

Steven Schultz, CFO

Non-Profit Org. US Postage

Follow AbilityFirst on


1300 East Green Street Pasadena, California 91106-2606

Pasadena, CA Permit No. 1138

GET INVOLVED AND INSPIRED. Join us! Become a Marathon Campaign team member and/or sponsor a team member as we cross the finish line together at these events:




SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY 5K RUN/WALK SATURDAY, APRIL 9 Visit www.abilityfirst.org/marathoncampaign for more information.

We thank the Forest Lawn Foundation for their challenge grant. Funds that we raise above $130,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $60,000!

Profile for Carolyn Aguayo

AbilityFirst Magazine - WInter 2011  

Focuses on children and adults with developmental disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, etc), served by AbilityFirst. Stories...

AbilityFirst Magazine - WInter 2011  

Focuses on children and adults with developmental disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, etc), served by AbilityFirst. Stories...

Profile for caguayo