Possibilities Issue 5

Page 1






Marian Baldini, CEO & President

Executive Editor

Chip Riddleberger, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy Editor

Ellen Mansfield, Chief Philanthropy Officer

Contributing Writers

Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager

Sana Garner, a KenCrest parent

Chip Riddleberger, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy

Russell Stewart, Director of Development

KenCrest Centers Board of Directors

Jim Andrews • Steve Brenneman • Merri Brown Mona Zander • Kevin P. Dougher • Colin D. Dougherty •

James Garvey • Carol Hammarberg

Scott McCloskey • Lauren McDonald • Sean Outen •

Eric Rahe •Roy Diamond

KenCrest Services Board of Directors

Sheila Bruce • Mona Zander • Patricia Bush

Frank Guthridge • Tracey Jasey • Mamta Maini •

Sean Outen • The Rev. Dan Smith

Stephen Van Osten


Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager

Aubrey Hoffert, Digital Media Manager


Aubrey Hoffert, Digital Media Manager

Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager

Possibilities is published by KenCrest
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How to Reach Us 610.825.9360
KenCrest is a 501c3 non-profit human services provider throughout Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware. www.kencrest.org Our Mission KenCrest’s mission is to support community development by exploring possibilities, mobilizing resources, and empowering dreams. Published: April 2024
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TOP: A student we support playing at the Happy Friendly Farm. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert. COVER PHOTO: Sheila Bruce and her daughter Virginia at their home in Pennsylvania. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert.




Dear Friends,

For many people with an intellectual or developmental disability, springtime brings about a significant change: budget season. Each year, each state presents its unique challenges, like the need for increased funding to navigate programs offered for the IDD population KenCrest serves more effectively.

This year, Pennsylvania Governor Shapiro recently released his recommended budget, which includes a 12 percent increase in rates and $215 million in IDD funding with a $266 million federal budget drawdown. Governor Shapiro’s budget recommendation is a starting point for negotiations with the legislature that will be in play for the next few months.

While Delaware wants to add a few new faces to its General Assembly, including a governor’s race, the state will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in January 2025. KenCrest’s Delaware Executive Director, Brett Askins, and a few Direct Support Professionals are fighting to increase wages for DSPs because of their vital, highly skilled workforce. In Connecticut this year, Governor Lamont did not recommend increasing nonprofit funding, something many nonprofit leaders are fighting against.

KenCrest actively advocates for policy issues affecting children, families, and individuals with IDD by raising awareness on important topics and educating legislators, stakeholders, and community members.

In this edition of KenCrest’s Magazine, Possibilities, you’ll discover the importance of advocating for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability who can’t use their voice to be heard, both young and old. Plus, learn how KenCrest supports and advocates for little learners to thrive, including our Raising a Reader program and a partnership with Operation 143 that brings healthy meals to those in need outside the school week. And so much more!

As you read through the stories in this issue, I hope you will spring into action with us and help advocate for our KenCrest community, young and old, throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut. I hope this new season will bring greater possibilities for us all.

A staff member painting a bird house with one of the individuals we support. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert.


A KenCrest teacher reading with a few of her students at an Early Learning Center. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest.

KenCrest, in partnership with PNC and the William Penn Foundation, encourages young learners to get ahead in their education through its Raising a Reader program and our community-based Lending Libraries

Reading is an essential skill for young children; it improves their cognitive abilities and mental health and helps them perform better in academic settings. However, according to a National Assessment of Educational Progress report, only 37 percent of fourth-graders and 34 percent of eighth-graders in the United States are proficient in reading.

Studies have shown that children exposed to reading before preschool tend to develop a more extensive vocabulary and are likelier to succeed in formal education. However, not all children have access to books or other reading materials.

In 2019, KenCrest started its Raising a Reader program to help students in Early Learning Centers (ELCs) have access to books at home and establish reading routines with their families.

For years, the Executive Director of KenCrest’s ELCs, Melanie Brennan, noticed students asking to take their favorite school books home. Reading to toddlers and young children helps them learn to listen, form words from sounds they hear, and develop a broader vocabulary. Early exposure to reading is integral to students' academic success later in life, which many parents don’t realize.

KenCrest’s Raising a Reader program empowers parents and their children to read books at home. Each center that offers the program has red bags filled with four books, ranging from picture stories to STEM books to multicultural stories. There are even books in two languages for bilingual families. Every Monday, the students are given a bag to take home to return on Thursday, and each week, they get a different set of books with the hope that by the end of the school year, each student will have read various books.


“This program changes the lives of our young students and their families,” says Everene Williams, KenCrest’s Literacy Facilitator. “Especially those in Philadelphia because we are connected with other initial early childhood literacy initiatives throughout the city to network with anyone with the same goal in mind.” Everene facilitates Parent Education groups connected with the Raising A Reader Project. One partner, PNC, is helping KenCrest bring reading to life through the Little Lending Library Project. On its 15th anniversary, as part of PNC’s Grow Up Great program. The bank decided to donate over 15,000 children’s books to the community, including at KenCrest. PNC staff built "Little Library" bookshelves that sit outisde our centers for the community to access.

“As part of our 15th anniversary, we wanted to find a way to get more children’s books directly into the hands of our city’s kids and families,” says Kara LaFleur, the Vice President and Assistant Director of PNC Client and Community Relations. “The Little Library Project seemed to fit the bill! We invited PNC employees to decorate, paint, and assemble the Little Libraries, and with a lot of help from our PNC Realty Services/Building Operations colleagues, we installed several libraries outside of KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers.”

Each library was donated by PNC or PNC employees so KenCrest students, families, and other community members could help themselves with a new book. The company more than doubled the number of books donated, ultimately donating more than 38,000 books to preschool students and their families in the greater Philadelphia/South Jersey area in 2019.

“What we could never have anticipated, though, was just how important these little libraries would become during the early days of COVID-19, when so many places, including public libraries, were shut down for weeks on end,” says LaFleur. “KenCrest shared with us that families continued to visit the Little Lending Libraries—often during daily walks. They see them as an asset to their neighborhoods and a bright

This program changes the lives of our young students and their families.

spot in their day since each is decorated differently with bright colors and fun illustrations.”

Children who have early access to books, a learning-rich home environment, and high-quality early education are far more likely than their peers to meet various developmental goals and are more likely to succeed in school. Making more books available to families— especially those facing economic challenges—is critical to helping kids learn and thrive. Plus, reading together creates a lasting bond between parents and their children.

According to Nationwide Children, snuggling up with a book together as a family can strengthen the physical and emotional bond between adults and children. Hearing the voice of their loved one can not only be soothing and provide a sense of security, but it can also help the brain form meaningful connections.

A KenCrest teacher reading with a few students at one of the Early Learning Centers. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest.
" “

To learn more about KenCrest’s Raising a Reader program or its partnership with PNC and the William Penn Foundation, visit KenCrest.org/EarlyLearning.

A photo of a parent we support with her son at one of our Early Learning Centers.
// Photo by Aubrey Hoffert



Two KenCrest students doing arts and crafts. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest.


KenCrest’s SWIFT Support program helps hundreds of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities remain in school.

In 2008, St. Teresa of Calcutta Early Learning Center opened its doors with one goal: to provide a faithbased, quality education for children before they enter kindergarten. However, seven years ago, in 2017, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) announced a bulletin to the Early Learning Community that all children under the age of five years old, including children with developmental disabilities (IDD) in Pennsylvania should be included in their community's early learning centers (ELCs) and preschool programs as a way of authentic inclusion. This posed a challenge for St. Teresa’s director and teachers.

The teachers at St. Teresa of Calcutta Early Learning Center identified the need for additional knowledge and resources to support children with developmental delays in their classrooms successfully. Without the appropriate support, many children with delays were on the verge of expulsion due to their challenging behaviors.

“We have two kids currently in our program that were on the verge of being expelled because they were being physical and causing a lot of issues in the classroom,” says Tara Melville, St. Teresa’s Childcare Director. Melville recalls moments when students would throw tantrums during lessons, hit, push, or bite others, and disengage from the classroom entirely. Even with three teachers present in one classroom, they still struggled to engage with the child. It became a vicious cycle, hindering other students and frustrating teachers.

“We knew it wasn’t always the child’s fault, that we could not provide the right tools to help them,” says Melville. “I've been a director and have been working with children for over 30 years, and we often struggle with what to do when our teachers don’t know how to help students with disabilities. But then I found out about KenCrest’s Child Care SWIFT Support program, and within 48 hours, an instructor could come out here and help us.”

KenCrest’s SWIFT Support program is a new business Initiative started in 2020 by Roseann Adamo, the Executive Director of the Early Intervention and Clinical Programs, to support children on the verge of expulsion from an Early Learning Center. KenCrest Special Instructors work collaboratively with teachers

Children having positive experiences in Early Education lays the foundation for positive experiences in future educational environments."

in the classroom to identify strategies that will help the child and teacher.

Within 48 hours of the referral call to the SWIFT Support Program, KenCrest Special Instructor

Adrienne arrived at St. Teresa of Calcutta Early Learning Center. She worked with the teachers to identify why the behavior was occurring, and together, they developed strategies to decrease those behaviors through coaching, collaboration, and demonstrations, which led to a positive working relationship between Adrienne and the teacher.

Adrienne explained why the child reacted to certain classroom activities and suggested materials to add to the classroom routines. She discussed with the teachers how that was the child’s way of communicating in the environment and emphasized the purpose of each behavior. Since each child learns differently in various settings, teachers must adapt their teaching methods to accommodate each child's needs. Therefore, being able to model and provide real-life scenarios in the classroom was an invaluable support to St. Teresa staff.

According to Melville, Adrienne and the teacher created a visual schedule that all the children in the classroom utilized. She demonstrated and coached the teachers to implement similar strategies and activities that encouraged all children to participate and be successful. Adrienne shared abundant resources that the teachers could access at any time. “Suspension/expulsion of a child from an Early Learning Center has a negative effect on the child and family,” says Adamo. “Children having positive experiences in Early Education lays the foundation for positive experiences in future educational environments.”

The Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD) Deputy Administrator in Delaware County, Aleasha Redden-Revell, even partnered with KenCrest to focus on inclusion through the SWIFT Support program. She advocated for state funding for the SWIFT program, and in 2022, Delaware County’s Office of Behavioral Health began funding the program. Delaware County is the first to fund the KenCrest SWIFT Support Program.

To learn more about how KenCrest supports children with intellectual or developmental disabilities, visit KenCrest.org/EarlyIntervention for more information.

Photo courtesy of KenCrest. Photo courtesy of KenCrest.

Taste the Possibilities is KenCrest’s new tasting event, featuring a curated selection of wine, beer, and libations, especially paired with delicious h’ors d' oeuvres.

Celebrate the possibilities of the KenCrest community while savoring award-winning food and drink amongst the galleries of Abington Arts Center.

RSVP now at kencrest.org/tastethepossibilities

T i c k e t
T H U R S D A Y , A P R I L 2 5 T H , 2 0 2 4 6 : 0 0 - 8 : 0 0 P M A T A B I N G T O N A R T S C E N T E R P l e a s e j o i n u s f o r K e n C r e s t ’ s b r a n d n e w t a s t i n g e v e n t , T a s t e t h e P o s s i b i l i t i e s !
e t Y o u r
s N o w


Since 2011, KenCrest has partnered with Operation 143 to deliver nonperishable food to children facing food insecurity in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, there are over 1.2 million people—roughly 325,000 children—experiencing food insecurity each year, according to Feeding Pennsylvania. That’s one in eight children struggling with childhood hunger right in our hometowns. But one Pottstown-based nonprofit is fighting against food insecurity by delivering bags of nonperishable items to children in need outside of school.

In 2011, Lisa Heverly saw a need to help Pennsylvania students experiencing childhood hunger by not having sufficient food over the weekends while they were away from school. So, she started her own 501c nonprofit, Operation 143, to help the hundreds of Pennsylvania-based children facing homelessness or food insecurity.

Now, over 13 years later, the organization continues to fight childhood hunger by partnering with local organizations like KenCrest to deliver food bags filled with nonperishable food items, like tuna, fruit cups, SpaghettiOs, granola bars, cereal, etc., enough to feed students from Friday night into Sunday evening to students in Norristown, Pottstown, Pottsgrove, Boyertown, Upper Perkiomen, and Spring-Ford school districts. The organization serves 31 schools and more than 214 students.

“At first, we were called Operation Backpack, but then we changed it to Operation 143 because 143 is the universal number for I Love You, and we thought that fit our message better,” says the Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Heverly. “The students would take the backpack home from school on the

A few of the people KenCrest supports volunteering to drop off bags for Operation 143. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest.

weekend and bring it back on Monday. KenCrest played a big part in helping us drop off the backpacks at schools, but we had to figure out another way when COVID-19 happened. So that’s when we started delivering to students’ homes, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

Initially, the backpacks would each have a different tag with a number so that students wouldn’t be singled out and hanging outside the guidance counselor’s office or in a hallway somewhere off the beaten path.

Now, a group of local volunteers, like KenCrest’s Community Connection Coach, Chris Owens, drive around with adults we support, and make deliveries. Operation 143 partners with numerous local churches and organizations to build community relationships and gather the food needed for each bag. A few of their other partners are the First Presbyterian Church, Morning Star Fellowship, Connection Church, and National AMBUCS.

“Each bag is filled with non-perishable items, and the idea is that the kid would be coming home from school and could put a mac and cheese in the microwave or eat yogurt or pudding,” explains Owens. “Something they could eat on their own without assistance from their parents.”

Owens has worked with Operation 143 for over ten years, delivering backpacks to students’ doorsteps in the area. It was his idea to involve a few of the people he supports at KenCrest in his deliveries, including Marisa Good, Chris Rose, Zach Mineo, and Evan McGlone. According to Owens, he brings around two to three people daily. He will first go to Operation 143’s headquarters, fill the van, and pick up the people he supports before beginning the deliveries.

“I feel like it’s exactly what KenCrest is about, one person helping another and being involved within their community,” says Owens. “We’re all helping each other out, and the people I support feel like they can tangibly see that they are helping out.” All

At first, we were called Operation Backpack, but then we changed it to Operation 143 because 143 is the universal number for I Love You, and we thought that fit our message better. “

the perishable items Operation 143 distributes come from local food drives at grocery stores like Redner’s and donations from the community. Volunteers will come in on Wednesday evenings to help pack the bags, and then on Thursday and Friday, they will distribute them to the surrounding areas.

Joan Prinzivalli, KenCrest’s Meaningful Day Coordinator,


has been working alongside Owens and Heverly to get more of the people KenCrest supports involved.

“I’m the Meaningful Day Coordinator at KenCrest, so I help out with activities for people in our residential homes,” says Prinzivalli. “So, I hope to expand our reach and get more people from the residential homes involved in packing or delivering these bags because it’s such an incredible mission.”

Are you interested in learning more about Operation 143 and how you can get involved?

Visit Operation143.org, or if KenCrest supports you, email Joan Prinzivalli at JPrinzivalli@ kencrest.org.

TOP and BOTTOM: Nonperishable food items stored at Operation 143 ready to be pakced in bags. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest.


Maryann Amici has been advocating with her son Lou, who was born with Spastic Quadriplegia, since he was born in 1971.

In 1971, Maryann and her husband, Louis Amici, welcomed twins, a boy and a girl, into the world. Little did they know the journey that awaited their son Lou, who was born with Spastic Quadriplegia—a form of Cerebral Palsy that affects all four limbs, as well as the torso and facial muscles. As a result, Lou is nonverbal and uses a wheelchair. However, this does not mean he should be denied the same rights and experiences as anyone else.

As a child, Lou faced challenges accessing education, unlike his twin sister. He was not permitted to attend school until the age of beginners which was age six, and only due to the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act—now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA website states that in 1970, only one in five children with disabilities were educated in U.S. schools, with many states having laws that excluded certain students, such as those who were deaf, blind, emotionally disturbed, or had an intellectual disability. Today, over 66 percent of children with disabilities are in general education classrooms, and early intervention services are provided to more than 144,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities.

This progress was made possible by parents like Maryann and Louis Amici, who tirelessly advocated for their son's rights.

"Advocacy is crucial, and it must begin with families," says Maryann. "Without their support, who would fight for their rights? Who would ensure they receive the same accommodations and access to resources as everyone else? Having that family connection and someone looking out for you is essential."

Having that family connection and someone looking out for you is essential." “
Advocacy is crucial, and it must begin with families," says Maryann. "Without their support, who would fight for their rights? Who would ensure they receive the same accommodations and access to resources as everyone else?
Maryann Amici and Lou outside his community-living home. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert BOTTOM: Maryann, her husband Louis, and Lou during a state representative meeting. // Photo courtesy of Maryann.


"There are self-advocates with disabilities who can speak for themselves," she adds. "But many cannot or do not have the voice to be heard."

Despite being nonverbal, individuals like Lou are still aware of their surroundings. Lou has had the opportunity to attend state representative meetings with his mother, Maryann, and participates in every election. While he votes by absentee ballot with his mother's assistance, the decision is ultimately his.

Maryann and Lou have met with PA state representatives representing Phoenixville and Spring City, to highlight the need for support for people with disabilities. They emphasized that just because individuals with disabilities are not as visible does not mean they do not require support and funding.

"Our representatives at the state and federal levels need to see people with disabilities," says Maryann. "The Arc of Chester County has an advocacy group that attends various events and meets with representatives to introduce themselves. They used to have breakfast meetings to discuss what was important and what our people needed."

Maryann has been advocating for Lou throughout his life, from childhood to adulthood. She worked for 30 years designing training programs for parents on advocating for their children first at the Eastern Instructional Support Center and then at the Chester County Intermediate Unit. She also mentored parents and encouraged their involvement in advocacy.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Lou contracted the virus and was hospitalized for ten days without any family or staff present. Maryann called the hospital daily to inquire about Lou's condition. A nurse facilitated a video call between Maryann and Lou, enabling them to communicate despite Lou's nonverbal status.

Following this experience, Lou purchased an iPad and his speech therapist facilitated Lou and his staff on its use, allowing him to connect with his family through video calls.

A few years ago, Lou's father, Louis Amici, passed away suddenly. On the day of his funeral, Lou's KenCrest staff members brought him and his housemates to attend. They sat at a table together, mirroring the typical social interactions of his twin sister.

"When you talk about living a typical life, that's it," says Maryann. "It should not be any different for anyone. Advocacy is essential to ensure necessary accommodations are made. I'm 75 years old now, and I'm still advocating."

Do you want to get involved in advocacy initiatives or want to learn more about how KenCrest is advocating for those with disabilities? Visit KenCrest.org/advocacy for more information!

Marian Baldini speaking at the Hershey RSPCA Conference. // Photo courtesy of KenCrest Stephanie Brown, Kristen Fritzinger, and two KenCrest individuals on the steps of the Capitol for the RCPA Rally. // Photo courtesy of Stephanie Brown


Sheila Bruce and her daughters Katelyn, Erin, and Virginia. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert.

At just seven months old, Virginia underwent an evaluation for early intervention for not meeting milestones, and now she is thriving.


With bright, long blonde hair and a beaming smile, Virginia Bruce ran around her Pennsylvania home with her two sisters, laughing at each other over baby dolls and bounce houses. As she giggled with her sisters, one would never have imagined that she had a developmental delay and spent the first few years of her life in early intervention.

At just seven months old, Sheila Bruce’s daughter Virginia underwent several evaluations because she was not meeting certain milestones, like rolling over or sitting up unsupported. She was diagnosed with a delay and was referred to KenCrest’s Early Intervention program, where she received physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, and had a specialized instructor.

“Virginia was adopted at birth and had some initial health things going on, so we did have an understanding that we should keep an eye on her development,” says Bruce of her now five-year-old daughter. “She wasn’t engaged with us; you could walk out of the room, and she wouldn’t know. One year, during a family vacation, everyone kept commenting about how she was such a good baby, sitting there playing and was content, and it hit me. I was like, wait, she shouldn’t be sitting there so content.” That thought sparked something in Bruce; she knew it was time to get her evaluated. Soon, the family was matched with an interventionist from KenCrest who came to the house and started first with physical therapy and then gradually introduced other forms of treatment like occupational and speech therapies. According to Bruce, it was incredibly daunting, at first, to think of what her daughter had to undergo, but with KenCrest’s support, it grew easier. KenCrest’s Early Intervention services collaborate with parents and caregivers to identify development concerns and implement strategies to help each child thrive. The approach to intervention is a coaching model that simultaneously works with both the child and the parents to develop strategies and techniques to help both the parent and child thrive.

the tools that we needed to be able to help her confidently when they weren’t there with us,” says Bruce. “Speech early on was very helpful, and we learned that communication is more than just verbal. I remember pushing her on the swings, saying, ‘Three, two, one,’ and then waiting for her to look at me. If she made eye contact, I took that as the initiative to let go of her swing. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even get to the sound for ‘Go’ before she would make eye contact with me. Now, she doesn’t need any prompting and will scream go at me.”

“Intervention was beneficial for us in all the different areas,” adds Bruce. “They showed us different ways to engage with her through play and to get on Virginia’s level. To let her take the lead in playing and not worry so much about functional play skills but just ways to help her elaborate on her play to let us join in.”

‘Welcome to Holland.’ At first, you are taken aback, and it is not that Holland is this terrible, ugly place but that it is different than what you expected. All your friends are in Italy going to flashy parties, and it's bright and fast, but you're in Holland, where it's just a little bit slower. If you spend your whole life upset that you're not in Italy, you can't enjoy what Holland offers. It’s a good reminder to take things one step at a time and that it's ok to grieve the life you thought you would have but that you must enjoy it because although it's different, it’s still wonderful.”

While Bruce struggled at first with Virginia’s diagnosis, she has come to accept it and love every aspect of her daughter’s life. Virginia has come a long way from where she started; she is incredibly social and loves to be active now by doing gymnastics or playing at the park. Her favorite things are running around the playground, sliding down the slides, or swinging on the swings. The family even has a blow-up bounce house in their basement.

I feel like working with our interventionist gave us the skills and the tools that we needed to be able to help her confidently when they weren’t there with us."

Virginia has two sisters, an older one, Katelyn, and a younger one, Erin, who adore one another. At first, Bruce worried that Virginia and her other daughters wouldn’t ever play together. But now they’re thick as thieves, constantly playing pretend together or having sleepovers in each other’s room. She loves them, and they love her just as strongly.

“I feel like working with our interventionist gave us the skills and

In 2020, Virginia was officially diagnosed with autism shortly after she turned two years old and discovered she had a genetic mutation in one of her genes that is unique to just her. It was initially terrifying for the family, but with KenCrest’s support, it didn’t seem so unsettling.

Now, at five years old, Virginia is preparing to start kindergarten, and while she will still need ABA support, she has come a long way from where she began.

As a mother to a daughter who is neurodiverse it was incredibly daunting to think about what the future holds. At the same time, there is so much beauty in it.

“There’s a poem that I hung up on my fridge for a very long time called, ‘Welcome to Holland,’” says Bruce. “It talks about how you are getting ready to take a trip to Italy; you prepare, and you're so excited, but you get on the plane, and the flight attendant says,

Her older sister, Katelyn, is her biggest protector; she’s quick to defend Virginia if she thinks someone isn’t being kind. She understands that her brain works differently and makes sure that she is treated fairly.

Two years ago, Bruce joined KenCrest’s Board of Directors because of the support she received when Virginia was first diagnosed. She wanted to pay it forward, help other families going through early intervention, and offer them the same support she received because it helped them grasp the tools and knowledge necessary to make their child progress.

“They came to our house and made it a whole family thing,” says Bruce. “It felt like we were all in this together as a team, and we felt like there were other people out there who truly cared about our child’s progress. Early Intervention is responsible for much of Virginia's progress, and we would not be here today without it.”


Do you want to learn more about KenCrest’s Early Intervention program? Visit KenCrest.org/EarlyIntervention for more information!

Sheila Bruce with her husband and daughters ar their home. // Photos by Aubrey Hoffert


Apollo Garner in his whellchair outside his home. // Photo courtesy of Sana Garner.

Three years ago, my husband and I relocated to Philly to be closer to family and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Our son, Apollo, is twice exceptional: he’s cognitively gifted and has cerebral palsy.

During his initial doctor and therapy appointments, we asked if anyone knew of in-person events or community groups for children and families like ours. And the replies were always, “No.”

Being a non-disabled parent, raising a child with disabilities is a unique type of parenthood. I have more roles than I ever thought possible: administrator, advocate, paralegal, multi-disciplinary therapist, tutor, chef, friend, personal care assistant, driver, Google university med school student, community organizer, and most importantly, mom. In between all this, I am a wife, and I eke out a tiny bit of time for my own personal identity. However, while I embrace all of my roles, I am also aware that I will never fully relate to many aspects of Apollo's life, no matter how much I empathize with him.

We needed a community beyond our local special needs Facebook group and doctors. We wanted Apollo to have friends who understood the aspects of his life that we couldn’t.

After another woodchip-covered playground visit, where I was yet again the only parent facilitating my child’s play, an idea came to me. I could start a playgroup for kids with motor differences and medical complexities.

I talked with Apollo’s KenCrest Early Intervention occupational therapist about my idea. She loved it and even suggested hosting it at a nearby inclusive playground I didn’t know about. I picked a date, made

flyers, started social media accounts, and shared the info with everyone on Apollo’s team and our local special needs Facebook page.

We had our first Creative Movers Playgroup with about eight families a few weeks later. Our playgroup has

Being a non-disabled parent, raising a child with disabilities is a unique type of parenthood. I have more roles than I ever thought possible: administrator, advocate, paralegal, multi-disciplinary therapist, tutor, chef, friend, personal care assistant, driver, Google university med school student, community organizer, and most importantly, mom.

been meeting monthly for almost two years now. And our email list has grown to over 50 families. Usually, 4-8 families come to play each month.

Like Apollo, children with disabilities have many structured forms of play, most of which are indoors. Rather than being a spontaneous outing, playing at the playground has to fit into his packed schedule.

Apollo uses a gait trainer and has a motorized wheelchair, so the playground must be wheelchair accessible. He also needs access to a bathroom with a changing station. Inclusive playgrounds offer Apollo a rare outdoor environment to play independently, where both

Apollo Garner and his new friend at the playground. // Photo courtesy of Sana Garner.

disabled and nondisabled children benefit from playing with and being adjacent to each other.

Apollo attends a mainstream school, so our playgroup is his only opportunity to socialize with other kids with disabilities. He now has disabled friends and their siblings, with whom he is excited to play monthly. Our playgroup is normalizing disability for him. A couple of days ago, Apollo met a girl with a rare genetic trait who is non-verbal He drew parallels between this girl and some friends he has at Creative Movers. Apollo was comfortable with her touching his hand and arm, which he felt apprehensive about just a few months earlier. As a parent, I’m proud of Apollo for learning to embrace diversity and normalize disabilities.

Creative Movers Playgroup has given my husband and me the community we sought out for years. Even though our children all have different disabilities, there are common threads and overlap in our lives. Every choice we make for our kids has to be considerate and intentional so they will thrive. When we meet up with the parents at Creative Movers, our layered lives don’t have to be explained—we

all get it. My husband and I have become friends with the other parents in a short time. I now have a network I can bounce ideas off of, seek advice on navigating the medical, social services, and school systems, and share tips like the best shoes for AFOs that won’t wear down in the toe when Apollo drags his foot. The playgroup has been a gift in ways that I never expected. It has reconnected parents who lost touch over online group chats and connected us with families who were already playing at the inclusive playground when we were coincidentally playing there. Now, they are part of our community.

My goal for Apollo is that he will always have a strong sense of self and be confident and happy. I’m sure these are universal goals of all parents. The community our playgroup is cultivating is integral to Apollo’s successful development.

I hope other families with disabilities see my story as a roadmap for how to create a community that supports their entire family, too.

Sana Garner is a Pennsylvania mother whose son is a part of KenCrest's Early Intervention program. She is a avid advocator for her son and will work as an aid in his classroom.

ABOVE: Apollo Garner and his parents. LEFT: Apollo and Sana at the Please Touch Museum. // Photo courtesy of Sana Garner.


Spring is a time for change; many know the saying, “April Showers Bring May Flowers.” This old English proverb refers to rainy April days leading to vibrant May blossoms. It’s when you are encouraged to look past a time of hardship to the happiness and joy that follows. Many of those with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) in the KenCrest community have experienced their own form of growth in the face of challenge. Your donation helps to encourage change and create new possibilities for those we support. KenCrest’s Enabling Technology department is a beacon of hope, creating new levels of independence and dignity in the human services world. Consider the story of Ryan, a member of our community living program, who used to struggle with showering alone and needed help with basic steps like washing his hair. The ET department intervened, installing an Amazon Echo Dot and Flic Wireless Button in his bathroom. Now, he can press the button and hear a guided step-by-step prompt.

That small device changed Ryan’s perspective and gave him back a sense of his dignity. He struggled through a period where he didn’t have autonomy over his own body. He then blossomed into a person whose self-respect has grown faster than any flower. Enabling Technology, or Assistive Technology, assists people with disabilities in gaining independence in their day-to-day lives through devices like sensors, adapted tools, or even communication supports. Every day, KenCrest heroes are changing the lives of those we support. Teachers lead their students' mental, social, and emotional growth in our Early Learning Centers. Direct Support Professionals open the door for individuals living with disabilities to join their communities. Early Intervention instructors provide critical answers for young children and their families when their world has none, and nurses ensure that complex medical issues are treated with the highest level of care. Your gift to KenCrest, regardless of size, provides immediate support to these team members and those they support, making a tangible difference in their lives.

With your help and the support of many others who have already made their donations, progress doesn’t have to slow down. Your donation today can be the catalyst for more life-changing technologies. Together, we can charge forward and turn the challenges our community faces into new beginnings.

Without your help, we can't continue to help those we support blossom. To learn more about how your gift helps KenCrest make a difference in the lives of those with IDD, visit kencrest.org/donate



320 Market Cafe


Tarig Abdulla

Edward and Mindy Abraham

Abriola Company

Julie Ackerman

Act II Playhouse

Roseann and Greg Adamo

Claire and Donald Alderfer

AmazonSmile Foundation

American Heritage Federal Credit Union

AmerisourceBergen Sourcing LLC

Dawood Amir

Amsted Industries, Inc.

Anne Andersen

William Anderson

Ann Marie and Bruno Andracchio

John Archambault

Arctic Wolf

Arden Theatre Company

Arlington Heritage Group

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Artisan Boulanger Patissier

Avanti Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Avenue United Methodist Women

Maame Afia Baah

Mariama Bah

Megan Bailey

Melissa Bailey-Raison

Pauline Baker

Sabina Baker-Tegeder

Rachael and Josh Balascak

Balashine Properties

Marian Baldini and Larry Filtz

Shaquawn Baldwin

Ballard's Landscaping

Margaret Bamford

Hawa Bangura

Pauline Barlow

Ralph and Janet Barndt

Josephine Bayinka

James and Barbara Beach

Paul and Linda Beck

Monica Behum

Steve and Leigh Anne Bell

Joyce Benfield

Patricia Benner

Virginia Benner

Victoria Black

Blossom Philadelphia

Kathleen and Robert Bohrer

Bonitatibus Architects

Michelle Bonocore

Sheryl Bouie

Boulder Falls Mini Golf

Henry and Rita Brady

Melanie Brennan

James and Mary Jane Brenneman

Steve and Elaine Brenneman

David Breuning

Karen and Anthony Brida

Sandra and William Brinker

Denise Brooks

Tim and Martha Brooks

Loyce and Larry Brown

Merri and Drew Brown

Randall and Shannon Brown

Sandra Brown

Patricia Brubaker

Sheila and Philip Bruce

Sendy Bryant

Linda and Robert Bugden

Burholme Golf & Family Entertainment

Pat and William Bush

Matthew and Patricia Busillo

Gary and Kathie Calandra

Christopher Campbell

Milton Cannan

Elizabeth Capella

Capital One

Carson Painting Co.

Johnny Cartagena

Dean and Marilee Cassidy


Nashyma Chandler

Carole Chapin

Chesapeake Regional Rx

Kenneth and Deborah Chiarello

Donna Chiavaroli

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church (Harleysville, PA)

Christ's Church of the Valley (Royersford, PA)


Denise Cianfero-Marafioti

Michael Clarke

Patrick Cleaver

Marla and Richard Cohen

Barbara and Jerald Cohen

Michael Colter Jr

Lloyd Combs

Conagra Brands

David and Theresa Condon

Sean and Carol Connell

Mary Beth Conrad

Ellen and Thomas Conroy

Anthony and Jeanine Consoli

Constellation NewEnergy

Aruna Conteh

Cool Dog Gear

Chantel Coote

Vanessa Corbitt

Jane Cording

Core BTS

Corebridge Financial

Roberta and Dominic Costa

Fatoumata Coulibaly

Cowabunga Coffee Roasters

Marilyn Cox

Donna and Howard Creely

Kim Crews

Christy Crkvenac

Katherine Crozier

Crumbl Warrington

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

Daniel and Lindsey Cuneo

Yvonne Cunningham

Valarie Curry

Cypher Interpretation Services

D'Agostino Carpets

Wesley Daniels

Davenport Family Foundation

Harvey Davis

Gail Davis

Sheaquan Davis

Paula Davis West and Wayne West

DDN Consulting Services

Catherine DeGroot and Miguel Velez

Delta-T Group

Ghislaine Denis

Tiffany DeRohn

Mamadou Diallo

Katie Dickason


Carmel and Charles Diliberto

Joseph and Betty Dittmar

Alex Dittmar and Kaitlyn Ide

Doc Bresler's Cavity Busters

Robert Doherty

Craig Donaghy

Joseph and Denise Dougher

Kevin and Katie Dougher

Colin and Angela Dougherty

Lisa Douglass

Dover Par 3

Eagles Autism Foundation

Thomas Earle

Kelli Edling

Christine Edwin

Alan and Linda Eickhoff

Samuel and Helena Eisenberg

Freddie Elliott

Yontaya Everett

Marilyn Everling

Evil Genius

Kimberly Ewart

James Fagan

Fava Ristorante Italiano

Michael and Kellie Feehan

Karen Feeney

Fidelity Burglar & Fire Alarm

Angela Filomeno

James Filtz and Daniel Beck

Mariel Filtz

Jo Ann and E. Stephen Finkbiner

Kevin Fitch

Erin Fitzgerald

Marjorie Fitzpatrick

William Flynn

David Focht

Marianne Folk

Elaine Francis

Tyrique Freeman

Kristen and Wayne Fritzinger


Katie Fuhr

Susan Fullerton

Doris Gadson

Brian and Susan Gallagher

Charlene Gallagher

Gap International

Gap, Inc.

Melinda Gardner

James and Janine Garvey

Alesha Gaus

Alina Gayeuski and Daniel Smith

William Gberi

Janice Gee

Mary Geschick

Eileen and Richard Ghenn

Tia Gibbs

Stephen Gillen

Michael and Gail Gilmartin

Caesar and Sue Gorski

Deborah and Thomas Grace

Olivia Graham

Granite Telecommunications

Latoya Grant

Ellen Gray and Alan Heavens

Great American Pub Phoenixville

Jaclyn Greenberg

Ron and Emily Grizer

Carl and Anita Guecia

Elizabeth Guecia- Ono

Judith Guise

Jill Gustave

Frank and Gail Guthridge

Susan Hagerich

Hagley Museum

Carol Hammarberg

Darlene Hammond

Bonnie Hancock

Bruce and Rosemary Hanes

Joan Marie Hanley and Mary Ellen Mahan

Andy Harrington

William and Paula Harris

Edythe Harrison

Mike and Lynn Hart

William and Lauri Harte

Michael and Cheryl Hassett

John and Jacqueline Haynes

Kimberly Heffner

Mark Heimberger

Nancy Hendrickson

Jennifer Hirschfeld

Joseph Hoban

Ed Hoffman

Joseph Hohenstein

Charles Horn


John and Melissa Howe

Chenho Huang and Baohua Wu

Lisa Hudson

Kristine and Richard Hughey

Natelle and Richard Hughey

Victoria Hyczko

IES Engineers

Independence Blue Cross

Marianne Ingram

Interstate Fleet Services

Anthony and Janet Iorio

Rosaida Iraola

Tahjmal Jackson

Jamie Jakubowitz

JDB Service Group

Sherley Jean-Pierre

Tasheena Jennings

Delphine Johnson

Lynne Johnson

Sharita Johnson

Johnson & Johnson

Joselynne Jones

Erica Jordan

Stephanie Joyner

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Ann Marie and Joseph Kachinski

Carol Lynne Kalish

Jeneba Kanu

Steven and Kymme Kaufman

Suzanne Keffer

Rick and Nancy Keidan

Catharine Keim

Colleen Kelly and Paul Hisem

Barbara and John Kelly

Eileen Kelly

Earl Kelly

Barbara Kenny

John Kerr

William Kerr

Kathy Kersul-Wiener


Barbara Keyser

Keystone Family Health Plan

Mark Kiczek

Kids N Hope

Alyssa Kilpatrick

Edith King

Jay Kirsch

Barbara and Nick Kochard

Dale and Beverly Kochard

David and Joan Krauter

Aurora Kripa and Jesse Fells

Carolyn Kulp

Denise Ladoski

Lance A. Berger & Associates

Anne and D. Craig Landis

Priscilla and Ray Landis

Karen Lantz

Leanor T Rife Memorial Fund

Jeanne Lee and Robert Wilkinson

Domonique Lee

Sandra Lee

Theresa Lepitre

Linda Leroux

Levante Brewing Co.

Bruce and Barbara Lewbart

Glendra Lewis

Liberty Lawnscapes

Liberty Resources

Lincoln Investment

Phyllis Linn

Maryann Littlefield

Aisha Locke

Locust Lane Brewery

Longwood Gardens

Maryann Ludwig

Lutheran Church Women of St. Matthew

(Glen Mills, PA)

Joseph Lyons

Josephine Macaulay

Tashima Machicote

Dayle Malloy

Stephanie Malone

Mary Mammarella

Joe Mancini

Sheetal Manglani and Jeetendra Dassani

Ellen and Ed Mansfield

Maquina Coffee Roasters

Kenneth Margraff

Angela Marshall

Diane Massey

Leigh Ann Massinger

Marcell Mateo

Christina McClendon

Mary and Robert McDermott

Jennifer and James McGarvey

Arlene and Thomas McGee

Joseph McGuire

Kevin and Margaret McKelvey

Margaret and Kevin McKelvey

Lynda McNab

Patricia McRay

Ruth Meas

Tamar Meister and Jeffrey Marshall

Stevan Mendez

Andrew Merrell

Patrick Methven

Geoffrey Meyers

Fred Miller

Judith Miller

Michael and Christina Miller

Scott and Susan Miller

Miller, Turetsky, Rule & McLennan, PC

Gracynthia Mills

Russell and Rose Milnor

Tyneka Mitchell

Aimee Moffett

Bill Moore

Kim Moore

Leticia Moore

Brian and Kelliann Moran

Susan Morrison Bellamy

Sarah Morrow

Mr. Bottle Beverage

Mt. Cuba Center

Bill and Rose Mueller

Mutual of America

My Dad's Flooring America

Alfreda Nagle

Judith Nagle

Marie Neff

Networks for Training & Development

Larry and Susan Newitt

Janette Nieves

Barbara and Lincoln Noecker

William Nolan

Catherine Nold

Natacha Nord

James and Elaine O'Connor

Susan O'Connor

Catherine O'Shea-Barkley

Office Basics

Yinyinola Oladipo

Pete and Debbie Olden

Janyce Olson

Barbara Orwig

Jan and Victor Ostroff

Sean and Julrena Outen

Edward Owens

Wilfredo Padilla

Painting With A Twist

Karen Parker-Masarone and John


Karen Paulus



Peace Tohickon Lutheran Church (Perkasie, PA)

Ann Marie and Cameron Pendleton

Penns Woods Winery

Dominique Perkins

Mathilde Peter

Kayla Peters

Barbara Petroske

Charlotte Pfeifer

Philadelphia Federal Credit Union

Philadelphia Foundation

Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Yolanda Phillips

Grace Piccone

Susan Pieczonka

Fabiola Placide


Bryce Poirot

William and Eileen Pollick

Melvin Porchea

Positive Aspired Learning

Karen and John Prince

PW Campbell

PWP Video

Kimberly and Scott Quinn

Janice and Pat Quinn

Colleen Quinn

Quintessence Theatre

Radius Rx Direct, Inc.

Eric and Michelle Rahe

Sondra Rakowski

Joyce and William Rambo

Ryan Raskay

Ray's Appliances

Karen Raymond

Reformation Lutheran Church (Media, PA)

Linda Regan

Ovetta Reid

Joyce and Robert Reiss

Lisa and Carl Rich

Olivia Riordan

Mary Rivera

RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve

Forrest and Linda Roberts

William and Eileen Roth

Scott and Gail Ruehr

Jack Rule and Jill Anderson

Donna and Tyrone Ruley

Barbara and Ralph Russo

James and Susan Ryan

Margaret Rybnik


Alimany Saccoh

Sheriff Saccoh


Salmon, Ricchezza, Singer & Turchi, LLP

Annette Sample

Yanellis Sanchez

Kelly Sanders

Lucy Sanvitale

Martez Satchell

Nicole Savior

Pamela Schaefer

Cathy Schappert and Barry Davis

Scott and Wendy Scheirer

RuthAnn Schell

Matthew Schmitz and Lindsay Finan

Doris Schoener

Pam and Mike Schuessler

Dorothy and Charles Schulz

Robert Schumm

Trisha Scott

Sedona Taphouse

Ethel Serianni

Shady Brook Farm

John and Nancy Shane

Allan and Linda Shanholtz

Elizabeth and Anthony Sharkoski

Ann Sheafer


Theresa Shriver

Erika and Anthony Shulkusky

Rosemarie Simmons

Steve Simonic


Lisa Simpson

Sharon Skirkie

Allison Smale

Duane and Deborah Smith

Kellie and Kevin Smith

Kimberly Smith

Margaret Smith

Robert Smith

Smoke & Mirrors Theater

Georgia Solan

Southeastern PA Synod of the ELCA

Sovana Bistro

Fatou Sow

Evelyn Spann

Tom and Carolyn Spencer

Leland Spicer

St. John Lutheran Church (Blue Bell, PA)

St. Paul's Lutheran Church (Ardmore, PA)

St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church (North Wales, PA)

St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia, PA)

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church (Feasterville, PA)

Robin Staley

Barbara and Paul Starner


Kim Sterling

Elmina and Kenneth Stewart

Russ and Megan Stewart

Shelly Stewart-Laws

Stickman Brews

Carol and Donald Storey

James and Marta Storm

Janet Stott

Tammi Stutzman

Junina Sullivan

Shannon Super

Thierno Sy Savane

Laura Szewczyk

Felecia Tanner

Tannery Run

Beth Tavenner

David and Trina Terné

The Arc of Philadelphia

The Haverford Trust Company

The Rhoads Garden

The Valley House

The Wilma Theater

Alita Thomas

Cherese Thomas

Clara Thompson

Petrelle Thompson

Thrivent Choice

Thunderbird Lanes


Lauren Tilghman

Wanda Trent

Trinity Lutheran Church (Lansdale, PA)

Geraldine Trower


Kathy and Paul Trumbore

Catherine Tucker

Vera Tunstall

Turning Point

Twin Valley Coffee

Vicky and Joe Tyler

Tyler Arboretum

UGI Utilities, Inc.

Bruce and Caron Ulmer

Universal Health Services, Inc.

James and Linda Van Horn

Heather Van Horn

Steve and Barbara Van Osten


Donna Vaselaar

Richard and Carol Vermeil

Vision for Equality

Judith Voyak

Derrick Walker

Johanna Walters

Robin Ward

Dawn Elyse Warden

Dennis and Jean Wasilewski

Vincent Waskiewicz

Wanda Webb

Joseph Webster II

Robin Whetstone

Kathryn White

White Dog Cafe

Carol and John Wildmann

William Penn Foundation

Cathy Williams

Jere and Beverly Williams

Melinda Williams

Willits Pharmacy Services, Inc.

Vincent Willoughby

David Wilson and Elizabeth Lexa


Marie and Gerald Winterstein

Winterthur Museum

Aisha Witherspoon

Jonel Witherspoon

Steven Wolfe

Richard and Lynda Wolff

Janet Wong

Tony Wong

Daniel Wood

Christina Wright


Diane Wurster

Maureen and Chris Yamamoto

Yard's Brewing Co.

Sara Young

Thomas Young

Matthew and Leslie Yunaska


Robert and Ann Zemsky

Daniel Zepp

Paul and Bonnie Zieger

Robert and Susan Zimmer

Banasee Zoewah

Erfan Zoghi

Bendu Zoryeah


The Council on Quality and Leadership Accreditation Process

Quality is everyone’s responsibility! We all benefit. Sharing accountability and training on CQL’s Basic Assurances will help instill staff confidence and ensure our programs and departments are always ready for a visit from the CQL accreditation team. This helps minimize confusion and nervousness that sometimes occurs before an accreditation visit. Learn more information on how to become a part of the Accreditation Process by emailing Kim Quinn at kim.quinn@kencrest.org

CONNECT WITH KENCREST Facebook @KenCrest YouTube @KenCrestServices Instagram @KenCrestServices LinkedIn @KenCrest 31 KENCREST.ORG
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