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Kathleen Layton

Trudeau Celebrates Danny Comella on Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October certainly is the sweetest month. We squeeze Halloween, pumpkin picking, and Down Syndrome Awareness Month into 31 days of fall-infused fun and Down syndrome advocacy and awareness. This year, the Trudeau Center salutes Danny Comella on Down Syndrome Awareness Month for his amazing abilities and accomplishments. Trudeau is particularly proud of Danny because he has been an integral part of our children’s programs since he was a toddler at Crayons Early Learning Center. Danny’s teachers and family marvel at his spirit, intelligence, and determination.

Danny’s strength and focus.

Danny hails from Warwick, Rhode Island and attends Pilgrim High School. In his lifetime of vast achievements, one that he is most proud of is earning his black belt distinction at Mastery Martial Arts in East Greenwich, RI.

Testing for his black belt was physically and mentally demanding and Danny handled it with athleticism and focus. He worked hard and his strength shined as he recently passed his black belt test.

A kind and caring young man, Danny adores his family. Danny’s mother Lisa and father Dan gushed about Danny, “He’s an amazing young man who brings so much joy and love to this world.” As a loving younger brother to 19-year-old sister Elayna, Danny beams with pride when he shares that Elayna is a freshman at Eastern Connecticut State University where she plays basketball for the school.

Always one another’s biggest fans, Danny and Elayna have been cheering each other on their whole lives. And much like Elayna, Danny also plays basketball on many Challengers and Unified basketball teams and is quite a fierce player.

An animal lover, Danny cherishes Lily, the family’s golden retriever. When Danny isn’t playing sports or working on his karate skills, he is attending social events and keeps a very active social life.

“I often describe Danny as someone who brings the party wherever he goes and I say that because he is ALWAYS up for an adventure.”

Danny’s mother Lisa

October was first designated as Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the 1980s and has been recognized every October since. It is a wonderful time to celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of their abilities and accomplishments. Please join the Trudeau Center in saluting people with Down syndrome and celebrating their abilities.

The Trudeau Center’s mission is to promote an enhanced quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities. Please consider supporting the Trudeau Center.

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Tom Moniz’s 16 Years as a DSP

Trudeau Center DSP (Direct Support Professional) Tom Moniz recently returned to work after a well-earned vacation and was excited to chat about his 16 years of working as a Trudeau DSP. An energetic man who loves sports, Tom inspirationally explained his love for the job with, “I wanted to make a difference in their lives, but they made the difference in mine.” During a visit I made to the Spring Grove group home where Tom helps support four men, it was obvious that he is a comfortable caretaker and that he and the men who live there have a wonderful relationship.

Tom thinks of the many adults he has supported throughout his career as “family.” He reminisces about playing sports, tending to flowers, and gaining an appreciation for art with the men and women he has helped care for. Tom describes a career highlight of walking with Trudeau’s Special Olympics’ athletes during competition and recalls a Trudeau athlete, who has since passed away, who won multiple medals and always showed them off by wearing them around his neck. “Those medals made me almost as proud as they made him,” Tom shares.

Before his career at Trudeau, Tom worked at Ann & Hope for 16 years as a retail manager. A self-confessed people person, Tom enjoyed his retail job, but explains, “This job is so much more rewarding. We’re touching people’s lives.”

Director of Adult Residential Programs’ Darlene James gives him a glowing review. “Tom is a very hard worker who takes initiative and solves problems. He is honest, fair and a strong advocate for those he supports.”

Tom shares that he has met so many nice people through his job and that “people have been great to me. I’ve been blessed.”  When asked for a favorite part of his job, Tom responds, “To make them smile.”

Thanks for making us all smile, Tom, and congratulations on being a Trudeau DSP of the Day!

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James Litvack, DSP, ‘Star Wars’ Aficionado, and Great Guy

James Litvack has had a long history with the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center. James started in 2000, left in 2005 to take advantage of a new opportunity, then came back in 2013. And he hasn’t looked back since! As he says, “I just keep coming back.”

James is a DSP (Direct Support Professional) with Trudeau’s CSS (Community Support Services) Yes, that’s a lot of acronyms but as James explains, “I help people do the little things that others take for granted.” The day that James and I met, his workday included taking someone food shopping. James shares that budgeting, pre-planning how much food to purchase, and cash transactions are tasks that he works on with people before and during a typical shopping trip.

When he was growing up, James’s parents operated a day care where he spent a lot of time. Many of the children had developmental delays and James thinks that having that exposure helped shape him into wanting to be a DSP.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment when somebody doesn’t need my help with a task anymore,” James shares, “The goal is that someday, they will be able to do the task on their own.” When this happens, it’s a career milestone.

James graduated from high school at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf and after graduation, he was offered and accepted a job there as a job coach. He loved that job and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rhode Island College in 1994. James leans on his degree, insight from his DSP peers, individuals supported and the entire team at Trudeau when working.

While James cringed at remembering how long it has been since he graduated from college, he has a young spirit. When asked what he likes to do outside of work, he playfully confesses to an out-of-control Star Wars, comic books and superhero addiction and admits that he must rely on others to “inform him on anything related to sports.”

James went on to share that he once worked with a man who always wanted to play tennis and basketball. Although James did not share his fondness for playing sports, he asked the man to help him learn more about sports. At the end of their training, James started good naturedly referring to him as “coach.” As James explains his job, you get the sense that he’s learning as much as he’s teaching.

Jessica Keenan, CSS and recreation program coordinator, wrote the following about James:

“James extends tireless contributions to our team and grand support and advocacy to our participants.  If there is ever a need, James is there to help. He always brainstorms ways to try and make things better or easier for our team. James looks out for and shares fun activities and important information that could benefit all.

Thank you, James, you are Trudeau’s own superhero!

James, staying masked and funny!
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Beatrice Adegbesan, a Lifelong Caretaker

The first thing you notice when you first meet DSP (Direct Support Professional) Beatrice Adegbesan is the radiance of her smile — even when she’s wearing a mask, she beams. Beatrice’s smile extends to her eyes and you instantly feel comfortable in her presence.

Providing comfort is what Beatrice does at her full-time DSP position at the Trudeau Center’s Titus group home in Warwick, Rhode Island, and she does it so well! Group home resident Lorna gushed over Beatrice, “She is wonderful, and she may cry when you tell her I said that.” Lorna was right and Beatrice did cry a little when I shared all the kind words people used to describe her as we honor her as our DSP of the Day.

Beatrice and Lorna

Originally from Nigeria, Beatrice moved to the United States in 1984. Beatrice quickly acclimated to a new world and began her career as a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant). She instinctively knew that taking care of others was what she was meant to do. Beatrice found her way to the Trudeau Center 10 years ago and has never looked back.

“I love working with people and making a difference in people’s lives. It’s a part of me,” said Beatrice.

A mother of four and grandmother to eight, Beatrice’s support has a familial feel. During a quiet moment at the group home, Beatrice shared a touching story about her love for her job. Years ago, at Titus, Beatrice received an emergency phone call with news that her daughter was going into labor and needed Beatrice at the hospital. Hanging up the phone, Beatrice literally jumped for joy and rushed to find a fellow DSP to cover her shift, then ran to her car in a frenzy of excitement. When Beatrice returned to work a few days later, Mark, who heard her phone call on her last shift, softly asked, “How’s granddaughter?” Beatrice tears up while describing this moment and explains, “They know who takes care of them. Just love them.”

Working as a DSP with people with disabilities can be challenging but Beatrice always finds pockets of joy at work. Program Manager Doddie McShane can’t say enough great things about Beatrice:

“She is a kind, compassionate, and conscientious employee who genuinely cares about each person she supports and has taken the time to know them well. Beatrice can always be relied upon to support the most challenging of situations with ease and calmness while working her hardest to make them better and she always makes them better.”

When Beatrice’s isn’t working, she enjoys reading, bible classes, and spending time with her grandchildren. A woman of many talents, Beatrice received her associate degree in pastry at Johnson & Wales University and is a self-proclaimed African chef. If the smells that were emanating from the group home’s oven are any indication, Titus’s residents must eat incredibly well.

Thanks to employees like Beatrice, the Trudeau Center can fulfill its mission to promote an enhanced quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities. Thank you for all that you do, Beatrice!

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Mark Dickson, Trudeau’s DSP of the Year

Meet Mark Dickson, a J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center DSP (Direct Support Professional) for over 26 years. A gentle giant, Mark is a towering man with a natural comfort and ease that translates well into his career of service. Mark retires in October and the Trudeau Center honors him for his decades of exemplary service and highlights him as our DSP of the Year for DSP Week 2021.

Mark and Mark.

Mark’s profession as a DSP is one that he “stumbled on,” but that soon became his true calling. Feeling a little uninspired with his former occupation, 26 years ago Mark started taking classes at the Community College of Rhode Island. Mark’s favorite CCRI professor was Rita Price, who was the director of Trudeau’s day program at the time. As was Rita’s custom, she provided her class with a tour of the Trudeau Center and Mark liked what he saw and immediately believed in Trudeau’s mission to promote an enhanced quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Mark took a chance and began his second career as a DSP, and the rest is a part of Trudeau’s beautiful history.

Reminiscing about his time at Trudeau on a recent morning at the Titus group home, Mark expressed a tremendous amount of gratitude for the Trudeau Center and his coworkers, past and present.

Mark’s coworkers place all that gratitude right back on Mark. Trudeau’s Director of Adult Residential Program Darlene James can’t say enough kind words about Mark and explains his many strengths, “He maintains a professional yet personalized relationship with the folks Trudeau supports, who all like him and feel comfortable with him. Mark is always willing to help, regardless of situation or notice.”

Mark Dickson, Nancy Gannon, and group home residents.

In between helping run a weekly activity club, preparing healthy lunches, and taking residents outside for fresh air, Mark talked about maintaining three jobs by practicing healthy living and positive thinking. A father of two grown sons, Mark looks forward to retiring to Florida in October. Along the drive, he will stop in North and South Carolina to visit his son and sister. An active and fit man, Mark looks forward to a quieter life of playing golf, bocce ball, swimming and — you guessed it— a little work!

“I found a work family,” Mark said, “socially, economically and fulfillment wise. I did not do it alone and I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people.”

As we spoke about Mark’s retirement, Lorna, who lives in the Titus group home and is Mark’s biggest fan expressed, “Mark, you will be missed more than you can imagine but you will also be so happy.”

Here’s to more happiness, Mark and thanks for everything you’ve done for the Trudeau Center.

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City of Warwick Gives Trudeau Generous Grant

J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center has received a $10,445 grant from the City of Warwick’s Department of Human Services’ contributive support program. The grant money will go directly to Trudeau’s Early Intervention (EI) program and Home-Based Children’s Services (HBCS), both of which exclusively support Rhode Island children, many of whom reside in Warwick, Rhode Island.

ABA Center Program

This grant funding is focused on technology and community and will help Trudeau educators teach language and academic skills in center and home-based settings. Enhanced technology such as iPads and online training programs will be purchased with the grant funds⁠, along with interactive learning tools for our community programs.

The Trudeau Center is especially grateful for this grant as the agency rebounds from the pandemic with a fierce focus on its mission: to promote an enhanced quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“The City of Warwick and the Trudeau Center have had a long history of working together and I thank Mayor Frank Picozzi and his administration for their confidence and support,” says President and CEO Judith Sullivan.

Jacqueline Ferreira, Director of Early Intervention, adds, “We appreciate the generosity of the City of Warwick. This year’s grant will provide many children with much needed socialization opportunities as well as a community support system for their parents.”

Early Intervention is essential for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and Home-Based Children’s Services are the next step in the continuum of care that the Trudeau Center provides children and families. Trudeau’s newly revitalized ABA Center, located in Warwick, Rhode Island, offers on-site individual and group behavioral treatment and academic instruction to children aged two to seven with developmental delays.

Trudeau’s Early Intervention and Home-Based Children’s Services

Thank you to the City of Warwick for this generous grant!

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Pathways Teacher Lori Johnson Awarded a Dougie Award

J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center is proud that Lori Johnson was recently awarded a Dougie Award by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. The Dougie Awards were initiated this year by the Flutie Foundation to recognize leaders in the autism community. Nominated by her peers, Lori Johnson — a supervisor educator at Pathways Strategic Teaching Center —selflessly chose to donate her $250.00 award to Pathways.

Lori has been working at Pathways for 13 years and is happy to have fulfilled her lifelong dream of being a teacher. Lori shared, “I have always wanted to be an educator and I love working with children. I believe in the Pathways program and have witnessed firsthand how much progress, educationally and behaviorally, my students have made utilizing the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Lori’s nomination was filled with accolades from her colleagues, but her enthusiasm, exceptional work ethic, and passion for teaching truly shined through.

“Lori puts her heart and soul into making sure each one of her student’s distinct needs are met as well as their strengths showcased,”

Mackenzie Milner, Pathways Clinical Director.

Lori’s favorite subject to teach is reading, and both parents and students are fans of her teaching expertise. Pathways parent Tori Marie explained, “Ms. Lori is more invested in my son’s success than anyone else he’s ever worked with. He has made so much progress in the past few years thanks to her tireless dedication, efforts and enthusiasm!”

Congratulations to Lori Johnson

We could not agree more. Pathways and the Trudeau Center are lucky to have Lori Johnson as such an integral part of the team and thank her for her dedication and zest for teaching and learning. Outside of work, Lori enjoys love spending time with her family, going out to breakfast with her nephews, listening to music, and working with animals.

Pathways Strategic Teaching Center is a comprehensive education and treatment program servicing children with autism and related disorders. Founded in 1998 through a collaborative effort between Trudeau and local parents of children with autism, Pathways is committed to utilizing scientifically validated teaching strategies to improve the lives of children with autism and their families.

About the Flutie Foundation: Former NFL Quarterback, Doug Flutie, and his wife Laurie started the Doug Flutie, Jr. Flutie Foundation for Autism in 1998 after their son, Dougie, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Over its 20-year history, the Flutie Foundation has distributed over $15 million to schools and organizations who provide clinical therapies, respite services, recreational programs, social skills training, job supports and more for people affected by autism.

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The Trudeau Center Receives $3500 Fogarty Foundation Grant

The J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center has received a $3,500 grant from the John E. Fogarty Foundation to purchase two laminating machines for Pathways Strategic Teaching Center, Trudeau’s comprehensive education and treatment program servicing children with autism and related disorders. These laminating machines will be used to create durable visual supports for Pathways’ students. Visual supports are communication tools used with children who have autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for two main purposes: they help educators and parents communicate better with the student, and they help the student communicate better with others.

Founded in 1998, Pathways is committed to utilizing scientifically validated teaching strategies to improve the lives of children with autism and their families. With school programs in Coventry and Warwick, Pathways educates students from all over Rhode Island as well as from nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. Students with complex communication and learning needs benefit from all types of supports, especially visual supports, which are portable and sturdy tools that help within the classroom and home setting.

“Thanks to the Fogarty Foundation, this grant will give our students access to visual supports — in school and at home,” says Pathways’ Clinical Director Mackenzie Milner.

“The continuum of support helps students, educators, and families work together to reach goals and provides students with consistency, which then enables success in and out of the classroom. Having two top-notch laminating machines will also save our teachers so much time, leaving them with even more time to devote to teaching,” said Mackenzie Milner.

Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center and the John E. Fogarty Foundation have had a long and wonderful relationship and past Fogarty Foundation grants have gone towards technology and educational tools for Pathways. The mission of the John E. Fogarty Foundation for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is to support agencies that provide services to improve and enhance the quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) within Rhode Island.

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Trudeau Celebrates Doddie McShane 40th Work Anniversary

It was 1981 when Doddie McShane embarked on her career at the Trudeau Center. A gallon of milk cost $1.83, Ronald Reagan was President, and the Disability Amendments Act of 1980 had just become law. Doddie started as a Direct Support Professional and has grown to become an irreplaceable part of the Trudeau family.

Doddie remembers her first days at Trudeau at a group home called the Greenwich House. She fondly recalls the 12 people who lived in the home and the staff with whom she worked. “Reflecting back to the early days, it was the sense of social justice that was important to us, as it still is today,” said Doddie.

“I’ve had the pleasure to know so many amazing people in this field. I treasure the wonderful friendships that I have made and that feeling of family that we still have to this day when we see each other.”

To celebrate Doddie and her dedication to Trudeau, Doddie and 17 Trudeau employees took time to reflect on the last 40 years—how it all started, the legacy, and Doddie’s future. After enjoying an anniversary lunch with her colleagues in the group home where she works, Doddie logged onto Microsoft Teams to a surprise party, virtually. She showed off gifts that Titus group home residents had given her and spoke about her time at Trudeau.

Terri and Doddie, 2021

Throughout the celebration many employees sang Doddie’s personal and professional praises. President and CEO Judith Sullivan remarked, “Doddie has a terrific, can-do attitude. She always sees the potential in everyone, particularly in those we support. Thank you, Doddie, for all you have taught me.” Patricia Spillane, a residential service coordinator, added, “You can’t put a value on someone like Doddie; she is a Trudeau historian; we need her background and history. Her knowledge is invaluable and so important for the individuals we serve.” Many people joked that Doddie’s reassurances of “this too shall pass” have helped them through many difficult times.

Doddie’s Anniversary Party

Doddie’s insistence on training and empowering colleagues and clients was a reoccurring theme of the hour. Many on the call thanked her for educating them and for looking at every error and achievement as a teachable moment. While Doddie seemed modest and even embarrassed with all the accolades, she conceded that 2020 and 2021 have been filled with teachable moments and that the anniversary has left her reflective. “It has been a year of fortitude where those dedicated to this field stepped out of their usual assignments, rolled up their sleeves and worked in whatever capacity necessary to maintain the safety and well-being of the people we support. A year ago, we faced an immediate sense of urgency to create something – a system of support outside of our usual comfort zone. This was a challenge we had never encountered – but we never gave a second thought to failing, it simply wasn’t an option.”

We could not have said it better, Doddie. Thanks for four decades of you! 

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Trudeau Center Receives CPR Package from East Greenwich Veteran Fireman’s Club

J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center recently received a CPR training package from a generous donation made by the East Greenwich Veteran Fireman’s Club of Rhode Island. The package contains infant and adult CPR mannequins and is an important and life-saving addition to our employee training instruction. 

The Trudeau Center and the East Greenwich Veteran Fireman’s Club boast a long and wonderful history. For over 20 years, the Club has hosted Trudeau’s adults with developmental disabilities for annual Halloween, holiday and summer parties. “Parties at the Club,” as many Trudeau folks have come to define them, are a tradition that Trudeau and the Club look forward to every year. Due to the pandemic, these celebrations have not occurred, so the East Greenwich Veteran Fireman’s Club made a generous donation to the Trudeau Center instead.

East Greenwich Fireman’s Club Volunteers

“The Club counts the Trudeau Center holidays as a highlight of our year. We have missed seeing these amazing people and thought a donation may help, until we can all get together again,” said Jim Troiano, President of the East Greenwich Veteran Fireman’s Club.

While the Trudeau Center did own one CPR training package, this new package will be located at Pathways Strategic Teaching Center, our educational and treatment program servicing children with autism and related disorders. “The Club’s unwavering support over the years has allowed the Trudeau Center to make a positive difference in the lives of so many people with disabilities. We have all enjoyed the events that the Club has hosted, and the kindness and community support the members provide. We thank them for their generosity and look forward to celebrating in-person there soon,” says President and CEO Judith Sullivan.

Parties at “The Club”

 Please consider giving to the Trudeau Center.

Pathways employee Matthew Clifford.

Thanks to Pathways employees George Boisvert, Matthew Clifford, and Joy Pizarro. Matthew is pictured above.


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