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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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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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