By Michelle A. Brown
Congratulations to the Class of 2019 Everyday Heroes celebrants:
Elena Clark, Scott Iovinella, Heather Nay, VeYontae Riley, Drew Suto, Crystal Torres
These devoted employees worked hard to enhance the lives of people they support through a variety of activities. They believed in the people they serve, encouraged them to believe in themselves and to try new things. They were celebrated in June where they presented projects depicting the journeys they took with people they support over the course of the year.
The history of this initiative began in 2007, when Wildwood received a two-year grant from OPWDD to participate in Everyday Heroes. The focus is two-fold:
- to build direct support leadership for community inclusion
- to celebrate those Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s) that display exemplary qualities such as advocacy, creativity, strong communication and listening skills
Through this program, we make strides to open doors in the community for individuals with disabilities. Our staff form teams, attend trainings and learn inclusion philosophies. With this increased knowledge, staff assist program participants to enter their communities and ensure meaningful participation. The venture is individualized and has value for the participant. True inclusion is not just being “present in the community”, but being part of the community.
Heroes teams consists of 3 people:
- The Hero (the DSP)
- The Person who receives support
- The Mentor (an experienced staff member)
Team members work together to identify what is important to the person they’re supporting. A plan of action is formed which will help people follow their dreams of being more independent, of making friends and of trying new things.
Each year, we follow Everyday Heroes teams for a nine-month period. This extended time frame allows each person to have the chance to explore their community, to form friendships and to expand their skills and confidence in themselves. It’s also an opportunity for each team to reflect upon the work they’ve done together, to view how they’ve worked through obstacles and celebrate successes.
While Wildwood has always placed an emphasis upon community inclusion, participating in Everyday Heroes challenged us to keep community connections and natural supports a priority for people. It also gave us another avenue to celebrate caring, committed and creative employees.
After the grant ended, Wildwood recognized the value of this initiative and the benefits to both staff and people we support. The Executive Team has supported the program, ensuring it continues to this day. We are ready to launch our 12th year.
Over the years, over 90 staff have supported more than 40 people on a path to greater self-discovery. Over 33% of these staff have continued to pursue a career here at Wildwood, dedicating their time and talent to supporting people so they may follow their dreams. We are very grateful for these devoted staff.
A special thank you to the loyal staff who have served as Heroes or Mentors in previous years:
Daniel Aboki, Nicole Alger, Melinda Burns, Stephanie Crewell, Theresa Coons, Lori Cuda, Donna Dorsey, Amy Dziedzic, Joel Eglintine,
Amber Ferdula, Lisa Galarneau, Shannon Haas, Robert Kelly, Theresa Lee, Carla Leotta, Corey Marshall, Paula Martelle, Jan Mason,
Rich O’Neill, Hector Perez, Darlene Rodd, Nicole Romano, Becky Thayer, Sharon Zewert, Jason Zinzow