For more than six decades, the Mary Cariola Center in Rochester has helped educate children with disabilities in the community, but public funds can't cover the costs of all the center does. Time Warner Cable News is the media sponsor of an upcoming fundraising walk that helps the center with additional funding. Cristina Domingues sat down with one family, who explains why Mary Cariola has made a difference in their lives.
It's dodge ball time for some of the students at the Mary Cariola Center.
For Todd Quist, it's also a chance to move to a little music. Todd started coming to the Mary Cariola Center when he was 3. He's now 13.
He has Pallister Killian syndrome, a rare developmental disorder caused by an abnormal extra chromosome. He doesn't talk or walk, and as his father explained, needs round the clock care.
"He receives occupational therapy, physical therapy, and one day a week he gets music therapy," said Dave Quist. "I really don't know what we would do without some place for Todd to go like this."
Mary Cariola has a pre-school program that serves about 90 children. There are five group homes for youth and young adults, but most of the children, 350 of them, attend the center here. They come from 11 counties around the region. More than half have autism, others have physical or developmental limitations and some are significantly medically fragile.
"Children come to us from the school districts because their challenges go beyond the scope of the regular districts to not just manage, but really enhance what those children are doing," said Karen Zandi, CEO and president of the center. "It's a great place for children to learn independence, whether it's on a small scale, learning to walk, articulation of speech, ways to communicate, behavior management."
One of the highlights of the center is music therapy. Directors say it significantly helps children with their mobility and communication and it's also one example of what is not covered by the center's main two funding streams, Medicaid and state education funds.
As many not-for-profits, Mary Cariola has to go out and find other way to bring in funds not covered by the government. For the last four years, one of the biggest ways of doing that has been through the annual walk coming up this weekend.
"It's really vital for lots of things that the rates don't reimburse. Also there are needs that come up throughout the year, and it goes into our general fund," Zandi said.
As they have every year, Todd's family will be walking this weekend, with their immediate family members and with the Cariola staff members who they consider part of their family too.
"Todd has extended our family by coming here. It's great to know that everyone cares. There is so much compassion here and I think the staff as a whole treats everyone with dignity," Quist said. "It's got to be done. We owe so much to Cariola. This is a way we can give back."
Mary Cariola's Walking on Sunshine event is at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, at Ontario Beach Park.
There are plenty of activities for the whole family.