Counting Blessings And Giving Back

I recently attended two events, which brought home both the importance of counting our blessings, and giving to others during this holiday season.

MerylMarty Lyons Foundation

This week, I was privileged to meet Marty Lyons at the grand opening of the new headquarters of the Marty Lyons Foundation in Commack. Marty Lyons, former NY Jets star, founded the Marty Lyons Foundation (www.martylyonsfoundation.org) in 1982 after the birth of his son, and the deaths of his father and a young boy to whom Lyons had been a Big Brother. Over the past 30 years the Marty Lyons Foundation has granted nearly 6,500 special wishes to children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses in 13 states. Marty is passionate about the foundation’s mission, and he takes a personal interest in the children and their families that are served.

Marty believes that by fulfilling a child’s special wish, the child and his/her family can be transported from the daily heartache of coping with illness.

“It is a joyous time that creates a wonderful memory and a better quality of life.  Every child has a dream, and although we can’t promise a lifetime of happiness to these seriously ill children, we can make one dream a reality!”

The Marty Lyons Foundation has granted wishes, including: special trips to Disney World, meeting celebrities, throwing extraordinary birthday parties, renovating homes to enable children to live with their families while receiving treatment, purchasing computers, filling a swimming pool with spring water, and many more.

Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities

20131008_133652I was recently introduced by my friend, Ellen Spiegel, to another worthy charity, which inspires us to count our own blessings while giving to others. Ellen is a trustee of ACLD (Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities http://www.acld.org/), a not-for-profit agency that serves the needs of individuals (and their families) who have developmental disabilities, are neurologically impaired, or are on the autism spectrum. The ACLD mission is to provide the opportunity for children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities to pursue enviable lives, increase their independence and improve the quality of their lives. At the fashion show, which I attended, the models included individuals who are served by ACLD as well as its supporters.

Ellen said that when her son, Fred, was born more than 40 years ago, there were practically no services for those with developmental disabilities on Long Island. Today he is one of 300 adults in ACLD residential placements, and he has a job. According to Ellen, ACLD now supports more than 3,000 children and adults in a variety of programs.  One of these is fellow trustee Megan Gardner’s son, Brian, who is nine-years-old.

“When Brian entered ACLD’s Preschool program at the Kramer Learning Center he could not speak; he could only grunt,” Megan recalled.  “He presented with no cognitive skills with the exception of touching his nose or stomping his feet on command – and those skills had taken nine months to achieve. But I knew Brian was in there, I knew my Brian was awake, aware, alive.   And … the entire team at Kramer believed me and believed in Brian’s potential too. Over the course of three years at Kramer, Brian learned to take a bus to school; he learned to make eye contact, to stack blocks and then bam!  He started to paint and color, he learned to write his name…he started to read. Now in third grade, he happily participates in ACLD’s Afterschool Program in Bay Shore.”

At this time of year, as we count our blessings, check out these two worthy organizations, which give to those who need it the most.

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