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AHRC NYC 75th Anniversary

75 Years: AHRC New York City to Celebrate Milestone Anniversary on May 13th, 2024

It is with pride in an unsurpassed history and great hope for the future that AHRC New York City kicks off its 75th year with a Gala on May 13th. The organization began in 1948 with a $3 ad in the New York Post placed by Ann Greenberg, a Bronx housewife whose young son with developmental disabilities had been denied access to school. She was looking for other parents to form a play group, and the response was overwhelming. Within a year, hundreds of New York City families of children with disabilities had banded together to create what would, within a decade, become a grassroots human rights movement of great magnitude that spanned across the city and the country.

Gathering of AHRC New York City founding members in 1949

Gathering of AHRC New York City founding members in 1949

Many other disability organizations had their start later in the 1950’s, but AHRC NYC was the trailblazer. Its power was, and remains, its family roots.

The Power of Families

Founded by parents and still governed by a Board comprised primarily of family members, the credo that propels the organization in all it does is based on the idea that people with developmental disabilities are entitled to access and opportunity so they can live full and equitable lives. The organization’s history is one of not only providing supports – some of the “firsts” in the field – but also of advocacy. From being a plaintiff in the Willowbrook lawsuit to calling for change in legislation and public policy, advocating for better education, living arrangements, prospects for work, and fuller lives in the community, AHRC NYC led the way. In its earlier years, AHRC NYC was at the forefront of leading the newly arising provider community in its advocacy efforts and in developing provider associations. Reflecting on our history, Board President Ray Ferrigno, a parent of a young man with autism, sums it up well, “There are many challenges to be met. But whatever the obstacle, our sense of resolve is unshakeable. That is the major lesson we learned from our founders. We have made enormous strides in all these years, but there is still so much to be done.”

AHRC NYC’s 75th Anniversary is a celebration of far more than the organization. The event celebrates the history of services and supports for people with developmental disabilities in New York City, the achievements made by people with developmental disabilities and their families, the dedication of the entire provider community, as well as many different community partners who have embraced AHRC NYC’s vision of a world where the power of difference is embraced, valued, and celebrated.

Honoring Champions

The May 13th Gala will reflect on AHRC NYC’s legacy and embrace a future of growth, championing the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. The event’s Hall of Honor will recognize individuals and groups for their exceptional dedication and contributions to the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, shaping the legacy of AHRC NYC. The Hall of Honor includes: Maureen E. O’Brien, President and Chief Executive Officer of New York State Industries for the Disabled honored for her tireless efforts in creating meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities; Sheryl White-Scott, MD, FACP, FAAIDD, Senior Medical Advisor at AHRC New York City, and a Board of Director of the Human Services Research Institute, honored for her lifelong commitment to ensuring the well-being of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Beth Haroules, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney and Director of Disability Justice Litigation at the American Civil Liberties Union of the New York Affiliate of ACLU is recognized for her lifelong dedication to defending the rights of people with disabilities; Rebecca A. Seawright, Assembly Member for New York’s 76th Assembly District, and Chair of the People with Disabilities Committee of the New York State Assembly is recognized for her legislative work and dedicated advocacy for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Mitchell Bloomberg, Chairman-Elect of the AHRC NYC Foundation Board, and Co-President of International Lights, is honored for over 30 years of dedicated service on both the AHRC NYC Board and Foundation Board and for raising millions of dollars to support AHRC NYC programs; and AHRC NYC’s Our Broadway takes center stage in the Hall of Honor. This inclusive theatrical experience, where performers with disabilities collaborate with Broadway stars, brings magical moments to life, and AHRC NYC recognizes three Broadway veterans and performers—Dale Hensley, Gavin Creel, and Thayne Jasperson.

Other honorees will include Sharyn Van Reepinghen, the AHRC NYC Anne Kraus Award named in memory of a formidable AHRC NYC volunteer. Sharyn has demonstrated exceptional dedication to AHRC NYC’s mission. And Kerri Neifeld, Commissioner of the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, is the Recipient of the Leadership in Government Award for her exemplary leadership and visionary commitment to enhancing services for people with developmental disabilities. Errol Louis, New York City journalist and host of Inside City Hall on Spectrum News NY1, who brings decades of distinguished experience in political journalism, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Louis knows New York better than any journalist today, and since AHRC NYC is quintessential New York, who better to shepherd attendees through the evening program?

Be a part of building a more inclusive and empowered community. Support the work of the organization. To learn more about the event and AHRC NYC’s history, click here.

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