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The goal of Niagara Cerebral Palsy is to help those with developmental disabilities – from infants to adults – live the most independent and inclusive lives they can, according to John Reardon, executive director/chief executive officer.

To that end, the organization served 4,000 clients last year in a wide variety of ways. It provided everything from 24-hour residential care and in-home respite to preschool and early childhood special education, and offered dental, audiology and podiatry clinics, as well as occupational and physical therapy.

The nonprofit corporation is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and will be holding its annual Snowflake Basket Auction from 4 to 8 p.m. March 21 and from noon to 5 p.m. March 22 in the Niagara Falls Elks Lodge, 1805 Fashion Outlet Blvd.

In the past four years, the event has helped raise nearly $50,000, used to help purchase items like therapeutic swings and sensory chairs and teaching materials, as well as to upgrade the organization’s group homes.

“We’d like to try and make the public aware that we are not just cerebral palsy – in fact, that’s a small percentage of the children and adults who use our services every day,” Reardon said. “Our agency serves children – even infants – and adults with any type of developmental disability, whether it’s autism, neurological disorders, intellectual deficits, cerebral palsy or any other type of syndrome – there is a wide range of disabilities.”

For example, Melissa Loor has two children with Down syndrome, Tommy, 11, and Abby, 7.

“Both of my children started at Niagara Cerebral Palsy at age two for preschool,” Loor said. “They also received physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and socialized with other kids.

“Now, both of them are at Harry F. Abate School, in the life skills program,” said the Niagara Falls resident. “Tommy has been graded a Level Four, with distinction, which is the highest level. Both have learned so many of the skills they needed at NCP. They are doing phenomenally.”

“And I started working part time at NCP as a medical assistant in the dental and podiatry clinics,” she added. “It’s really great. The therapists all try to work with each other – they all communicate. And every teacher genuinely cares about the kids they are working with.”

Reardon said the agency “continues to expand our services, and we have expertise in a number of areas. We have quite a diverse array of services available to people.”

Reardon said the organization bases its offerings on “the unmet needs or needs that are not fully being met in the community.”

In the 13 years since he joined Niagara Cerebral Palsy, Reardon said, “We’ve expanded our services in a number of areas, for example our clinics – where people can receive dental care, for instance, so they might only visit a couple of times a year. We’ve added our Geri Rose Garden Apartment Complex (built in 2003) with 11 apartments on our grounds – we’re the landlord of these apartments; and we have day services – an area that certainly continues to grow.”

Services were limited to the care and treatment of children when Niagara Cerebral Palsy opened in 1954 with one employee in one location. It began offering therapeutic services to children with cerebral palsy in response to a strong community need, as therapeutic options were limited to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.

In the 1960s, Niagara Cerebral Palsy’s vocational division began providing evaluation, training, supported employment, adult education, recreation, day habilitation and other services for adults with disabilities.

Its residential division, started in 1986, operates several intermediate care facilities, supportive apartments and individual residential alternatives throughout Niagara County. Depending on the facility, residents may participate in active treatment programs, including therapy, or may receive services geared toward independent living.

A multi-purpose facility opened in 1991, housing the Niagara Children Education and Treatment Center and administrative offices. Children receive preschool education, clinical services, early intervention and/or home-based therapy. The agency serves both disabled and non-disabled children ranging from birth to five years old. The agency also operates dental, podiatry, audiology, therapy and wheelchair clinics there.

Offices and programs are located throughout the Town of Niagara, Lockport, Wheatfield and Niagara Falls.

“We have 350 employees at 25 sites throughout Niagara County,” Reardon said. “And I am truly proud of our workforce. They are extremely dedicated and compassionate. This is very tough work and they are excellent.” He said the organization also strives to offer support to the families of its clients.

“We offer as much support as they need,” he said. “Family involvement is critical to our success and so we try and involve the family as much as we can.”

Reardon said fundraisers such as the one later this month are “huge.”

“Like all agencies that offer services like we do across New York State, we are challenged by reduced funding,” he said. “We rely on Medicaid for many of our services. So we all need to be creative and innovative in maximizing the funds we receive. Our fundraisers help bridge that gap between what is provided through Medicaid and what we need to maintain our high quality of services.”

Other events planned for this anniversary year include: the Matthew J. Murphy on the Tee Fore NCP Golf Tournament on June 13 to benefit the agency’s adult development program; a Niagara Cerebral Palsy-Sertoma sponsored chicken barbecue in August; and a fashion show in November.

The organization also has a television show, “NCP Beyond Barriers,” on LCTV, Channel 20, which highlights the organization’s work, building awareness and advocacy for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

The agency is licensed by the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities and the state Education Department. It was nominated this year as one of The Buffalo News’ “Top Workplaces.” It also earned “provider of choice” distinction with several area health organizations, including Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and First Choice Health.

For more information, visit: www.niagaracp.org