Panel Moves Crowd to Tears with Care-Taker Stories

Information, advice, and heartwarming stories were shared by more than 100 families, providers, self-advocates and others at BCArc’s Family Support Conference at the Country Club of Pittsfield.  The “Family Support Conference 2019: Person-Centered Thinking: Caring about Your Family,” presented by the Berkshire County Arc, featured keynote speaker Sophia Johansson, who offered an overview of “Charting the LifeCourse,” a framework to help families discover the elements needed to determine their own futures.

During the Lifelines family panel:

  • Rebecca Harrington told of her lifelong commitment to care for her brother Michael, and the joy she felt when realizing support was necessary and available. “We shopped around to 12 different programs before making a choice.”
  • Robert Perkins, a self-advocate, described with pride his successful move into his own apartment and the independence he feels, with the support of his team.
  • Maren Jacobs explained how she came to make the painful decision to transition her daughter Lisa into residential care, and how it turned out to be a great—and smooth—transition for both of them.
  • Gerry Hurley described the challenges her family overcame with the support of her son Drew’s team and the help of local agencies.
  • Lindy Haczela and Nancy Burt talked about how they secured the needed services and supports for each of their sons to succeed in the school system.

“We think individuals and families of all abilities and all ages deserve to have rich, happy lives,” said Kenneth Singer, president and CEO of BCArc, “and we wanted the day to help families set goals that can help them to achieve desired outcomes.”

A series of workshops and a family panel during the day addressed topics that included: Charting the LifeCourse framework; mindful movement; Department of Developmental Services 101; How to tell your story; and more.

Presenters included practitioners, program managers, representatives from the Commonwealth, self-advocate, and family members.

Other speakers and panelists included:
Kenneth Singer, President & CEO of Berkshire County Arc
Maryann Hyatt, Chief Operating Officer, Berkshire County Arc
Sonja Stewart, Director of Family Support and Advocacy, Berkshire County Arc
Kerry Mahoney, Director of Education and Outreach, The Arc of Massachusetts
Herb Cabral, Family Educator/Facilitator in the Advocacy Alliance program, The Arc of Massachusetts
Ingrid Flory, Director of Family Support for the Department of Developmental Services Central/West Region
Pamela Hickey, Self-Direction Manager for Central/West, Department of Developmental Services
Christine Singer, president, Your Personal Best: Workshops for Success
Barbara Pastie, Shake Your Soul® instructor

Conference exhibitors included: Berkshire County Arc,  Department of Developmental Services, Berkshire County Arc’s Down Syndrome Family Group, Ad lib, BFAIR, Autism Connections, United Cerebral Palsy of Western States, and Berkshire Community Action Council.

About Berkshire County Arc
Founded in 1954, Berkshire County Arc provides a broad range of community-based services to 1,000-plus individuals with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and autism throughout Berkshire and Hampden Counties in Massachusetts. With nearly 800 employees, the agency offers four day-programs, 39 residential programsemployment services, citizen- and self-advocacy programs, respite services, family support services, community-based day services, transitional services, an adult family care program, and a mail business called Zip-n-Sort Mail Services, partly staffed by individuals with disabilities.

David Singer
Director of Communications and Marketing
Berkshire County Arc

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