“Many students will not have the opportunity to see, hear, feel or try orchestral instruments and I think it is important for all the students to have access to the arts,” said Christine Finn, Music Therapist at Mill Neck.
Sounds of Mozart floated through the air of the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf Auditorium as we welcomed the Island Symphony Orchestra—bringing the world of music to our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. During the presentation, members from the orchestra made their way to the stage to show the children their respective instruments, which included the drums, violin, cello, saxophone, clarinet and more. As one of the orchestra members played her cello, the children were captivated, seemingly hanging on each note. In an effort to teach the children about the instrument, they were invited up onto the stage to feel the vibration of the sound as they took turns playing it. They each squealed with delight at the chance, almost instinctively mimicking the movements they saw her perform just seconds ago.
“Many students will not have the opportunity to see, hear, feel or try orchestral instruments and I think it is important for all the students to have access to the arts,” said Christine Finn, Music Therapist at Mill Neck. “Even for students who have less access to sound, they are able to feel the vibrations on the instruments, like the strings on a cello or the beat of a drum through the floor.”
Take a look at some of the highlights of the Island Symphony Orchestra visit. Enjoy!
“We want work. We need work. We can work. We are willing to work.”
Select Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf Students enrolled in the Mill Neck Services (MNS) Summer Work Program recited the club motto in unison. The students were attending the last in a series of Work Readiness workshops, which serves to prepare each of the students for their summer job placement. School teachers, teacher assistants and MNS job coaches and staff collaborate to bring the motto to life and to promote confidence in the students.
When the Summer Work Program students showed up for the final Work Readiness workshop in their interview-appropriate attire on May 31, they politely gathered around the table, seated in front of their corresponding nametags. In an orderly and respectful manner, students went around the table to introduce themselves through their prepared elevator speeches to Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf alumna Kelly Kildare and the staff present in the room.
Kildare was invited, along with job coach Kristin Chykirda, to return to the very program that helped her get started in the work force. For the past four years, Kildare has been consistently and confidently working for the King Kullen store in Bellmore. MNS Coordinator of Employment Services Marta Reeger, leading the MNS Summer Work Program for 2017, recognized that bringing Kildare back to explain her work experience to the students would be a tremendous influence.
After the students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and describe their skills, and before they performed a mock job interview, with Kildare playing the role of Boss, she described the path she took to employment as a cashier. Students asked questions, eager to learn more. She described challenges she encountered with counting money in an accurate and timely fashion, navigating communication challenges, overcoming nerves and more.
“It wasn’t easy,” Marta Reeger jumps in to remind the students “but, [Kildare] never, never, never gave up!”
Kildare’s journey to employment began with the school’s Vocational Program, where she gathered experience in a number of settings. One such setting, the school store, provided practice in money management and learning customer service. After graduating in 2010, Kildare joined the Mill Neck Services Job Club where she worked on her interview skills and participated in the Day Habilitation program to gain further experience through volunteer opportunities. Despite developmental challenges and being Hard of Hearing, Kildare has made great strides in her position as a cashier at King Kullen. With her friendly personality and willingness to learn, she has progressed steadily.
Other learning opportunities and responsibilities have grown from Kildare’s employment experience, like learning how to take public transportation and making sure her uniform is ready ahead of her scheduled work day.
When asked about her job, Kildare is emphatic in her response. “I feel confident. I feel brave. I feel proud of myself,” she says.
Through the workshop, Kildare hopes to share her enthusiasm and willingness to motivate the students. “If you guys are confident, you will definitely find a job shortly.”
Kildare took her role as the boss for the mock interviews very seriously. She met with each of the students separately and stamped their applications as either “Hired” or “Not Now.” Not all of the students were quite ready according to her standards, which highlights the challenge of the journey.
Believing in the transformative power of a job, Mill Neck Services continually advocates for candidates with disabilities, especially since the rate of unemployment for people with disabilities is significantly higher than for the general population. Creating a culture of inclusive employment has the potential to work for all; from the individual with a disability, the employer who is rewarded with qualified, dedicated workers, the agencies that strive to match the two, all the way to entire communities.
Established in 1986, Mill Neck Services (MNS) has placed more than 1,000 Deaf, Hard of Hearing or otherwise disabled workers in over 400 businesses operating on Long Island. To find out how the qualified candidates in the Steps to Success Program at MNS can help your business, please contact Marta Reeger, Coordinator of Employment Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-922-3818, ext. 315.
Join us on Monday, July 31, 2017, to support the lives of Deaf children and adults…
Join the professional staff at the Center for Hearing Health for the following events during the month of May.
Brunch & Learn: Widex Hearing Instruments
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Learn all about Widex Hearing Instruments and how to control your hearing aid with your iPhone.
Brunch & Learn: Unitron Hearing Instruments
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Learn all about Unitron Hearing Instruments and see the smallest receiver in canal (RIC) on the market! Try it on and wear it in your own environment for one week!
The Center for Hearing Health’s Open House
Thursday, May 11, 2017
10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Tour our top-notch center, meet our dedicated staff and view our state-of-the-art equipment.
Hearing Support Group
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Share your stories and form relationships with other Hearing Impaired individuals, with a special guest speaker!
To RSVP or for more information, call 516-628-4300.
Center for Hearing Health
Serving the Hearing Impaired community for more than 30 years
40 Frost Mill Road, Mill Neck, NY 11765 • millneck.org
The Huntington High School Blue Devils fencing team visited Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf to teach students about the amazing sport of fencing.
The trip, which was coordinated by Blue Devils fencing coach and Mill Neck teacher Michelle O’Brien, allowed students of all ages to enjoy a short warm-up and workout session lead by Huntington physical education teacher Jamie Fishlow and Blue Devils coach Valinda O’Garra.
Members of the Blue Devils fencing team took their time to show Mill Neck students all about the sport, including the equipment, rules and the basic techniques participants utilize.
“They were incredible,” says O’Brien. “I couldn’t have asked for a better demonstration of the sport to kids who’d never seen it before. Students of every age and staff have stopped at my classroom either to tell me something they loved from it or to ask me when the Blue Devils are coming back for more.”
Students from O’Brien’s broadcasting class are currently editing a video taken on that special day.
On a snow-covered Sunday in early January, Mill Neck Manor opened its 500-year-old doors as the location for a Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) event. Our beloved historic Mill Neck Manor (once known as Sefton Manor) served as an ideal location for the event, “Beyond Gatsby: The Fabled Gardens of Long Island’s Gold Coast,” which was a lecture presented by Landscape Architect and Historian CeCe Haydock.
SPLIA’s description of the event reminds us that beginning around the turn of the century and through the 1920s, Long Island’s North Shore was a favorite retreat for the rich and famous. Along with grand houses, they built elaborate gardens, hiring such notable landscape architects like the Olmsted Brothers, Beatrix Ferrand and Ellen Biddle Shipman. Haydock’s illustrated presentation explored several important commissions to reveal the gardens as they were originally designed and built, their history and present condition.
Sefton Manor was built in 1923 for Lillian Sefton-Dodge and her husband Robert Leftwich Dodge in the Tudor revival style and features fine Westchester granite and limestone trim. The formal gardens (sundial gardens) were designed by Charles Wellford Leavitt. The Sefton Manor gardens are beautifully described in a 1934 New York Times article announcing a garden party to benefit the North Country Community Hospital:
“The sundial gardens on this estate, which follow Old World garden design, are unlike anything else in this country, both from the floral and the architectural point of view. They are laid out on a plan based upon the signs of the zodiac, with classic temples symbolizing Morning, Evening and Midday. A Venetian fountain and a mirror-like canal add to the atmosphere of quiet beauty. This garden has never before been opened to the public.”
This particular garden party drew in more than 1,800 guests and boasted elegantly decorated tea tables that sat underneath bright umbrellas on the stone terrace. Debutantes and subdebutantes, dressed in picturesque costumes, strolled across the lawn selling cigarettes, wildflowers and sweets. Guests wandered along the brookside or through the beautifully colored gardens with music playing in the background.
The three temples are still visible to visitors and the gardens are used by students for school events to this day. The Manor House and gardens are open for scheduled visitors one Sunday at month. Our 2017 tour schedule is posted, make your reservation today!
“I started to cry because he didn’t say to me, ‘Mommy, I hear better,’ he said, ‘Mommy, I feel better.’”
“My heart was crushed. I didn’t understand why this was happening to us.”
That was Zina LoDuca’s first thought when she found out her 3-year-old son, Peter, was going Deaf.
Zina mentally checked a long line of family history; no one had ever been Deaf before: Peter was the first. Zina didn’t know where to turn. The family pediatrician referred them to Mill Neck’s Early Childhood Center (ECC)—a school that helps 3 and 4 year olds with a wide range of special communication needs—where he was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss.
“I felt so nervous,” Zina remembers as tears roll down her cheeks. “My only comfort was that I knew Peter was in good hands with Mill Neck; they walked us through a very difficult time.”
Through Mill Neck Services Center for Hearing Health (formerly known as Mill Neck Audiology), Peter was fitted for hearing aids and Zina could instantly see a change in her little boy.
“I started to cry because he didn’t say to me, ‘Mommy, I hear better,’ he said, ‘Mommy, I feel better.'”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mill Neck’s help,” Peter says. “They’ve been by my side through everything. Now, they’re family.”
Peter progressed beautifully at the ECC and after graduating he was able to attend a mainstream school.
As the years went on, Peter enjoyed his academics and found his niche on the baseball field.
Unfortunately, that didn’t stop him from being physically and mentally bullied every day because of his disability.
“People didn’t see me; all they saw was my hearing aids,” he says with a lump in his throat. “They would play with my hearing aids and switch them on and off. For so long, I have battled and it’s engrained so deep in me. But I’m proud of who I am now.”
With the help of Mill Neck, Peter took this life-altering obstacle in stride. But it wasn’t long before he would come face-to-face with another one. And this time, it was a matter of life and death.
Peter was 12 years old when a CAT scan revealed a diagnosis that turned his world upside down, again: Lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
When Marianne Artinian—a longtime employee for Mill Neck Services Center for Hearing Health and, now, a close friend of the LoDuca family—heard the news, she visited the hospital right away.
“I was so relieved when Marianne came to see us,” Zina says. “She brought her son with her who was a cancer survivor and said, ‘Look at my son; he’s fine. This will be Peter soon, too; don’t you worry.’”
The only way Peter knew how to handle this unfathomable situation was to focus on recovering with enough time to get back on the baseball field for the spring season. During this time, he connected with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and fulfilled his dream of catching the opening pitch from former New York Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca (no relation).
(Click here to view Peter on the Today Show as an ambassador for Make-A-Wish Foundation.)
With a new outlook on life, Peter excelled in school is now studying Sports Management at Farmingdale State College on Long Island.
Join us in our mission to give individuals like Peter the support and resources they need to overcome life’s obstacles by making a contribution.
I thank you in advance for your generosity and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a healthy joyous New Year.
Michael F. Killian
President and CEO
By Larry Manning, Physical Education and Athletic Director
Heading into the 2016 season, the Mill Neck Manor (MNM) soccer team had its sights set on the annual Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association (ESDAA) Soccer Tournament. Mill Neck returned five starters from last year’s team: Keren Guerra, Julio Reyes, Kevin Canales, Noel Rodriguez and Jose Yanes, plus two newcomers: Nataly Osorio and Bianca Llorens. In addition, Mill Neck also had two young players, Bryan Alfaro and Jonathan Velasquez, participating to help prepare them for the future.
Prior to the ESDAA Tournament, the team participated in the 26th annual Friendship Soccer Tournament on Oct. 14-15 at the New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, N.Y. In order to have enough players to participate, Mill Neck combined with Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD). Struggling to find the right balance and chemistry with PSD, we, unfortunately, lost both games. However, the players gained valuable experience during the two games and it helped prepare both MNM and PSD for the ESDAA Tournament.
On Oct. 21-22, Mill Neck, again, combined with PSD for the annual ESDAA Division 2 Soccer Tournament. This year’s tournament was held at Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) and co-hosted by both PSD and RSD. Other schools participating included: Rhode Island, New Jersey, St. Mary’s (Buffalo), Rochester, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The team entered the tournament unsure of how they would fare due to the previous weekend’s results. MNM/PSD opened the tournament against defending champions, Rochester, and proceeded to lose 3 – 0.
The team had an hour to ponder and discuss strategy for the next game against West Virginia School for the Deaf (WVSD). Something must have clicked between the first game and this game as we soundly beat WVSD 10 – 0. Noel had 3 goals, Keren had 2 goals and Julio and Kevin had one goal apiece. Bianca Llorens narrowly scored, but the ball hit the post and bounced harmlessly away from the net. Our bench players had plenty of playing time during this game.
At the end of day one, we were seeded number two in Pool A and were set to play against the number one seed from Pool B, N.J. On Oct. 22, with thoughts of last year’s loss, MNM/PSD came out on fire and jumped out to a 2 – 0 lead thanks to goals from Noel and Keren. N.J. narrowed the lead to 2 – 1, which was the score at half time. MNM/PSD got one back on a beautiful breakaway goal by Keren to take a 3 – 1 lead. N.J. came back less than a minute later to make it a 3 – 2 game. With less than two minutes left in the game, Jose banged one into the upper left corner on a free kick to take a 4 – 2 lead. On the final whistle, players and coaches of both MNM and PSD teams were thrilled to not only win, but to clinch a spot in the championship game.
MNM/PSD had to play Rochester again for the championship. The game was deadlocked at one apiece at halftime. However, the second half was all about Rochester as we could not contain their two-time tournament MVP who scored four goals in the game.
It turned out to be an excellent tournament for the MNM/PSD team, finishing runner-up after coming in fifth place last year. For her efforts and talents, Keren Guerra was named onto the All-Tournament Team.
Great job everyone!!
“Giving back”: two words, three syllables, and jam-packed with power.
When you decide to participate in this selfless act of kindness, you decide to stand up. You stand up for a cause you believe in; you stand up for change; you stand up to make a difference; you stand up for those who are less fortunate.
Mill Neck Family of Organizations encourages you to stand up alongside us as we partner with #GivingTuesday—a national movement that embodies the phrase “pay it forward,” redefining the giving season by dedicating an entire day to give back to a charity you’re passionate about.
On Tuesday, November 29, 2016—after we give thanks to our loved ones on Thanksgiving, and after we find the best deals with holiday shopping through Black Friday and Cyber Monday—choose to support Mill Neck’s mission to give children and adults who are Deaf and have other disabilities a chance to live a fulfilling life.
Even the simplest acts of giving back can have a monumental impact.
To learn more about #GivingTuesday, please visit GivingTuesday.org.
- FACEBOOK: Facebook.com/GivingTuesday
- TWITTER: Twitter.com/GivingTues
- INSTAGRAM: Instagram.com/GivingTuesday
Wani, a former student of Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, has spent most of his life in silence, unable to communicate with the world around him.
Born Deaf, losing both of his parents at a young age coupled with a string of misfortunes, has landed Wani in a nursing home for the past 16 years. The trouble is that Wani, who is only 52 years old—and extremely smart and capable—doesn’t belong in a nursing home: he belongs back in the community. Wani deserves to begin a new journey, experience meaningful relationships and let the light back into his life—a light that has been dark for quite some time now.
When Patricia Gormley, Medicaid Services Coordinator, and Christine Oddo, Associate Director of Mill Neck Services, Inc.—an organization that gives Deaf and Hard of Hearing people access to employment and community services—found out about this, they made it their first priority to break Wani free. Free of feeling trapped; free of thinking this was all that life had to offer; and free of living as though he was already gone.
Upon first meeting, Wani aimlessly walked the halls of A. Holly Paterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale. We headed over to a quiet area to chat, when Wani politely pulled up an extra chair for me—he aptly noticed there wasn’t enough seats for the three of us—and motioned for me and Christine to sit down. Wani stared back at us with heavy eyes—eyes that had seen a lot of hurt, eyes that had given up hope. “I’m just tired today,” he said to us, his fingers flowing through the air to communicate in American Sign Language.
Christine brought him the good news that she was going to visit the new Epic community home in Port Jefferson Station that he would be moving to soon. “It’s really lovely,” she said. “I think you’ll like it.” She went on to explain about the Mill Neck Services program he could join, Day Habilitation—a program for people who are Deaf and have other disabilities, helping them to become more independent through socialization, communication and leisurely activities. Wani’s lips curled up into a smile for the first time all day: it suited him.
Wani was adamant that he wanted to be around Deaf people. Who could blame him? No one knew sign language at the nursing home except for Nick, a security guard. But Wani, who grew up in Harlem, N.Y., was unfortunately accustomed to being unable to communicate with the people around him. “My father died when I was nine; he didn’t know any sign language,” he explained. “My mother signed fluently but she died four years after my father. Then, I went to live with my aunt who knew some sign, but not much.”
When Wani was 19 years old, he attended Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf—a school that helps Deaf children to unlock their potential through quality education. “I really enjoyed it there,” he said. But while in school, the tragedies that Wani endured during his childhood caught up with him. He was thrown into an unfathomable depth of depression. Unable to think of a way out, Wani suffered a self-inflicted injury that caused him to have seizures, ultimately landing him in an extended care nursing facility.
“My mother and my father were gone and I was so scared and alone,” Wani recalled. “I didn’t have Mill Neck’s phone number; I kept looking through the phone book.” Christine signed “I’m sorry” with her hand circling her heart. “But we’re here now.”
“I trust you,” Wani replied. “I know you’ll get me out of here.”
Wani’s story is leading example of the isolation and helplessness a Deaf person can feel when they aren’t given the right tools and resources. But Wani’s story is also one of strength and perseverance. His future finally looks bright: Mill Neck Services will make sure it stays that way.
For more information on Mill Neck Services, Inc. or how to help individuals just like Wani, please call 516-922-3818 or visit millneck.org/our-services/community-services-for-adults-and-children/.
Disclaimer: All stories regarding Mill Neck Services participants have been reviewed and approved by respective subjects.