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.
Lutheran Friends of the Deaf is pleased to announce that a new interpreted worship service opportunity will be available to people who are Deaf through a new partnership. Beginning on Sept. 11, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (420 Stewart Ave., Garden City, N.Y.) will have an American Sign Language interpreted service each second Sunday of the month at 11 a.m.
Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf goes beyond in-classroom learning and provides their students with real-life learning opportunities. This summer, Deaf Education Center students went on many experiential learning excursions. One of which was learning how to cook. Each week, the students, along with staff, would go to different grocery stores to practice shopping following an itemized recipe list. Once they have purchased their items, they would then head to the school’s Life and Sciences kitchen to cook and eat together as a group.
“I want them to learn how to make simple recipes that they can do on their own,” says Maria Limperis, a teacher at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf. “There are so many learning factors that play into this activity, including literacy skills by writing and following a list; learning about reusing ingredients to make another meal; navigating directions to each grocery store; working on cooperation and team building; learning how to use equipment and more.”
Joel Pastrana, a high school student at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, finds this particular activity to be extremely enjoyable. “We all get together and work as a team. When we go home we can cook because we have done it already in school.”
Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (LFD) Reverend Thomas Dunseth recently traveled to the city of Macau, China. Rev. Dunseth’s first stop was at the graduation ceremony for the Concordia School for Special Education in Macau where he is currently the President of the Board. He was responsible for presenting certificates of merit to three Concordia School teachers.
For the next stop, Reverend Thomas Dunseth visited the Pu Choi Center of Fu Hong Society for Special Needs in the city of Macau. The Pu Choi Center provides comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services for adults with mild or moderate mental handicap (some of their clients are Deaf). With financial aid provided by the Social Welfare Bureau, the center is able to cater for up to 100 service users. Using diversified working modes, one-stop services including workshops, supported employment, on-the-job training, and programmed trainings, the center gradually enhances the work skills and adaptive capacities of the service users and finally helps them get engaged in open employment.
Rev. Dunseth’s final stop was with the Lutheran Social Services (LSS) in Hong Kong. LSS is an agency of the Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod which is a long time church partner of both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and LFD. The Hong Kong Synod Lutherans operate the only Deaf school in Hong Kong (Lutheran School for the Deaf), and the LSS operated several Deaf centers. Rev. Dunseth took the time to visit with one of the centers in Hong Kong where Deaf people are served. LFD/Mill Neck Foundation for Deaf Ministry gave a grant during the 2015-2016 grant cycle called ‘Get Moving Healthy Life.’ This was to encourage Deaf people in Hong Kong to be mindful of their bodies and souls which God has given them. Highlighted in this project was focus on care for the whole person: eating right, getting plenty of exercise, as well as church going and Bible study.
LFD develops and disseminates resources for deaf ministry, congregations and training for religious interpreters. Originally founded in 1947, LFD is a Recognized Service Organization within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. LFD is the founding organization of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations.
Two Young Brothers Set up Shop to Help Students with Disabilities
When Amanda Cerami, an employee of Mill Neck Services‘ Community Habilitation program and Medicaid Service Coordinator, met blind 6-year-old Anthony Dones in 2008, her life was changed forever.
Anthony didn’t grow up like other children his age. Diagnosed legally blind and with osteoporosis, he wasn’t focused on life’s superficial offerings. He didn’t fret over video games, or beg to stay up past his bedtime to watch his favorite cartoons. Anthony, who was receiving services from Mill Neck at the time, learned at an early age what is really important in life: the intangible.
“Anthony taught me how to appreciate the simple things that most people take for granted, like being able to see what he wears every day, knowing what he looks like, and when he visits a beach being able to see what’s in front of him,” Amanda said. “This 6-year-old boy taught me how precious life can be and inspired me to want to help others.”
From there, Amanda began working at Mill Neck Services in the Community Habilitation program, which is designed to help individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing and have other disabilities, to learn independence skills and improve their socialization skills. She also works as a Medicaid Service Coordinator for Mill Neck, a program that helps hearing children and young adults who have intellectual disabilities adjust to life and build long lasting relationships. “I enjoy encouraging our individuals, supporting their participation in recreational activities and watching them get excited when they learn something new or master a task,” she explained.
Amanda’s passion and dedication for her work naturally spilled over into her family life. “One day, I told my family that I would like to help put a group together that would benefit both groups of individuals in Community Habilitation and Medicaid Service.” Amanda’s brothers, Tyler, age 9, and Nicholas, age 5 – who previously attended Mill Neck’s Early Childhood Center for speech – both jumped at the chance to help. “It was important to me that Tyler and Nicholas understand that not everybody has the same opportunities as they have,” Amanda explained.
Amanda, Tyler and Nicholas decided to set up a lemonade stand to help such an important cause, raising around $160 for the individuals at Mill Neck. “They really enjoyed running the lemonade stand, and would like to continue to do it. Thanks to their efforts we are putting together a fishing trip outing for the group in July.”
A special thank you to Owen and Michael Perfetti for also participating in the lemonade stand.
For Vincenza and Daniel Garcia: it was simple. When their one-year-old niece, Giuliana Fullone, was diagnosed with severe hearing loss, they knew they wanted to do something special for her—give back somehow. But just mailing a check wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, they decided to make an impact—run 6.2 miles through the most magical place on Earth: Disney World.
It’s been said before that bringing a child into this world is one of life’s greatest miracles. The melodic purity of their laugh; the high-pitched squeak of their first word; the soothing wave of comfort splashed on their face at the sound of a familiar voice. These gifts are ones that play on a blissful loop; engrained memories for parents that make it all worth it—make it all tangible.
But for some, those tangible gifts turn to intangible fears when things don’t go as planned. And for the Fullone family, those fears became an earth-shattering reality the very day they found out their daughter, Giuliana, was unable to hear.
“The first thing I felt was shock—sort of like a trauma,” Carolina Fullone, Giuliana’s mother, explained.
With a trauma of this kind, it usually bleeds into the hearts of anyone in arm’s length. In this case, it was Carolina’s sister, Vincenza. “Our family was extremely worried for Giuliana. I remember thinking, ‘Are her peers going to make fun of her or bully her because of her disability?’ and ‘What do we do now?’”
Numerous physician visits, inundated with new research and unfamiliar information, hearing aid trials, constant speech therapy—all of which failed to improve Giuliana’s hearing—started to take a toll on everyone involved.
But Vincenza was behind them every step of the way—she knew that her sprightly, bright-eyed niece would come out of this stronger than ever. “Giuliana is extremely caring and thoughtful,” she said with a full heart. “When I saw everything she had been through, I knew that she would emerge determined and strong-willed.”
Because Giuliana’s hearing aids failed, she became a candidate for cochlear implants. She was enrolled in the Nassau BOCES Hearing Services Infant Program five days a week and underwent two cochlear implant surgeries—all before the age of two. Giuliana then moved on to attend Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, and this is where things began falling into place.
“When Giuliana first came to Mill Neck, her speech was nowhere near the level it is today,” recalled Vincenza. “Now she has more than 100 words in her vocabulary and has no signs of a speech delay. She speaks in complete sentences and communicates very clearly.”
Inspired by the sheer strength Giuliana possesses, Vincenza and her husband, Daniel, decided to participate in an event called runDisney, allowing participants the unique opportunity to run through Disney Theme Parks. In February of this year, Vincenza and Daniel ran the Disney Princess Enchanted 10k race at the Epcot center in Orlando, Fla., to raise money for Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf and to raise awareness for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
“Completing this event was a huge accomplishment and knowing that it was being done to thank Mill Neck Manor’s teachers was the motivation behind it all,” Vincenza continued. “Our hope is that Giuliana learns that through determination, perseverance and faith, she can achieve anything.”
Established in 1951, Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf provides the highest quality of services to children who are deaf and have other special needs from all social and economic backgrounds. Children are bused to Mill Neck daily from 49 Long Island School Districts, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan with the hope that one day they will have an opportunity to leave their mark on the world, just like everyone else.
For more information on how to help children at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, please contact 516-922-4100.
“Gospel Hands” Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an exciting 4-day program being offered this summer by Lutheran Friends of the Deaf. Free of charge to Deaf children and their siblings (ages 6-12), this unique VBS will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Garden City on August 16-19, 2016.
Since 1947, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (LFD), the founding member of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations has made it their mission to serve the spiritual needs of those who are Deaf, locally, nationally and around the world. And while they serve Deaf individuals as far away as Ethiopia, LFD’s first and foremost priority is to serve individuals right in their backyard of Long Island.
With a generous grant from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), LFD was able to develop and launch this special program. LFD also teamed up with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), who awarded a grant that funded the development of “Bible Story Books”—a series of 12 written and ASL Bible Stories for children. Using the Bible Story Books as the basis of the VBS curriculum, LFD will bring the Gospel into the lives of children by combining American Sign Language, expressive artwork, the written word and video.
Language and cultural barriers have often left the Deaf population in isolation, especially when it comes to learning the Gospel. Christian Deaf ministries estimate that only 1 percent of Deaf adults will attend a Christian church. Through “Gospel Hands” VBS, as well as other programs and social events, LFD aims to reach hundreds of Deaf individuals on Long Island, greatly increasing the percentage of those who attend an LCMS church and also actively participate in this community.
Advance registration is required to attend the “Gospel Hands” VBS. The program’s hours are from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Lunch will be provided and financial scholarships for public transportation are available for those with a demonstrated need. Please visit millneck.org for more details or contact Deaconess Tiffany Manor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-628-4229.
Mill Neck Services
Center for Hearing Health
is celebrating hearing health all month long! Call 516-628-4258 today to reserve your spot at these FREE events.
May 4 & 5
This Mother’s Day, why not give the gift of better hearing?
Free hearing screenings and hearing aid cleaning will be available. Refreshments too!
“Good Neighbor” Days
Hearing screenings open to the community. All ages.
Civil Service Day
Hearing screenings for civil service employees.
The Center for Hearing Health is a full-service adult and pediatric audiology facility. Most insurances accepted.
Mill Neck Services Center for Hearing Health
40 Frost Mill Road
Mill Neck, NY 11765
Meet Grammy award winning musician Sting and director Trudie Styler at Mill Neck Manor Event
It’s not every day you see the words “music” and “Deafness” paired together in such harmony. Actually, it may sound downright out of place for those who aren’t familiar with Deaf, hard of hearing or special needs populations. Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf has witnessed the astounding effects of music therapy and improved literacy first-hand—and they’re personally inviting you into their world.
On Wednesday, June 22, from 6-8 p.m., the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, along with actress and director Trudie Styler and world-renowned musician Sting, is hosting an exclusive evening called “Rhythm and Reds.” This special event features a wine tasting of vintages from their Tuscan estate, Il Palagio, and food pairing to benefit the Mill Neck Manor Music Endowment Fund for children and adults who are Deaf and have other special needs.
When it comes to literacy, Deaf children have the odds stacked against them from the time they are born. Deaf infants begin life in a soundless world with the unimaginable task of trying to make sense of what is happening around them. By school age, most Deaf children’s language skills are significantly behind their hearing peers and the gap tends to widen as time goes by. Mill Neck was pleased to find studies that show music can act as a powerful tool to positively affect oral language development and increase other literacy skills.
“Rhythm and Reds” was launched to foster awareness of the significant connection between music and literacy skills and create continued support of this important educational endeavor. And this remarkable connection extends beyond just the Deaf population. Mill Neck’s Early Childhood Center, which consists of 3- and 4-year-old children who have intense communication issues, such as speech/language delays and disorders, cognitive and motor deficits and autism-related disorders, are also profoundly affected by the influence of music and literacy.
The upcoming event will be held at the historic Mill Neck Manor House, a circa 1923, Tudor Revival mansion at 40 Frost Mill Road in Mill Neck. Attendees will partake in a special wine tasting of four vintage red wines: “When We Dance,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Casino delle Vie” and “Sister Moon,” all produced at Il Palagio—Trudie and Sting’s sprawling 865-acre Tuscan estate. The April 2016 issue of Wine Spectator features Trudie and Sting on its cover and a 9-page story on their award-winning wines and beautiful Italian home.
Guests will also enjoy a variety of delectable hors d’oeuvres created by celebrated Long Island chef/restaurateur Tom Schaudel and have opportunities to bid on silent auction items, including a Fender Precision Bass Guitar autographed by Sting; dinner for 10; the evening’s featured wines; an autographed selection of Sting’s albums and much more. Note: online auction bidding begins on Monday, May 16 at 10 a.m.
Tickets for “Rhythm & Reds” are $200 per person. Space is limited. For more information, please contact Samantha Hallman at 516-628-4239 or email@example.com.