Rockland Center Hosts Ceremony For ADA Anniversary

Rockland Independent Living Center celebrated the 22nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and the County Legislature have declared July 27, 2012, “Disability Awareness Day in Rockland County.


On Friday morning, community members and official attended Rockland Independent Living Center's award ceremony. The ceremony celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the day the americans with disabilities act (ADA) was signed, which was Thursday.

"Today was an uplifting experience where recognition was given for dedicated and solid public service as well as truly inspiring stories of people who when faced with adversity through physical limitations overcame and are incredible role models for anyone within our community," said George Hoehmann, Executive Director of RILC

Because of the day's event, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and the County Legislature declared July 27, 2012, “Disability Awareness Day in Rockland County.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in a cooperative, bi-partisan effort by Congress 22 years ago, was the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.

"What sets the Rockland Independent Living Center apart from other agencies serving people with disabilities is our recognition that true community leadership happens by example," said Sarah Mitchell Weed, ILS Program Director.

Audrey Rosenfield, RILC Board President and George Hoehmann, Executive Director opened up the ceremony followed by guest speaker, New York State Senator William J. Larkin. Several officials spoke afterward including Legislators Harriet Cornell, Ed Day, Christopher Carey and Frank Sparaco. 

RILC honored advocates at a ceremony and breakfast at Casa Mia Manor House in Blauvelt to recognize people whose work and lives exemplify the spirit of this landmark law. 

The following awards will be presented:

  • Senator Eugene Levy Independent Living Award—Honorable Harriet Cornell
  • William H. Mullin System Change Advocate Award—Town of Clarkstown
  • Keith B. Hayes Memorial Spirit of Mentoring Award—Matthew Castelluccio, Director of Adaptive Sports Program at Helen Hayes Hospital
  • William A. Morales Award—Diane Adele Pomeroy, Advocate
  • RILC Spirit of Recovery Award—Levi Riddick

"We were pleased with the turnout over 150 were in attendance. The visibility that was brought to the Anniversary of the ADA by the numerous speakers as well as the Disability Awareness Day Proclamation is important so that the rights of persons with disabilities are remembered and respected," said Hoehmann. "However, what was even more important is that we were inspired by the stories that were imparted today through the lives of people with disabilities who have done extraordinary things." 

"It was such a great honor to receive the Keith B. Hayes Memorial Spirit of Mentoring Award this morning," said Castelluccio. "Rockland Independent Living Center is doing amazing things for the disabled population in our area. I have worked hard over the last nine years of my recovery to help myselft to see beyond my limitions to see the possibilities. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to help others to see the potential too. There is no amount of money that can equal the feeling I get when I see someone see beyond their limitations at all the posibilities.  When I was hurt in 2003, I thought my life ended. I now realize that the day of my accident marks the day my life began. I have been fortunate to achieve so much and I owe it all to my disability. I consider myself blessed."  

"The William A. Morales award is given to an individual with a disability who has demonstrated independence, growth, perseverance and leadership; a consumer in our PACER program who exemplifies these attributes, while also taking on the responsibility of managing their own personal care assistants," said Joel Taveras, PACER Program Director. "Diane Adele Pomeroy ... has been a leader in the local community serving as an advocate through the OMBUDSMAN Program, allowing persons with disabilities in nursing homes and institutions to know their rights and have a voice in the quality of their care ... It is a pleasure to present the William A. Morales Award to Diane Adele Pomeroy." 

RILC also celebrated the recent changes in the ADA that have had a positive impact on the ability of people with disabilities to live independently.

"One of the award recipients Matthew Castelluccio remarked that he had thought his life had ended when he had his accident leaving him paralyzed from the waist down in 2003--yet what he learned was that his life had only really just begun at that point," said Hoehmann. "Matt was recognized today for his role as a mentor, he serves as the Director of the Adaptive Sports Program at the Helen Hayes Hospital and has helped literally hundreds to move forward after catastrophic injury or illness. Another award winner, Diane Adele Pomeroy was recognized by the New York State legislature last year as an advocate, despite the obvious limitations that her disability can impose, she works to help literally hundreds of others as an advocate in nursing homes. Levi Riddick shared some of his story of a person in recovery and he too is  a well known mentor to persons in recovery. Our elected officials attending and being recognized such as Chairwoman Harriet Cornell who has done so much to help many and to the Town of Clarkstown that has implemented numerous new services and upgrades to better include persons with disabilities these are important things to note." 

"The Town is grateful for the recognition," said Alex Gromack, town supervisor. "We have been on the cutting edge to make sure we comply with all ADA rules and regulations in our facilities, pools, in our upcoming projects, etc.  We believe we have eliminated barriers and made the Town of Clarkstown more accessible to all our residents and their guests."

The mission of RILC is to promote choice and independence in living situations and community participation, as well as to advocate for the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers for persons with disabilities.

About the Awards

The Senator Eugene Levy Memorial Independent Living Award is presented to an individual whose efforts have made a significant contribution to the lives of people with disabilities.  The award was established in 1996 to honor Senator Levy’s work in helping to establish the founding of Rockland Independent Living Center.

This year’s recipient of the Senator Eugene Levy Memorial Independent Living Award is: The Honorable Harriet Cornell

In June 2008, William H. Mullin passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Bill will be remembered for his service to this organization and the Rockland County community.  His commitment to the Cyber Café to help people with disabilities learn basic computer skills, gain access to the internet and provide a space for social networking will forever be honored.  RILC, along with the William H. Mullin family, has established the William H. Mullin Memorial Systems Change Advocate Award, which is given annually to a person who has worked towards making significant changes in the lives of people with disabilities.

This year’s recipient of the William H. Mullin Systems Change Advocate Award is: The Town of Clarkstown

 Keith B. Hayes passed away on September 14t, 2007 at the age of 20 due to a progressive muscular/skeletal disease.  The Keith B. Hayes Memorial Spirit of Mentoring Award was established to continue Keith’s spirit of giving to others in need, and is awarded to a person who exemplifies outstanding achievement through the mentoring of others with disabilities on their path to employment and independence.

The Keith B. Hayes memorial Spirit of Mentoring Award this year will be presented to: Matthew Castelluccio

William Morales was a dedicated advocate who diligently worked to bring about change in all areas for people with disabilities.  Will strongly believed in the Independent Living Philosophy; that regardless of disability, all individuals have full control over the direction of their lives.  He developed the PACER program and organized “Barrier Busters,” a group dedicated to ensuring that the needs of those with disabilities were always met.  The William A. Morales Award is given to a person who is a role model in taking charge of their own services.

This year’s recipient of the William A. Morales Award is: Diane Adele Pomeroy

The Spirit of Recovery Award is given to a person who best exemplifies the strengths needed to face the challenge of recovery.  This is an inaugural award that recognizes the new services that RILC is offering in partnership through the Reach One Regional Peer Recovery Center.

This year’s recipient of the Spirit of Recovery Award isLevi Riddick

The following individuals assisted in organizing the day's events:

  • Lorraine Greenwell
  • Kathy Plachy
  • Dana Krengel
  • Sabina DeGaetano
  • And all of the staff at RILC


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