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Barry Presented 2011 Unsung Hero Award

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Linda Barry
Linda Barry

On Friday, March 4, Linda Barry, special education teacher at Grafton High School, received the 2011 Unsung Hero award presented by the Central Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities Citizen’s Advisory Board. The award was presented at the Annual Citizen Advisory Board’s Legislative Breakfast held at Clark University in Worcester.

Mrs. Barry was nominated for the award by Grafton residents Richard and Cynthia Bissell who’s son Eric is a Junior at Grafton High. The award was presented to Mrs. Barry by nominator and Keynote Speaker Richard Bissell.

“Mrs. Barry goes above and beyond the call of duty on a daily bases,” said Bissell. “She is an excellent teacher who also has a natural ‘instinct’ for what individual students need. This is a gift that cannot be taught. ”

In addition to the Unsung Hero Award, Mrs. Barry was presented with a citation from the State House of Representatives presented by Representative John P. Fresolo for her “dedication to individuals with disabilities and their families.”

Mrs. Barry also received a citation from the Massachusetts State Senate presented by Jason Palitsch, representing Senator Mike Moore.

The DDS Central Region Citizen Advisory Board holds an annual Legislative Breakfast in order to bring legislators, provider agencies, DDS staff, individuals and families together to discuss issues facing people with developmental disabilities. It has been a tough couple of years for DDS due to the current economic problems and statewide budget cuts.

Department of Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Elin M. Howe spoke of the challenges faced by the department in order to provide much needed services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the face of budget cuts and staff lay-offs. “Of most concern to all of us, barring none, are the cuts to our family support services account.” said Howe.

In his Keynote speech, Richard Bissell discussed the importance of family support funding. “We are talking about a very small amount of money, compared to the cost of residential placement.” “Families are saving taxpayers millions of dollars by caring for their children and adult children at home.” A small amount of family support money can be the difference between a family surviving or not.

Aaron and Richard Bissell
Aaron and Richard Bissell

The theme of this year’s Legislative Breakfast was “Where Are We Going?”, with a large question mark. Will the funding be there in order for people with developmental disabilities to live with dignity as productive citizens in our communities or will we return to the dark ages of neglect? It has been said that a community, a state, a country and in fact the world should be judged by how well we support our most vulnerable citizens.

Front Row (left to right): Jonathan Carlson, Marika Jelovcich, Linda Barry, Eric Bissell, Brendan Griffin, Taylor Dee, and Representative John P. Fresolo Back Row (left to right): Richard Bissell, Aaron Bissell, DDS Commissioner Elin M. Howe, and Jason Palitsch representing Senator Mike Moore
Front Row (left to right): Jonathan Carlson, Marika Jelovcich, Linda Barry, Eric Bissell, Brendan Griffin, Taylor Dee, and Representative John P. Fresolo
Back Row (left to right): Richard Bissell, Aaron Bissell, DDS Commissioner Elin M. Howe, and Jason Palitsch representing Senator Mike Moore

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Koomey Family Donates Handicap Accessible Van

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(L-R) Eric Bissell, Evan Fredette, Brendan Griffin, Rachel Hull-Gordecki, Brian Hanna, Taylor Dee, Marika Jolovcich, Lee Coz, Johnathan Carlson
(L-R) Eric Bissell, Evan Fredette, Brendan Griffin, Rachel Hull-Gordecki, Brian Hanna, Taylor Dee, Marika Jolovcich, Lee Coz, Johnathan Carlson

The Grafton Public Schools accepted the very generous donation of a handicap accessible van at a dedication ceremony Wednesday morning in the Grafton High School parking lot. The van was donated by the Koomey Family in memory of longtime Grafton resident Dr. John G. Koomey.

Shortly before he passed away, Dr. Koomey recognized the need for van transportation at Grafton High School. His family said, “This is a way of fulfilling his wish and we are pleased and honored to do this in his memory.”

The vehicle will become a part of the Functional Academic School-to-Work Program at Grafton High School. The program assists students with functional academics, life-skills, and vocational skills needed to become independent adults within the Grafton Community.

“We tailor each program to the individual child,” Mrs. Barry, Grafton High School Special Education teacher said. In the past, the students access had been limited to establishments that were within walking distance of the school.

“This van allows us to get out into the community; it really expands what we can do.” Mrs. Barry went on to say, “I can not overemphasize what this means to our children and to the school as a whole. It is incredibly generous.”

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Connors and School Committee members Daryl Rynning and Peter Carlson were on hand to accept the donation along with Special Education Director Kathleen Baris. A special plaque, signed by the students in Mrs. Barry’s class, was presented to the Koomey family.

Dr. Koomey was fondly known as “Poppy” by his grandchildren, two of whom are special need students in the Grafton public schools. The words “In Memory of Poppy” are inscribed on the back of the van.

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Shriver’s Dream Evident in Grafton Special Olympians

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olympics

Upon her passing August 11th, politicians and celebrities from around the world came to Hyannis to pay their respects to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. But there was also another group who came to say their goodbyes. A team of Special Olympians, holding torches, gave light to the pallbearers as they carried the coffin of the Special Olympics founder to Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver believed that every child, regardless of ability, deserves to live in a neighborhood, attend school with other children, and play any sport of their choosing. The Special Olympics honor guard represented the thousands of families, whose lives have been touched by her dream of a more welcoming world.

Watching the joy and smiles on the faces of the Grafton Special Olympics children playing softball on the field at Grafton High School this summer, it is clear that her dream remains alive. For the past six Sundays, these kids, along with their fans and coaches Phil Jackson and Wendy Watkins, have come here to play softball.

Special Olympics is about more than winning and losing, it is about courage and sharing and finding commonality. The kids who participate in the Grafton Special Olympics not only gain physical fitness, they have a chance to do something that many children take for granted.

Just about everyone can learn something from the Special Olympics; things like everyone has something to offer, and never to give up no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. Maybe most importantly we can learn that we can accomplish a whole lot more working together than we can going it alone. We are a community and we all belong.

But I don’t think any of the athletes playing on the field at Grafton High were thinking about these things. They were just there to have fun. The softball season ended this past Sunday with a well-deserved ice cream party at Swirls & Scoops, who donated the ice cream.

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