When Penfield residents Dane and Mary Overfield lace up their sneakers Sept. 24 for Walking on Sunshine, a fundraiser for Mary Cariola Children’s Center, chances are good they will be reflecting on their personal journey with the organization.
Their daughter, Megan, is a student at Mary Cariola.
Started in 1949, the organization is a regional leader in innovative and evidence-based education and life skill solutions that inspire families and empower individuals with complex disabilities.
Megan Overfield was born with Lennox Gastaut syndrome, a seizure disorder. After attending another program that was not meeting Megan’s needs, Joe Kruger, special education administrator at Penfield Central School District, stepped in. Megan Overfield started attending Mary Cariola six years ago, and her parents said it has made a world of difference.
“Mary Cariola has improved our quality of life,” Mary Overfield said. “Megan comes to school happy, comes home happy. Staff knows how to handle her medical challenges. They are on top of every aspect of Megan and her needs. Mary Cariola is serving the hardest to serve kids and we are getting what we need here.”
Megan Overfield receives various educational and clinical services at the school — including music, physical, occupational, speech and vision therapy — and, despite all of her challenges, is a happy 20-year-old. She loves music and numbers. If she hears others counting or repeating a phone number, she laughs in delight.
Her special education teacher, Kathy Lee, uses adaptive switches to engage students. Megan Overfield touches a green circular button to power the sewing machine that a staff person operates to make quilts.
Similar touch technology is used for educational purposes. That type of technology is often funded from money raised by Walking on Sunshine.
More than 1,500 people are expected at the event Sept. 24 at Veterans Memorial Park, 3100 Atlantic Ave., Penfield. Students, families, community supporters, school groups and more than 100 volunteers hope to raise $175,000 this year. Part of the money raised will help finish construction of the agency’s newest residential home for children and youth with developmental disabilities and complex medical needs.
For the Overfields, they raise funds and walk annually, often with out-of-town family members who make a special trip just for the event. They walk to recognize the agency for what it has done for Megan Overfield, but also for other families. They encourage others to donate.
“Mary Cariola kind of lifts the burden for a while,” Mary Overfield said. “They get it, they know that parents are overburdened and overworked. What goes on here is more helpful than anywhere else, because they just get it better. We love everything Mary Cariola does for Megan; her classroom and support staff is the best. Any size gift to support the walk will help her and kids like her.”
To make a donation, visit bit.ly/2xZe4PM.