Employee Story

Alana Ventimiglia started as a teacher aide at Mary Cariola 12 years ago and has spent the last 10 of those years in the classroom working hands-on with her students. But her passion for the organization began before even finishing her undergraduate degree. Alana worked for Mary Cariola one summer during college—a first job that soon became a fulfilling career.

Now, her skills and the abilities of her students grow on a daily basis. Working together on things like handwriting, social skills and reading, gives both Alana and her students a sense of pride and purpose as they begin to see—and hear—progress.

One student in particular that stands out to Alana was completely nonverbal when he came to Mary Cariola. He was also terrified of dogs and wouldn't go near the therapy dogs available at the school. Alana worked with him for six years on his independence and social skills, and by end of his time there, he was walking the dogs, talking to his peers and making other strides to become more independent.

"Their smiles do everything for me," said Alana. "Seeing them master something that was so difficult for them, and that excitement and pride that they feel when they're done ... that's the moment that really gets me."

Donations to Mary Cariola make it possible for Alana to continue helping students learn lifelong skills and leave smiling at the end of the day.

We Can Feel Hopeful for the Future

Like most children, Aiden was an active child with a sweet disposition. But unlike most children, he wasn't able to handle the daily tasks that life brought his way. As other children around him developed and grew, Aiden fell further behind, until he came to Mary Cariola.

At just 18 months old, his parent brought him to the school hoping it would give him the specialized structure and focus a child like Aiden needs. And it did. Within weeks, Aiden's parents Michael and Manasi saw progress. Not only was he learning basic skills that would help him at home and in school like walking, holding a fork and sitting for an extended period of time—skills which many of us take for granted—but he was also learning skills that would help him in the community.

Now at eight years old, Aiden it thriving. Working with the therapists at Mary Cariola, he's learned expressive language skills to be able to advocate for himself, giving his parents hope for the future that Aiden will continue to grow and make progress.

"I personally can't envision a better place to put your child who has a need for that kind of support," said Michael.

Support for the We Will Shine campaign gives parents like Michael and Manasi hope that their child, and other children like Aiden, will have access to the resources needed to learn the invaluable skills that will help them throughout life.

We Can Keep Putting Others First

As long-time supporters of Mary Cariola, Kate and her husband Doug have seen firsthand what a blessing the Center is for so many children. Serving as a member of the Board of Directors for 15 years, Kate got a unique view of the solidarity and support that define Mary Cariola.

"When I served on the Board, part of the prayer we used to say before each meeting included the words 'We are our brother's and sister's keeper,' and it's worth repeating."

This phrase truly defines what it means to be part of Mary Cariola. To take care of one another, look out for each other and put others first. And that's what motivated Kate and Doug to continually support Mary Cariola Children's Center.

"We have both always been touched by the staff's dedication to the children. They are strong, capable and loving ... they always put the children first. I remember we always used to say when a board member or staff person started to refer to the children as "our children," we knew they were hooked—they had taken ownership."

It's this sense of ownership and dedication—from generous donors like Kate and Doug and the staff at Mary Cariola—that allows our children and youth to thrive and reach their lifelong potential.

Putting their resources to use, Doug and Kate chose to support the middle and high school youth at the East Henrietta Campus. They recognized that, as children age, their challenges often become greater, and they wanted to ensure that their unique needs are met so they can live full and productive lives.

Donations to the We Will Shine campaign will allow the staff at Mary Cariola to continue to do the hard and excellent work they do each day to meet the extraordinary needs of children with multiple and complex disabilities.