Back in August, the Center for Disability Services kicked off the St. Margaret's Assisted Technology Fundraising Campaign, led by Gabe Donovan, a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy. Gabe wanted to help a fellow teen, a resident at St. Margaret's Center, get the technology she needed to achieve her education goals. Fast forward to now, Gabe has more than TRIPLED his fundraising goal, with a total of about $50,000!
“I am so excited that we not only met the fundraising goal but exceeded it, by a lot. The funds will be able to help others at St. Margaret’s and that makes me very happy. It’s been a lot of fun for me to take this project on. I’ve actually learned a lot and met new and interesting people along the way. I look forward to keeping up my connection to St. Margaret’s and hope that people continue to donate to the Assisted Technology Fund,” said Gabe.
Gabe is much like any other teen except he was born with a rare genetic condition called neurofibromatosis. Because of his condition, he deals with some disabilities and receives services from the Center for Disability Services in Albany.
Through the Center for Disability Services, he met a teen named Lilly who lives at St. Margaret’s Center, a pediatric and young adult skilled nursing home that serves ventilator dependent children and other individuals with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. The facility is an affiliate of the Center for Disability Services.
Earlier this summer, Gabe’s mom, Maureen O’Brien, ran into Lilly, while at St. Margaret’s Center for her job. During the visit Lilly talked about a piece of assisted technology that she needs for her overall quality of life but that it was financially out of reach. Maureen came home and shared the story with Gabe. He was saddened that she couldn’t get what she needed and decided he had to help by raising funds.
Maureen and Gabe quickly returned to St. Margaret’s Center and met with Lilly and other children who live there full time and depend on a range of assisted technology to communicate, learn and interact with their friends and family. He learned Lilly loves flowers and decided to create artwork with that theme that could be sold as a fundraiser for the assisted technology. He created the piece in chalk pastel and coined it “Adirondack Lilly.” Proceeds from prints, t-shirts and tote bags with the artwork, benefit the St. Margaret’s Assisted Technology Fund to help Lilly and other residents who need technology.
Community leaders such as those at the Dake Foundation for Children heard about the project and jumped in to help. Their participation was not only good on the fundraising side, but created visibility and awareness.
“The Dake Foundation has committed $8,000 to this amazing cause. This fundraiser hit so close to our mission that it was easy for us to get behind. Our foundation provides grants for equipment for children with disabilities to help with communication, socialization, community involvement and just having fun. In many instances equipment that is needed cannot be funded elsewhere and would provide a financial hardship on the family, which is where our foundation comes in. Seeing what Gabe was able to do and the difference he was able to make in the community for his friend really inspired us to help him achieve his goal,” said Matt Dake who serves as executive director at the Dake Foundation for Children.
Specialty t-shirts and tote bags were produced and shipped by Spectrum Designs, a social enterprise in Port Washington, NY, that employs young adults with autism. Not only did this help Lilly and others at St. Margaret’s Center but put traditionally underemployed individuals to work.
The initiative gained traction and attention on social media. It was promoted by elected officials, professional athletes, national performers, community and business leaders.
The Center for Disability Services could not be more pleased with the outcome. “Because of Gabe and his efforts, more residents than we even anticipated will be receiving special assistance to live out their goals and dreams. We are so thankful for all the fundraising. However, in addition to the monetary aspect, this helped to create a greater awareness about St. Margaret’s Center and the tireless work our staff do each day to improve lives,” said Gregory Sorrentino, president and CEO of the Center for Disability Services.