In his book, father of Willowbrook State School resident reveals guilt, anger that fueled fight for reforms

I applaud this father for writing this book. This was something that probably wasn’t easy to do, but offered some closure. My older brother Robert could have been a resident there (or maybe not), if it wasn’t for the closure.

Willowbrook State School to me was sort of like doctors telling their patients to smoke cigarettes, and how they are not harmful for their bodies. All people needed to realize was that all the developmentally disabled need is LOVE. While some may be more severe than others, it all comes back to the LOVE one would have. Sure, it seems like a drain, but its part of being a parent, and the many obstacles they face.

Besides Geraldo Rivera exposing the conditions, there were the workers and volunteers who deep down inside knew that this was not a place for people. It was also a concentration camp for the mentally disabled.

My brother has been attending A Very Special Place in Staten Island, New York for quite some time. The founders Genevieve Benoit, Executive Director and Diane Buglioli, Deputy Executive Director were two young women who worked at the Willowbrook State School.

This past year, I got to learn more about them and their mission. It goes to back to 1974, when the Willowbrook State School closed. While helping the residents relocate, Genevieve and Diane were telling them that they were going to a special place. They would have their own bed, dresser, and possessions. One of the residents stopped and thought a second. No, it’s A VERY Special Place, and Genevieve and Diane knew they had a name for an organization they founded. My brother feels safe going there on a daily basis, and knows full well he will be coming home to a house with loving parents, and a younger brother and sister.

People believe it or not continue to be ignorant, nor doubt their intelligence. Robert is a very smart man, and always has a way of cheering us up when we are having a bad day. Even seeing him in his environment at A Very Special Place makes it all worthwhile.

Resources for the developmentally disabled continue to thrive. Robert was part of the first class at the Seton Foundation for Learning, a Catholic grammar school founded by the late Bishop Patrick Ahearn and parents alike.

When election time comes or budgets talks come about, they are always quick to cut the resources of people like my brother. The politicians should know that they are voters too, and have a voice just like the normal people do.

The present campus for the College of Staten Island is the actual ground of the Willowbrook State School. Some of the classrooms, were actually once used to house the developmentally disabled. I’ve learned that the College of Staten Island is working towards building a memorial towards it, and to remind those what once was present there.

Saved By The Bell

This past week, Jimmy Fallon reunited part of the Saved By The Bell cast. It was a magical and unexpected reunion of some of the cast members. The other day, the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team announced that they too will have a Saved By The Bell Night. Players will wear Saved By The Bell themed uniforms.

It has been twenty-two years since Saved By The Bell last aired. So it wasn’t like it was celebrating a milestone anniversary. I guess that is what makes it so different and unique. Jimmy Fallon himself has been putting out hints about this for quite some time. Even with random appearances from Zack Morris.

I must admit, I didn’t start watching Saved by The Bell from day one. I heard about it one day in fourth grade, and decided to be cool and watch it, and never really looked back.

The show has cheesy music, corny hairstyles, and clothes, but those where the days in the late 80’s early 90’s. Girls dressed respectfully, and actually looked their age.

I think everyone could relate to Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gossler) and the world around him. He had the beautiful girlfriend, Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Amber Thiessen). The nemesis to Zach was A.C. Slater (Mario Lopes) along with his opinionated girlfriend Jesse Spano (Elizabeth Berkley). Finally you have the odd couple of Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) and Screech (Dustin Diamond).

Bayside High, the school where the show took place, was the High School everyone wanted to attend. Even the MAX, the afterschool hangout place was the coolest place to be.

Thanks to NetFlix, you can now re-watch every episode from Saved By The Bell and relieve some of your childhood.

This sort of reminds me of how Boy Meets World, turned into a spinoff series of Girl Meets World. Saved by the Bell did try to do a spin-off with Screech being an assistant to Mr. Belding the Principal at Bayside High.

Every generation has shows that help re-live their childhood. When the shows come up on 10, 15, 20, and even 25 year anniversaries, you realize how far time has come and makes it feel like yesterday when you were watching the show.

Music has changed, and so have the styles of Saved By The Bell. Although history has been known to repeat itself, and maybe the classic styles of Bayside High will return back to fashion from time to time. I know they have been trying to come back with the fanny pack. If you don’t know what it is, please look for old pics of Hulk Hogan. He was king of the fanny pack. Although don’t tell him how bad he looks with it on.

 

The Developmentally Disabled

I have an older brother, Robert, who is mentally retarded. For the most part, you wouldn’t know it. I sometimes don’t recognize it either. Robert is always introduced as my older brother, and if he is next to me, will hit me like an older brother would. Recently those who are developmentally disabled have developed some attention in the news.

The Politicians get Robert every time they are outside the supermarket. Robert always asks them “What are you going to do for me…or can you tell me more about it.” At first the politicians respond with their answers and then realize Robert is disabled. I always tell the politicians that he is a voter, and is just as bright as you are.

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, has a 21 year old son who attended the All Star game with his father. There is a clip of him coaching the players, and imitating what his father was doing. The video is priceless.

My little pet peeve is how people almost associate those who are developmentally disabled as stupid. Stupid they are not. My brother always has the most appropriate comments in any given situation, and most of the times, the best comedian wouldn’t be able to come up with that comment. I tell the “normal” people to call my brother when they are having a bad day, and you will instantly laugh.

Madison Tevlin, a 12 year old with down syndrome, a typical tween, made a viral YouTube video. She does a cover of John Legend’s song All of You, and hits a home run. When you watch Madison’s introduction, she screams being a 12 year old, and is an example to all. Yet, people are shocked that she can sing. She proved those who didn’t think she could sing wrong.

Finally, from time to time when nothing is on, I watch Glee. No, this isn’t an episode of Seinfeld when Jerry pretends not to watch Melrose Place. Anyway, one of the characters on the show (Lauren Potter) has down syndrome, and does quite well. Jane Lynch, another actress on the show is the first to back her and even went as far as doing a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on her behalf.

My brother was diagnosed as having Fragile X. Robert’s X chromosome never formed. If it did develop he would be considered normal, but at the same time is already normal!

Robert even is an extra in Theo Rossi (Son’s of Anarchy) film Bad Hurt which is due to be released in 2015 (hopefully). We have learned that Robert was used more in the movie since he takes direction really well, and can certainly rise to the occasion when called upon.

Those with down syndrome just have different facial features, but does not equal stupid. There are different variances of those who are developmentally disabled and some are higher functioning than others. Jut like “normal” people we have our strengths and weaknesses and are put on this earth to do great things.

When I was little, I had the opportunity to meet Chris Burke, who broke ground in the acting business in the television show “Life Goes On.” Again proving those with developmental disabilities can raise the bar.

While Robert may not be able to drive, he is certainly capable of more than one can imagine. I laugh because when that show Super Nanny is on, before the Nanny says anything Robert is yelling at the kids to sit down and behave. Almost responds to exactly to what the Nanny will tell the parents to do with their child. I know that my sister and I will have a fantastic babysitter, and will approve of his discipline tactics.

Robert a few years ago started to do reading tween books. He has someone come over and read with him on a weekly basis. It is something he looks forward to doing. While sitting in the other room, his reading is amazing. He even reacts to the scenes in the story when someone got hurt or did something bad.

A few years ago, my brother became fascinated with the iPad. My dad installed Wheel of Fortune. Did I mention that he is addicted to Wheel of Fortune like I am addicted to this Old House. So Robert became accustomed to watching Wheel of Fortune, have it playing on his iPad, and gaming console, along with his notebooks and pencils.

Robert has crushes on Vanna White along with Stacy London. While extremely shy, it would be my goal if he could meet them in person. When he was a teen he had a crush with Ricky Lake. At first my mom was nervous about watching that show due to the topics, but it didn’t traumatize him one bit.

If people would realize that Robert and all those who are developmentally disabled are a joy to be around. You may learn a thing or two about yourself or life in general.

Over 20 Years of Watching NASCAR

I have come to realize the other day that I’ve been watching NASCAR for the past twenty years. Yes, a fellow New Yorker is watching a mostly Southern sport. I came to realize it after Jeff Gordon announced his retirement.

How I got started watching NASCAR is all thanks to the #28 Texaco Car. My grandfather worked in the TEXACO factory in Bayonne, New Jersey. The driver for the 28 car was Davey Allison. Allison was killed in a helicopter crash in Alabama at a race track where his family was a fixture there. His father and uncle were both retired race car drivers.

Davey was part of the Alabama Gang, and to this day, the legend continues.

Growing up, I have always had a fascination with building things, cars, and etc. So it only became natural for me to start watching it on television. I even became fascinated with the pit stop. A group of six people jump over a wall, change four tires, gas, minor changes, in just under fourteen seconds! Yes, fourteen seconds. Any more time, your driver will lose the race. Furthermore, if it continues, members of the pit crew will be fired, or rotated immediately.

Getting back to TEXACO and the 28 car. There have been other famous numbers and cars in the series. One of them being the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the black Chevy #3. The intimidator. Darrell Waltrip and the 17 Tide race car, and even when he won the Daytona 500, Tide laundry detergent became a staple of American families.

In the early days of NASCAR is was race on Sunday, and the car that won, you would go to the car dealer on Monday and buy one.

Did you hear of Richard Petty and the famed 43 car, STP. If you didn’t, please stop and understand what he accomplished in the sport of NASCAR. All these drivers and other contribute so much.

Corporations put their name and image behind a race car driver and team. The air time alone they get on television is priceless, and makes some really loyal followers. While sponsors, drivers, car manufactures come and go, the sport still grows and changes with the times.

After the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001, drastic measures were taken in making those race cars safer. Now when a wreck happens, most of the times the driver gets out on their own power and walks away. Some of the technology has even followed the normal passenger car that we know today.

I mentioned earlier about the Daytona 500. It is the SuperBowl of stock car racing. Actually it is the first race of the season. Not the middle nor the end. If you win the Daytona 500, you have made it. It took the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. 20 tries before he finally won it in 1998. Look it up on YouTube. The clip is priceless.

While I have yet to attend a live race, watching it on television makes you feel like you are there. The dynamic duo of FOX Sports. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds, can make anyone a fan of NASCAR. Their passion, and even their explanations don’t get boring.

The year NBC Sports is coming back on board. They will have a new broadcast crew, and will offer a different perspective. FOX and NBC split the season respectively. The NASCAR season runs from late February until early November. It is an all year round sport where race cars are being prepared, tested, tweaked, in any way possible to help them win.

 

 

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