Meet This Year’s Community Champions Award Winners
Held at RiverCrest on September 21, KenCrest presented seven award winners during its 8th annual Community Champions event.
By Sydney Kerelo
On September 21, KenCrest celebrated and recognized the numerous individuals who have helped us further our dream of creating inclusive communities a reality.
Held at RiverCrest, our 8th annual Community Champions event brought together the many individuals, business partners, and organizations who have given their time and resources to support and advocate for our KenCrest family.
Amid the delicious dishes, drinks, and merriment, our Emcee, NBC 10 News Reporter Lauren Mayk, awarded these fantastic winners.
Meet the 2023 Community Champions winners:
All Friends Network
All Friends Network is a nonprofit organization, that helps people with disabilities connect with others through in-person and virtual events. So many people within the disability community experience isolation and find it challenging to make new friends. AFN’s founder Trevor Kelliher, who has Cerebral Palsy, knows firsthand about those challenges.
Since 2021 Trevor, who resides in Florida, has been an asset to the virtual components of KenCrest’s Daysharing program. He has helped to foster connections amongst Daysharing participants and volunteers, and genuinely cares about everyone in the group. A who woman KenCrest supports, recently missed one of the virtual meet-ups, which was very out of character for her; Trevor took it upon himself to email her and check in. It meant so much to the young lady that he reached out to see if she was okay.
Trevor’s warm personality and his kindness are evident in every interaction he has with Daysharing participants; as well as through his unwavering dedication in building something beautiful through the All Friends Network. Thank you, Trevor, for creating a community rooted in equity and inclusivity for friends both near and far
When you think of the definition of a true friend, Kelly Connor is a shining example. Kelly was the very first volunteer to sign up for KenCrest’s Daysharing program in 2021.
As a college student at West Chester University, she truly embodies the characteristics that everyone would want in their companion―caring, patient, adaptable, enthusiastic, and kind. Since signing up for Daysharing Kelly has been matched with three different people. Sadly, her first match ended due to some behavioral health concerns with the person she was supporting; but it never deterred her from continuing on with the program.
Following that match, she connected with two different women and now supports them both! One is in her 70s and the other in her 20s; and each of them has vastly different interests and passions. Somehow Kelly’s personality complements them both beautifully; and she seamlessly supports each of them individually in the activities most meaningful to them.
Throughout her time in Daysharing Kelly has also volunteered to help host event booths for KenCrest at West Chester University; to encourage other students and faculty on the importance of the Agency’s programs.
She truly strives to make the world a more inclusive place and inspires others to embrace diversity no matter its form. Thank you, Kelly, for reminding us all that it’s our hearts, not our abilities, that create long lasting friendships.
Some of us are born into our family, and some of us choose our family. For over 30 years Beatrice Davis has served as Hakeem Horton’s Lifesharing provider and chosen forever family. While they’re not related by blood, it hasn’t stopped either of them from loving and treating each other as such. Hakeem refers to Bea as “Mom” and her husband Jeff as “Dad.” Hakeem knows Bea and Jeff’s children as his siblings, and their grandchildren, are his nieces and nephews.
The two, Bea and Hakeem, are pretty inseparable, and have shared many family vacations together including to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida, Idaho, and New Mexico. They attend and serve at their church together, and even volunteer together every Wednesday at the REID Foundation.
Bea has been a guiding force in Hakeem’s journey since he was a school-age child. With her support he’s become a strong self-advocate and serves his community in different ways.
His entire chosen family has walked alongside him to support him through all of his most monumental-life-moments. When Hakeem’s significant other was very sick, the two decided they wanted to commit themselves to each other prior to her passing away. It was Jeff, Bea’s husband, who stepped up to officiate their wedding. In both the joyous moments and the hardest moments, Hakeem’s chosen family has shown up to love him through all situations and seasons. Thank you, Bea, and Hakeem for being some of the best examples of what it truly means to share a life with someone.
First Church of the Brethren
First Church of the Brethren is the church of one of KenCrest’s Lifesharing program’s most dynamic duos―Leigh Anne and her provider Peggy. For the past five years Leigh has attended this church and gotten involved in a variety of ways. Two of those years have been spent working alongside the Church’s Pastor Dawn Lare.
Pastor Dawn has always had an affinity for supporting people with disabilities; for many years she worked as a Special Education teacher and worked at the former Pennhurst Institution.
When she stepped up to serve as pastor at First Church of the Brethren, leading an inclusive congregation was one of her priorities. She remains a strong advocate for the disability community and leads her church in being a very accepting and welcoming place for everyone, regardless of their abilities. P
astor Dawn has also developed a special relationship with Leigh Ann; and with Peggy’s support, she has helped Leigh make a positive impact at their church. Leigh Ann is a greeter and hands out church programs every Sunday, and also enjoys a “supervisory” role in the kitchen helping with women’s luncheons, movie nights, and ice cream socials. She loves her church family, and her church family loves her. Everyone knows her by name, supports her goals, and even joins in on her birthday celebrations.
None of this would be possible if Pastor Dawn did not lead by example and set the tone for what true inclusion looks like. Thank you, Pastor Dawn and First Church of the Brethren, for truly loving your neighbors as you love yourselves.
Representative Joanna McClinton
Representative Joanna McClinton has served the West Philadelphia/Yeadon area since 2015, but she’s championed for little learners throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania. She is a staunch advocate for early education and has been a true partner to KenCrest’s Early Learning community.
Throughout her tenor as a State Representative, and now the Pennsylvania Democratic Speaker of the House, she has brought awareness to the challenges faced by early learning programs―including the lack of funding, increased expenses, and rampant staffing shortages.
A recipient of a PRE-K for PA Champion award, she has been an unwavering voice for greater equity in universal Pre-K and after-school success programs. A zip code should never determine the quality of a child’s education; thank you Representative McClinton for reminding legislators of this every day; and for amplifying the voices of your youngest constituents and their families.
Andrea Newton is a store manager at a local Montgomery County Panera Bread. Ryan Myer has worked as a Dining Room attendant at her location since 2022.
As a parent of a child with a disability herself, Andrea has gone above and beyond to foster an environment where neurodiversity is valued in their workplace. Not only does Andrea assist Ryan with his schedule and training, but she also ― often advocates for his inclusion and helps him to feel confident in his ability to complete his tasks.
While Andrea has a very bubbly, outgoing personality, Ryan is much more reserved and quiet. Despite this, she sees Ryan’s strengths and values his gifts; it’s made him an integral part of their team.
With Andrea’s support, Ryan has come out of his shell, and become much more independent in completing his tasks; as well as engaging with guests and patrons. Thank you, Andrea, for reminding all of us that great leaders can bring out the best in all of us.
Aleasha Redden-Revell serves as the IDD Deputy Administrator for the Pennsylvania Delaware County Human Services division. Her commitment to serving the children and families of her community is truly unwavering.
When KenCrest created its SWIFT Support Services through its New Business Ideas program, to support early learning teachers when a child is at risk of suspension or expulsion; it was Aleasha who partnered with KenCrest to ensure children could stay in school. While KenCrest’s Early Intervention program advocated for state funding for SWIFT Support Services, Aleasha helped the Program obtain funding from the behavioral health program in Delaware County.
Thanks to her relentless advocacy, DelCo was the first county to fund this work. Aleasha always goes the extra mile to ensure children and families, as well as provider agencies, are adequately supported as they overcome challenges. Thank you, Aleasha, for never being too busy to step in and make a positive impact for so many in your community.
Anne Mauro is a true advocate for the accessibility for all. She has been a Lifesharing provider for over 16 years; and also oversees the Handicapped Crusaders, an organization in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that provides social and educational experiences for adults with intellectual disabilities.
As a Lifesharing provider she’s supported a gentleman named Tony through many joys and challenges. Along with Tony’s IDD diagnosis he is also blind; but this hasn’t stopped him from being fully engaged in his greater community. Together they often go to musicals, regularly dine with their neighbors, and even host canned good drives for local food pantries. Anne has encouraged and empowered Tony to live as independently as possible, and helped him find a local church where he regularly attended and sang in the choir.
When Tony’s health began declining Anne arranged for him to participate in church virtually. Through several challenging surgeries she has walked alongside Tony; advocating for specialty care, helping him obtain an emotional support dog, and has introduced him to chair yoga to help maintain his physical and mental health.
While supporting Tony, she has also managed to support other men and women at KenCrest through respite services; often with very little prior notice or for extended periods of time. Despite this, she comes to know each person she supports intimately, and they become an extension of her family. In― what are often challenging situations―Anne creates positive experiences for so many. Thank you, Anne, for your unwavering compassion and dedication to ensuring everyone around you feels loved and cared for.
Goldie Smith has dedicated most of her adult life to supporting people with disabilities. From 1953 to 1986 she worked as an aide at Pennhurst institution; and quite soon after her retirement, she became a Lifesharing provider to a young woman, who was a previous resident. For 27 years this woman lived with Goldie and her family and was surrounded by their unconditional love until the day she passed away.
Goldie would go on to support another woman for 17 years. Goldie’s daughter, Jean, eventually joined the Lifesharing community; and together the two would support three additional women, including Marie and Sally, who currently reside with them. Their bond is something special, and Goldie has gone above and beyond in so many ways to ensure both ladies have the fullest lives possible. They take day trips, weekend trips, and on occasion, play bingo for six hours straight. No matter what Marie and Sally want to do, Goldie ensures their dreams and their joy are prioritized.
The ladies are an extension of Goldie’s family; they’re close with her grandchildren, and Goldie has a wonderful relationship with both Marie and Sally’s biological families. With the love and support they’ve received from Goldie and her daughter Jean, Marie and Sally have grown and prospered in every imaginable way. Thank you, Goldie, for your unwavering dedication to loving so many and being a blessing to everyone you support.
For many years KenCrest has relied on the excellent customer service provided by a local, neighborhood pharmacy. Ken Karle and his entire team at Willits Pharmacy go above and beyond to deliver the medications of the men and women the Agency supports, in a timely manner; and occasionally at all hours of the day and night.
The Willits team has a deep understanding that medical concerns can limit independence and privacy; and they work hard to help offset anything, within their power, that can hinder the quality of life for everyone KenCrest supports. They have even gone as far as educating themselves on automatic medication dispensers, so that they could work collaboratively alongside the KenCrest team in placing them in residential homes; to empower as many people as possible, to take their medications independently. Thank you, Willits Pharmacy, for valuing everyone that you serve, and ensuring that they can thrive to their fullest potential.