A Parent's Perspective
Lynn Arezzini, Mother of Karl writes:
A miracle happened in New Haven in August 2016. My son Karl, who has autism, began living in his own apartment. If anyone had seen Karl when he was 3 years old flapping his hands, not speaking and uninterested in human contact, they would have never dreamed that at age 26 he would be living in his own apartment. We have many agencies and people to thank for this miracle for it truly takes a village to make what happened to Karl a reality.
One agency that is central to Karl’s success in the New Haven community has been Marrakech. When I first met Faith Mann from Marrakech back in July of 2016 I knew I needed someone with her passion and expertise to head up the community support part of Karl’s program. I was equally thrilled when her assistant, Brett Perry, became the main support person to assist Karl with shopping, budgeting, laundry and even organizing a “guys night out”. Bev takes Karl to a weekly dance at his church and Bobby helps Karl with chores around the house and even cuts Karl’s hair. Karl has limited language but when he talked about his Marrakech staff he always has a smile in his voice and is calm in their presence.
Marrakech also works very well with the other people on Karl’s team such as home health aides, Karl’s landlady and staff at Karl’s recreation and day program at Chapel Haven. Teamwork, compassion, problem solving, innovation and experience all combine to keep the Marrakech community support piece of Karl’s program humming along. We feel very blessed to have Marrakech assume such an important role in our son Karl’s life.
Cornelia Mas, Mother of Donna writes:
Although Ed and I already had two daughters and a son, we were all happy when I became pregnant again and anticipated the baby's arrival. We wanted another girl and sure enough on December 23, 1964 Donna was born on her Dad's birthday. What a wonderful birthday and Christmas present. Dad said she was so beautiful.
Donna was a very contented baby and received a lot of attention from her siblings. I was a little anxious when she didn't walk until 18 months. At about that time Ed was having concerns as well. Instead of calling out when she woke up, she would rattle the crib railings. At 2 and ½ years and still no speech, our family doctor recommended we take her to Yale for an evaluation. After a series of tests, they could tell us very little and suggested we bring her back when she was 5 years old. At that time Dr. Leonard told us Donna was mildly retarded and speech would come. However this was not to be. Dr. Leonard also said Donna was a beautiful child and her beauty would work to her advantage in the future. At this time I didn't have a clue about what she meant. However those words would come back to me over the years. Donna is so pretty and so social that everyone who meets her, loves her.
Donna's 8th birthday was very special to me. As I was cleaning up after the guests had left, Donna looked at me and said "Mommy" for the first time. I will always treasure the gifts she gave me. Finally after more evaluations when Donna was 8 years old, Dr. Levy, the neurologist, gave us a diagnosis of Receptive Childhood Aphasia. I remember saying to him, what in the world is that? The doctor explained it was like an older person having a stroke, but Donna was born this way. He clarified that she would be able to take in information, but it would be difficult for her to transmit information. He recommended Donna attend the Foundation School in Orange which she did for four years. When Foundation School suggested she go to the Bancroft School in New Jersey, I felt my world had ended. How would she survive without me? I was attending to all her personal needs and interpreting for her.
Ed and the other children were devastated as well. They had always been so wonderful to Donna. Jean and Ed would take her to the stores, the post office, etc. Lorrie read to her for hours and young Ed would fool around and wrestle with her always making sure he did not hurt her. Donna was a bridesmaid in all her siblings' weddings. Although it would be hard on all of us, including Donna, he felt it was a wonderful opportunity for her. This would be the hardest decision we ever made. At Bancroft, Donna learned life skills, some sign language, work skills, socialization, etc. Low and behold she did survive without me. She attended Bancroft School for ten years and graduated at age twenty-one. I firmly believe had she not attended Bancroft she would not have been capable of living in a Marrakech group home, where she has been a resident for 23 years.
Donna has exceeded all my expectations. She is a fantastic dancer, swimmer, bowler, and social butterfly. She has participated in Special Olympics, competing in swimming, bowling, and track. We have learned over the years that Donna has an uncanny member and sense of direction. As long as you drive in the Donna has worked through Easter Seals making rock candy lolipops for 23 years. Unfortunately, the company in Branford moved this past summer to New York. However, Donna is willing to try anything asked of her. She has developed a wonderful work ethic. Every summer we would take Donna on vacation. At the souvenir shops, she would head for the candy section and find her lolipops. I would always explain to the clerk how passionate and skillful Donna is, and Donna's was always so proud.
In 2006 we went on a family cruise to Nova Scotia. Donna loved playing the slots. Her niece and nephew kept a diligent watch on her (and their grandparents). A Year ago, my daughter-in-law was pregnant. I asked her if she was having the amniocentesis test done and she "No" because Eddy said, "What would life be like without my sister Donna". All eight of our grandchildren plus two step grandsons adore Donna and have always been there to cheer her on in all of her activities.
Donna has become a compassionate and caring person who possesses a great love for her family. She looks forward to celebrating all family birthdays and holidays together. She continues to bowl on Saturdays with her North Haven friends. She looks forward to the monthly dances sponsored by Our Lady of Pompei Church which she attends with her North Haven friends.
Donna's father served for thirteen years on the Marrakech Board of Governors. For that he gets to talk about Donna's Experience with Marrakech.
Ed Mas, Father of Donna writes:
In 1987 we met with Frank and his office staff (Marcia) in a small office on the second floor of a building in Westville. It was not very impressive, but we had learned over the years not to make decisions that affected Donna on the basis of physical appearance. We knew it was the people that Donna would interacted that would be the crucial element in which determined our ultimate decisions. We were pleased with our initial meeting with Frank and later with staff at Englewood House. We have never looked back.
In September of 2009, we were asked to write a letter urging support for Marrakech. In that letter we listed our reasons for believing that Marrakech was of support. We believed that what we stated at that time best describes our experience in the years that Donna has been with Marrakech. Our reasons are as follows: (1) The administrative staff is highly professional, very competent and dedicated to the worthy goals of the organizations. (2) The entire organization makes the health and welfare of the clients its top priority. (3) The organization is creative in providing programs to meet the needs of clients. (4) The personal care of clients by staff counselors is always of high caliber. (5) The organization is open and receptive to suggestions made by parents and guardians and responds to valid concerns.
We have seen each of these statements verified often to Donna's 23 years at Marrakech. Staff have been patient in teaching Donna to do her laundry and to make her bed. Donna loved being in the Willy Wonka Show, attending the proms at Fantasia, and growing and developing over the years with Marrakech.
When we felt that Donna could benefit from a change of houses, the staff was receptive to our concerns. After an evaluation session, we all agreed that Knollwood House would be a perfect placement for Donna. She has been as happy there as we could desire for her. She has been there for almost 18 years.
In April 2010, Donna went on her second cruise with her housemate, Yvonne, Lauren, and Antoinette from Orangecrest. Each young lady was chaperoned by a favorite staff person. They went on an 8 day cruise to the Bahamas. This was a big step for us. For the first time in 25 years we were entrusting the care of Donna away from is to someone other than a family member. Not to worry. Everyone had a great time and the staff survived, and our faith in Marrakech was not misplaced.
We have never regretted our decision to place Donna in the care of Marrakech, Inc. We are confident that Donna's future with Marrakech will continue to be bright and she will remain as happy as she has been and is today.
Donna has also been fortunate to have a caring extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends. Cornelia and I are appreciative of all the support we have receive from everyone associated with Donna. We are so pleased for the opportunity to share Donna's great life with you all.