The year was 1949 - the first Volkswagen Beetle was sold, gas was only 17-cents a gallon, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created, Bruce Springsteen was born, local news station WROC-TV 8 signed on the air, and Mary Cariola Children’s Center was founded!
At a time when children with disabilities were institutionalized (because that is where experts believed the children should be), Mary Cariola felt that every child has potential regardless of any disability. Mary founded our organization first as a daycare facility, then a school. Seventy years later, what started in a single classroom has evolved into Mary Cariola Children’s Center.
Serving the greater Rochester community for the last 70 years is an accomplishment that possibly Mary herself couldn’t have imagined. I wonder what Mary would think of us now?
Today, as an independent, non-profit agency we serve children with multiple disabilities and complex medical needs. Our philosophy is that we not only educate and care for our students and residents, but also their families as they work their way through multiple levels of medical, human and social services that are available to them.
I would hope that if Mary could see us now she would be proud of the fact that we’ve grown into a successful school that focuses on personalized, interdisciplinary evidence-based education. She might be pleasantly surprised to learn that over 450 students come to Mary Cariola from 50 different school districts in 10 counties. They come here to learn, play and work hard in order to unlock their lifelong potential.
Mary would see the growth in our residential program as we now have six residences where a well-trained, professional staff members work with residents on life skills and support their contributions - not only to each other, but to our community as well. Mary would easily notice that over 40 residents call Mary Cariola home where they receive 24/7 care. I think she would be most impressed with our respite programs in the residences, allowing parents the opportunity to tend to either business or other family matters with no worries while their children are being well-cared for.
Back in 1949, Mary started this organization with two or three children and a staff of five. Today she’d see her vision has grown into a place where nearly 700 people come to work each day - all dedicated to what she so deeply believed in.
Over the course of this year we’ll be celebrating our 70th Anniversary and we’ll be looking at our history, how we arrived here and how Mary’s influence is present today. This anniversary encourages us to look toward possibilities in the next 70+ years as we remain dedicated and strive for innovation in everything we do. In many ways, Mary has inspired us to inspire those we serve, while empowering them to reach milestones no one could have ever dreamed of.
Yes, 2019 looks to be a wonderful year for our Agency. We’ve been planning some special events to commemorate 70 years of serving others in what we fondly call our “Cariola Community.” We’ll be inviting you to remember, celebrate and plan for the future with us as we say "thank you" to Mary Cariola for being ahead of her time, and for creating one of the happiest places on earth!