Family’s Gift Shows Gratitude for Longtime Partnership With Center
By Margo Bagneschi
“Megan, Mom is going to kill you!” yelled my daughter Maria.
Megan, my younger daughter, had managed to grab three chocolate Easter bunnies, run into the bathroom and shut the door in order to enjoy them. To anyone observing Megan, what they would see is a disabled young woman—unable to speak clearly, walks with a slightly awkward gait and requires supervision; however, family, friends and Center staff see an entirely different Megan. They see a person with a great sense of humor, an impish smile and someone who knows how to make known what she needs and wants.
Megan’s fashion sense is very evident, since she usually wears a necklace that matches her outfit. She has been on cruises and travelled throughout the eastern United States. She is probably Bert’s (of Bert and Ernie fame) biggest fan. She even had a very personal “meet and greet” with Bert in Pennsylvania, which her sister set up for her. Megan was so excited that Maria and I could not thank Bert and his interpreter enough. Both were very accommodating to Megan and even gave her a shopping bag with every Bert item sold in the gift shop.
You can always count on Megan’s help in many household chores, as she loves to straighten things and put objects in their correct place. And wait until you see Megan at an amusement park. She is quite a daredevil—always willing and wanting to go on the fastest and highest rides just as long as it’s not the ones where she might get sprayed with water!
More Than Meets the Eye
Megan is the perfect example of the phrase “never judge a book by its cover.” She is a lot more than what appears at first glance. This can all be attributed to the incredible effort that her family, friends and the Center for Disability Services’ staff have put into making Megan as independent as possible.
Besides my husband, Mike, and myself, Megan’s biggest fan is her sister. Maria has been a wonderful “third parent” to Megan since birth. Four years older, Maria started caring for Megan immediately, teaching her everything she could, helping with her therapies, swimming with her at Special Olympics, having her back, even to the point of standing up to a neighborhood bully who called Megan names. Maria was only 7 at the time but knew that was unacceptable to all of us. By the time Maria was 8, Maria had decided to give up her earlier career choices of poet and firefighter and become a teacher for children with special needs. She never wavered from that and is now in her 23rd year as a special educator. I always say that it was Megan who gave Maria her career, not her parents.
Megan was born in 1976 outside Rochester, New York. We knew something was wrong when she was 6 to 7 months old…she was rolling over, crawling and pushing herself up but was not able to sit up on her own. When she was around 9 months old, the doctors diagnosed Megan as multiply handicapped, with moderate mental retardation and a slight degree of cerebral palsy. She was unable to sit until she was over a year old and could not walk unassisted until she was four. Megan was also diagnosed as non-verbal (she has a verbal language of about 20 words currently). Maria’s name is the only three syllable word that Megan can say.
In 1984, Mike transferred to a job in the Albany area, and our family moved to Clifton Park. After visiting several special education classrooms in the area, we enrolled Megan in one at Saratoga BOCES. Around the same time, we began to meet other parents of children with special needs and discovered there was not a summer program in the area for our children. We advocated with superintendents from nearby school districts to determine if there were enough children who qualified, and the first six-week summer program through the Saratoga BOCES was approved and opened its doors the first week of July 1985. We had to fight for everything we wanted for Megan until the Center became a part of our lives.
Impressed by Services
My first glimpse into the Center for Disability Services was when I was involved in Special Olympics. There were many individuals from different agencies participating; but when I watched how staff from the Center interacted with the individuals they served, I liked what I saw.
When Megan was in middle school, her teacher brought in a speaker from the Center for Disability Services to talk about waiver services. We never knew Megan qualified for a waiver program, so we were very interested to hear what the person had to say. The only type of respite we had at that time was when we paid a college student intern to take Megan and her friend to dinner and a movie every other Friday night.
When we learned the state helped out families like ours, we were thrilled and wanted to sign up. The Center helped us fill out the paperwork; however, the deadline fell while we were on a family vacation. The Center made sure the paperwork was filed and called us in South Carolina to let us know we were in.
This was our first personal interaction with the Center, and it was a pivotal point in our lives. Mike, Maria and I had battled for Megan’s needs unaided in the past…we now had a partner in the Center for Disability Services who was willing to share in the responsibility of ensuring Megan was taken care of. We knew this was the organization we wanted involved with Megan’s future.
A Monumental Step for Megan
When Megan was 25, she moved into one of the Center’s new residences with three other young women. Everyone was very helpful, especially the Residential Director, who Mike had on speed dial during the months of planning for occupancy. The Center was a godsend to our family, lending support and encouragement as we all took this monumental step, but we knew Megan was in a place where she would be cared for and comfortable. It has now been 16 years, and Megan still lives in the same residence with her original housemates and is happy.
When Mike died, Maria and I were at a loss as to how we would explain his death to Megan. Again, the Center was an incredible support to us. They even brought Megan from her residence in Altamont to our house in Clifton Park twice in 24 hours to ensure that Megan had all the dress clothes she needed for the funeral. This was yet another testament to the Center’s commitment to my family. Their kindness and support amid the chaos was very meaningful to me.
Mike and I are both very dedicated to the Center. Before he died, we made the decision to leave a legacy gift to the Center. We believed in the Center’s commitment to our family, our daughter and to the health and safety of ALL families they support. Because of my age, I cannot care for Megan the way she deserves to be looked after. If I should die tomorrow, it’s comforting for me to know that all of Megan’s needs will be met.
This gift is our way to protect the valuable services the Center provides to individuals, like Megan, in our community. This is our final act of gratitude to the Center for Disability Services for the treasured partnership they formed with my family over the years that allows me and Maria, who will one day be Megan’s guardian, peace of mind every day.
Create a Brighter Future
Like the Bagneschis, you can include the Center in your will or other estate plan to ensure that our services continue into the future. Contact Kim Heunemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-832-6113 to learn more.