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Advocate Named ‘Champion for Children’

CAP Champion Award

CHAMPION AWARD: This year’s award was presented to Deb Calandrino (center) by retired Livingston County prosecutor, David Morse, who is a member of LACASA’s Board of Directors as well as its CAP Council, and by Robin Schutz, Great Start Livingston Coordinator.

The 2014 recipient of Livingston County’s Champion for Children Award is Deb Calandrino, a long-time child and family advocate.

The Champion for Children Award is a joint effort between LACASA’s Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Council and the Great Start Collaborative of Livingston County, both dedicated to the safety, healthy development and success of children in our community.

Advocate for Children With Disabilities

Calandrino, who currently works as a Family Advocate for The Arc of Livingston, has spent 26 years in various roles in Livingston County, advocating for children with disabilities and helping families gain the necessary skills to ensure the best possible lifelong outcomes for their children.

Since beginning her work at The Arc in 2000, Calandrino has helped more than 300 families annually. Her efforts have positively impacted thousands of children in the last 14 years alone.

“Helping children with disabilities achieve success, independence and inclusion is very important to Deb,” said Patricia Nowak, Executive Director at The Arc of Livingston. “Deb envisions and strives to build a community where all children are supported through their challenges, valued for their diversity, recognized for their ability and potential, and included.”

Spearheaded New Programs

Calandrino was instrumental in planning and launching The Arc’s “Send a Kid to Camp” program. Under her direction, the program attracted the attention of generous community donors and raised more than $100,000 to send children with disabilities to camps. The camps not only support the children’s participation and inclusion in the general community but also help them build relationships and have fun.

In Livingston County, Calandrino has replicated a nationally recognized program called “Sibshops” that is designed to assist siblings of children with disabilities. The program, which addresses and supports the unique concerns of this population, has grown more than 400 percent since its inception.

CAP Council member and former Special Education Program Consultant for the Livingston Educational Service Agency, Sue Rubin, expressed her sentiments about Calandrino. “As an educator, I was always glad to see Deb come to the table,” Rubin said.  “She was easy to talk with and I knew she was knowledgeable and reasonable in terms of what schools could offer for children with disabilities. We are lucky to have her as an advocate in our county.”

Helping Schools Develop Programs

Calandrino’s advice often is sought by schools working to develop Individual Education Plans for children with disabilities and her insight has been a driving force in the planning and implementation of The Arc’s family support activities and training programs.

“I am very humbled to have been chosen for the Champion for Children Award,” Calandrino said. “I feel fortunate to work in a community with such dedicated mental health workers, teachers and clinicians who are all committed to making a difference in the lives of our children.”

This year’s award was presented to Calandrino by retired Livingston County prosecutor, David Morse, who is a member of LACASA’s Board of Directors and its CAP Council, and by Robin Schutz, Great Start Livingston Coordinator.

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