Achieva recently hosted the 2004 Volunteer Awards of Excellence at the Sheraton, Station Square. The awards honor individuals, families, groups and organizations whose efforts improve the lives of people with disabilities. The recipients of this year's awards follow.
The Sattler Humanitarian Award was presented in memory of Anthony P. Leech, Esq., who was the existing chair of Achieva's Board of Trustees when he passed away in August 2004. A devoted husband, father, son and brother, Leech was held in the highest regard by his friends, co-workers, neighbors, clients, civic leaders, parishioners and fellow volunteers. He was known for his high ethical standards in both his professional and personal life.
Leech was a talented, warm and inspiring individual who founded, along with Ted Tishman, the law firm of Leech, Tishman, Fuscaldo and Lampl, which grew into a successful firm under their leadership. He was an involved leader, whether it was in his role at the firm, as a coach to his children's many sports teams, or in his role as Achieva's board chair. He had deep compassion and an unwavering commitment to working with people with disabilities.
Foster S. Goldman, Jr., Esq. earned the Joe Ott Award for Excellence in Volunteer Service. Goldman has been active for more than 25 years as a volunteer and trustee with Achieva, currently serving on the board of the Family Trust. In 1987, Goldman was instrumental in changing the law for families of people with disabilities. That year he persuaded the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that parents could plan for the financial stability of their children by using special trusts.
The Excellence in Volunteer Service Award was presented to the Children's Aid Society of Jewish Women. This volunteer service has provided 40 years of care and community living support for children and adults with mental retardation.
State Representative Tom Petrone earned the Excellence in Legislative Services Award. Petrone introduced House Bill 1530, “The MH/MR Staff Member Loan Forgiveness Program Act,” which will allow staff members employed in the mental Health and Mental Retardation fields to have up to $20,000 of their Pennsylvania student loans forgiven. The bill will be reintroduced in the next legislative session.
The Excellence in Professional Service Award was presented to Dr. Craig Taylor, the Psychiatric Consultant to the Health Care Quality Unit of Pennsylvania. Taylor is one of a few leading neuropsychiat-rists in Pennsylvania working with people with disabilities and multiple psychiatric issues, and his dedication and caring is evident to anyone who meets him. He provides individual consultation, diagnostic and training support to staff and advises families on the best possible treatment. He has been consulting with people who have disabilities for nearly 20 years.
The Excellence in Employment Award went to Highmark as the lead company for the Pennsylvania Business Leadership Network, a group of Pennsylvania businesses collaborating to increase the employment of people with disabilities. Their dedication to employing people with disabilities is evident every day through their regular disability awareness training sessions and their annual participation in Disability Mentoring Day in October.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni Association earned the Organizational Excellence Award as a result of their work to improve the lives of people with disabilities through their fundraising efforts for many years.
The Excellence in Community Awareness Award was presented to Saint Anthony School Programs, a one of a kind program that promotes inclusive education for children with disabilities within 11 participating Pittsburgh area Catholic schools. This year, they are celebrating 50 years of their commitment to people with developmental disabilities from ages five through 21. The program seeks to maximize the individual student's potential for academic learning, foster self-respect and confidence, and to develop competence in employment and living skills.
The Excellence in Media Coverage award went to Gary Rotstein, reporter, and Annie O'Neill, photographer, both of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. In May 2004, they wrote and photographed a multi-page story focusing on the waiting list for mental retardation services in Pennsylvania, and its impact on the families that are affected. The series was the largest ever written on the waiting list, and it helped to increase public awareness of this issue.
Sheila Cannon was the recipient of the Excellence in Family Support Award. Cannon is the coordinator for the Down Syndrome Center at Children's Hospital, which has supported families in Pennsylvania since 1989. It was founded to provide medical care for people with Down syndrome and supports for their families, beginning at birth.