Category Archive: News & Events

Oct 10

Penn-Mar Human Services Becomes Approved Pennsylvania “Employment First” Provider

FREELAND, Md. – Oct. 10, 2017 – October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, and Penn-Mar Human Services is pleased to announce that after an extensive, year-long application process it has become an approved Pennsylvania “Employment First” provider in partnership with the PA Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).

In 2016, in accordance with regulations set by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Executive Order 2016-03 “Establishing ‘Employment First’ Policy and Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability,” Penn-Mar initiated the process of expanding its already established Community Employment program, for individuals it supports with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and becoming an approved vendor partner with OVR in York County – to assist the agency in providing “vocational rehabilitation services to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, or maintain employment.”

In Maryland, Penn-Mar is already an approved vendor for the state’s Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), whose mission is to provide leadership and support in promoting the employment, economic self-sufficiency and independence of individuals with disabilities.

Beginning in 2010, Penn-Mar, a recognized leader in providing quality supports and services to hundreds of adults with IDD in Pennsylvania and Maryland, began the process of transitioning its employment services from the popular, but antiquated sheltered workshop model to an inclusive community-based employment program. In 2012, the nonprofit closed its sheltered workshop in Glen Rock, Pa., and started successfully partnering with businesses, organizations and area schools to provide meaningful job opportunities for the men and women it supports.

According to Vanessa Whitman, Penn-Mar’s PA Community Day Service administrator, the nonprofit’s expertise in competitive integrated employment for people with IDD is a boon to OVR, which is tasked with providing a wide range of vocational services to eligible applicants with any disability, but which, given Pennsylvania’s shift towards more community employment for people with IDD, did not have all the necessary resources to handle the influx of new employment cases.

“As a state provider, we now receive outside referrals through OVR for job coaching and job exploration and discovery,” said Whitman. “Prior to our vendor status we only supported the individuals we serve through our programs.”

Pennsylvania’s “Employment First” mandate now requires that all individuals with disabilities who want community employment go through OVR, which also provides the funding for employment services. “All the individuals Penn-Mar placed in competitive community jobs prior to the new regulations have been grandfathered in,” said Whitman.

The entire year-long application process began with first, applying for provider status for job coaching services. Then OVR established a state funded Exploration and Discovery pilot in York County for which Penn-Mar also needed to apply. This entailed all of Penn-Mar’s employment services staff, already trained in exploration and discovery, to be certified in order to meet OVR’s training and certification requirements to participate in this pilot. Exploration and discovery is an assessment of an individual’s skills, abilities, interests, motivations and ideal work conditions.

Thanks to the help of a $250,000 challenge grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, to expand its Community Employment program, Penn-Mar was able to continue providing vital employment services, while it underwent the OVR provider application process.

For more information about Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program, contact Vanessa Whitman at 717-235-8068 x 147, or visit


About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.


Relevant Disability Employment Data for Pennsylvania

  • About 1.6 million working-age people with a disability live in Pennsylvania
  • 19 percent of U.S. population has a disability
  • 66 percent of U.S. population is working age (typically 16-64)
  • In Pennsylvania, there are more than 105,000 students with a disability ages 14 – 21 (transition age)
  • More than 50,000 adult Pennsylvanians with an intellectual disability and/or autism are served by a publicly funded home- and community-based service program
  • More than 20,000 new applicants were referred to OVR for employment assistance in 2016
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 20 percent of people with a disability participate in the labor force, compared with a 63 percent rate for all people
  • The US Office of Disability Employment Policy estimates that 70 percent of working-aged individuals with disabilities nationwide are unemployed, and one-third of those employed earn an income below the federally mandated minimum wage. Without job opportunities and fair wages, individuals with disabilities are nearly three times as likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities.
  • The poverty rate for individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania is at 27.8 to 30.2. The national average is 28.7 percent. In the non-disabled community, the poverty rate is 10.9 to 12.8 percent in Pennsylvania.


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Sep 28

A Life-changing Experience

Of the nearly seven years that Steve Nyabuti has been in the United States, he has spent the last five of them as a DSP with Penn-Mar, supporting four individuals in a residence in Whitehall, Maryland. Although he says this is not an occupation he planned to get into, the experience has given him an invaluable outlook on life that has helped shape who he is as a young man today.

When Steve, 28, immigrated to the U.S. with his family from Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, working in human services was not on his career radar at all. Back home in Kenya, just prior to his life-changing move across the Atlantic, Steve had finished high school and was just beginning studies towards a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science. Landing in Maryland, Steve put his studies on hold, while he sought employment, and an opportunity to secure his footing in his newly adopted country.

A recommendation by a friend led him to Penn-Mar and a job that has given him a chance to mature in ways, he admits, he might not have, if he had taken a more mainstream position elsewhere. Understanding who the men are that he supports, what they like and dislike has made his job easier over the years. He’s developed a level of patience and confidence to be able to handle the challenges when they arise. Communication, he said, can be the biggest challenge sometimes.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Steve. “Working with John, Chris, Evan and Richard has given me an opportunity to grow as a person. My life in Kenya was very different. When I look at the 22-year-old that I was, I don’t see the same person I am today. I’ve learned a lot from them.”

Although the experience has been rewarding in that it has given him a whole new outlook on life, supporting himself has been a little difficult. In order to make ends meet, Steve has taken on more hours at Penn-Mar. Base pay, he said, would not be able to cover his expenses, like rent. In addition, taking on another job was not feasible, since he decided to return to school several years ago to finish what he started and attain his degree in actuarial science at the University of Maryland. He graduates this spring.

“It’s hard enough, but add on school fees and everything, you don’t have enough to cover your needs. And between work and school, I have little time for anything else,” he said.

According to Greg Miller, President and CEO of Penn-Mar, “DSP wages are a challenge for all providers since the rates are set by the government and many DSPs have incomes 25-50% below a living wage.  Providers and advocates are turning up the volume on this to legislators so people like Steve can earn better wages.”

Steve believes the work of a DSP is a very important one, and the field, a good one to be in. For him though, it’s been more about the experience, about life and people.

“People struggling to do just the basic things in life, makes you appreciate what you have.”

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Sep 22

The Rewards of Patience in a Challenging Field

Any Direct Support Professional will tell you that the most important thing you need to be a DSP is patience…lots of patience. The second is compassion. In essence though, the two go hand in hand in a field that is both simultaneously challenging and rewarding, but hampered by low wages and high turnover. For Penn-Mar DSP and Day Program Community Activity Instructor Elena Leonard the challenges and rewards have come quickly in the three short years she’s been with the nonprofit.

Elena joined Penn-Mar shortly after graduating from American University in Washington D.C. with a bachelor’s in psychology. She started out as a residential Awake Overnight DSP, but in no time moved on to the Day Program, where she felt she could make a more active and positive contribution helping individuals through their day. A year into her new position she met Sean, and took on the biggest challenge of her young career.

Sean, 26, has severe autism and has been participating in Penn-Mar’s Day Program since he graduated from school five years ago. Imposingly tall, yet lanky, Sean is a big presence in the Day Program, but his presence is even more pronounced by his behavior, which up until the past year would regularly be very loud, often aggressive, and generally anti-social. It was not uncommon to find Sean on the floor of one of the Day Program offices, where he sometimes locked himself in to seek solace from noise or groups of peers. Group outings could be particularly problematic.

“Sean would have a lot of bad days where he would act out or refuse to participate in activities,” said Vanessa Whitman, Penn-Mar’s PA Community Day Service Administrator. “He could physically move you out of his way if you tried to redirect him from what he wanted to do. He also had very limited communication and would shout out a single word to answer a question or make a request, often repeatedly.”

According to Beth Harrison, Community Activity Program Manager, these behaviors were triggered mostly by noise and large groups of people. “Sean used to wear noise-blocking headphones that he never took off. If anyone tried to remove them to talk to him, he would get very agitated,” she said.

“As a team we decided to bring in a behavior specialist to see how we could help Sean overcome some of these behaviors and get the most out of his experience at the Day Program,” said Vanessa. “It was determined that one-on-one support was the best course for him, something Elena advocated for.”

Eligible for funding, Sean began his one-on-one support with Elena a little more than a year ago, and as the team pointed out, “he’s done a 180.”

“The progress Sean has made in the past year with Elena’s help has been dramatic,” said Vanessa. “It’s not a job for everyone, but because of her calm, soft-spoken nature, her patience and compassion, Sean has more of a quality of life than he did last year. ”

The first thing Elena set up was a visual schedule made up of pictures of different activities that he does throughout the day. Through various tools – pictures, flashcards, verbal prompting and coaching, a sensory swing (his quiet space), and the introduction of the iPad with various apps to help improve his communication and social skills, she very consistently and unflaggingly redirects him when his agitation level rises.

“As a visual person, Sean understands the pictures better than any verbal instruction,” said Elena. “He likes routine and because the visual schedule is self-directed, he feels accomplished when he can check off different activities. You can tell that he wants to learn and communicate, and express himself. When he can’t, he gets frustrated.”

Sean’s parents Lynn and Jon David of Stewartstown, Pa., have been very supportive of the work Elena has done and she consults with them regularly. They noted that her compassion and keenness to learn everything she can about Sean, about his autism, which he was diagnosed with at age three, has made all the difference in Sean’s dramatic turnaround at the Day Program.

Today, Sean’s headphones are gone and he hasn’t locked himself in an office since the one-on-one began. He’s more likely to tell you in full sentences what he wants now which might be to play basketball or go for a walk or short outing.

“There are still challenges some days,” said Elena, “but the rewards have been greater and can include a hug from Sean every now and then.”

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Sep 21

Teaching Independence and Hugs

Natalie Place has always enjoyed helping people with disabilities. At the age of 11 she babysat for a boy with muscular dystrophy and in her late teens worked with a man who was wheelchair-bound from a stroke. In between, she held more typical teenage jobs but somehow those “regular” jobs just weren’t satisfying. “I knew I had more of a purpose,” she said.

That calling brought her to Penn-Mar Human Services eight years ago as a DSP. She admits now she had no idea what she was getting into. “I wanted to help, teach, change things; it was all about me, me, me! But once I set foot in the field, I realized that the individuals you support are the ones who make the changes, in you!

After all these years, Natalie continues to be in awe of her charges.  “They bring such joy,” she exclaims. “They have daily challenges but from the minute they wake up — many of them with physical disabilities – they smile and are so happy to see you and greet the new day. They have taught me what a blessing it is to have them in my life.”

Natalie is all about independence, therapeutic approaches to care…and hugs. She tells the story of a gentleman cared for who had no family to support him. They communicated in sign language and she realized that what he needed most was a hug. “It sounds like such a small thing but I literally taught him how to hug. To this day, whenever he sees me he stands up and gives me a big hug.”

Her therapeutic approach to care has her constantly asking her superiors, her DSPs and her individuals, “What can we do better?”

Do people really need to stay on meds they’ve been taking since they were teenagers?

How can we make some alone time for our individuals that is safe and enriching?

Is someone just “acting up” or is there an underlying issue we need to address?

How can we listen and respond to what our individuals want, not what we think they want?

Richard is a beneficiary of this innovative thinking. Natalie noticed how he was mesmerized by the sight of a lawn mower whenever the grounds crew came around his community home. Four years ago, Natalie planted the seed with her supervisors to find out if Richard could have the opportunity to mow his own yard as he had done previously at his parent’s home.

Since last month, after many at-bats and assurances that he would be well supervised, Richard is now living the dream, working outside inspecting his lawn mower and starting it up whenever he sees a patch of grass that needs some attention.

Emily Malone, Natalie’s direct program supervisor, describes her as a “creative thinker” who is open to trying new things and learning from them.

As a Residential Supervisor at the Jeffery Lane home, Natalie is a strong advocate for her DSPs as well. Recently she organized a group of 25 people, including support staff and individuals, to stand together at the Harrisburg Capitol to rally for additional funding for DSP wages.

“I have a will to learn and reach out to those around me, to be on the front lines doing everything that needs to be done,” concluded Natalie.

Daily, Emily Malone witnesses Natalie’s passion for making an impact. “She strives to give our individuals independence so they have the normality of person-centered support. To her, it’s more than a job. She’s making a difference not because she has to, but because she wants to.”

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Aug 15

Southern York County Business Association’s, Bowl for A Cause, to benefit local non-profit businesses.


For a copy of the information form or a pledge sheet, please click on the links below:

SYCBA Bowling Flyer

SYCBA Bowling Pledge Sheet

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Jul 17


There is probably not a more critical and often more challenging time in a young person’s life than when he or she is transitioning into adulthood – moving from the comfort and security of home and school to concerns of higher education, careers, financial stability, housing, healthcare and independence. This is especially true for students and youth with disabilities, for whom the changes and challenges of transitioning into the adult world can be more profound.

Since 2004, when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandated transition planning for all students with IEPs (Individualized Education Program), there has been a mounting effort to improve support for young people with disabilities moving from school into adulthood. Coordinating this support is a wide range of agencies, including health and human services, youth services, leisure, careers guidance, residential, education and employment services.

New Youth Transition Program

Penn-Mar’s Community Employment (CE) program, established 2010, is regionally recognized for its innovative and collaborative approach to placing adult men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities in community-based jobs.

Two years ago, while recognizing the need to support an increasing number of young people with disabilities and their families in transition planning from school to work, Penn-Mar expanded its CE program to include students in York County aging out of the education system. In the past year alone, with the generous support of the $250,000 challenge grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Penn-Mar has been working with ten young people in finding meaningful competitive work in the community, and successfully placing six of them in jobs.

“Traditionally, during the transition years, young people gain knowledge and skills to be able to maximize their independence and self-sufficiency in their communities,” says Tricia Zeltwanger, Penn-Mar Career Counselor. “For the young people we work with, the transition process from school to work begins in the last year of their education through an exploration and discovery process.”

Collaboration, Exploration and Discovery

In collaboration with the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in York County, a program that supports special education inside some school systems, as well as Project SEARCH, which serves students with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, young people with disabilities who want to work in the community are identified. Penn-Mar then steps in and begins the process of exploration, discovery and job development with the students and their parents, which takes approximately six to eight weeks.

“During our initial meeting we explain the process and begin a home observation,” says Tricia. “We learn how the students live at home and what their likes are. We begin to identify their great skills and talents, the kind of work they want to do, and what their conditions of employment are. We learn everything we can to be able to successfully match them with a competitive job and the needs of an employer.”

Once areas and themes of employment are explored with the students, Tricia and three vocational teams research and identify businesses in the area to approach through cold calling. By establishing relationships and partnerships with businesses, Tricia and her team learn what their particular employment needs are and see if they match the students’ job skills and interests.

“Initially, if one of our students says, for example, that he or she would like to work in an office, we ask a business if they would allow us to come in to do some filing just to access the student’s skills,” says Tricia. “This enables a student to explore the job itself and determine if it’s right for them.”

For Tricia, who has been with Penn-Mar for 27 years, formerly as a contract manager securing work for Penn-Mar’s now shuttered Sheltered Workshop, the success of the Community Employment and the new Youth Transition programs lies in the collaborative relationships and partnerships that are forming every day with education providers, with families, and of course the young people and the employers they are now working for.

“This shift to community employment and inclusion has had a tremendously positive effect on our individuals in these few short years. We’re definitely not looking back as we help these young people transition forward to living and working in the community…and to enjoying life.”


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Jun 13

FROM EXCLUSION TO INCLUSION: What the “inclusion revolution” means for adults with disabilities and the powerful role business leaders play

YORK, Pa. – June 13, 2017 – On Tuesday, June 20, York area business leaders and influencers will lead a free public forum and share insights on creating a path to inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that promotes shared social value and independence for all in society.

This first-time York County business forum entitled “From Exclusion to Inclusion: What the ‘inclusion revolution’ means for adults with disabilities and the powerful role business leaders play,” is being organized by Penn-Mar Human Services and the York County Economic Alliance (YCEA), and will be held at PeoplesBank Park in York.

Led by of Penn-Mar and YCEA, the forum will include a panel of local York County business owners and leaders:

•    Anthony P. Campisi – President and CEO – Glatfelter Insurance Group
•    Eric Menzer – President – York Revolution
•    Michael O’Neill – Executive Vice President of Fixed Operations – Apple Automotive
•    Larry Scoggin – Director of Operations – Perform Group LLC
•    Julia Dugan – Employee – Perform Group LLC

Less than a decade ago, most people with disabilities, who had a desire to work, were in “sheltered workshops” producing products for contract work for manufacturers. Most of the individuals made a piece rate or a subminimum hourly rate based on Department of Labor regulations.

In 2012, Penn-Mar, a recognized leader in providing innovative, quality supports and services to hundreds of individuals with intellectual disabilities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, shuttered its sheltered workshop, and initiated its Competitive Employment Program. The program is successfully partnering with numerous Pennsylvania businesses to provide employment in an integrated community setting, enabling individuals to earn a competitive wage, receive benefits equal to the job’s responsibilities and enjoy the satisfaction of working to maximum potential. To date Penn-Mar has assisted more than 80 residents with intellectual and/or physical disabilities in careers within industries such as Automotive, Clerical, Child Care, Custodial, Customer Service, Engineering, Food Service, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Retail, and Sports Maintenance.

From Exclusion to Inclusion: A Business Forum

WHAT:    York County business leaders, owners, administrators and influencers are invited to join Penn-Mar Human Services and the York County Economic Alliance in learning more about the talents and incredible work ethic of people with disabilities, and how Penn-Mar can support business initiatives and job creation for people who once felt invisible, but now through inclusion, invincible.

WHO:    Participants in this first-time York County business forum include representatives from Penn-Mar Human Services, York County Economic Alliance, Glatfelter Insurance Group, York Revolution, Apple Automotive, and Perform Group LLC.

WHY:    There is a painful history for people with disabilities being excluded from society and while we’ve come a long way, there is more to do. Inclusion is the ultimate goal because inclusion, interaction and engagement can lead to greater independence. More than exposure or integration, inclusion fosters experiences and interactions that will serve people with disabilities for a lifetime. Penn-Mar’s guiding belief is that there is a job for everyone who wants one, regardless of disability. Our goal is to secure employment in an integrated community setting, enabling individuals to earn a competitive wage, receive benefits equal to the job’s responsibilities and enjoy the satisfaction of working to maximum potential.

WHEN:     Tuesday, June 20, 2017, from 8 to 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:     PeoplesBank Park
5 Brooks Robinson Way
York, PA 17401

There is no charge to attend the forum, but space is limited and registration is required. To register, contact Jackie Summer by e-mail at,, or call 410.343.1069 x286.

About Penn-Mar Human Services
Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.

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May 18

Seeding Transformation: Penn-Mar Launches Garden Initiative to Promote Inclusion and Health and Wellness of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

FREELAND, Md. – May 18, 2017 – This spring, Penn-Mar Human Services, in partnership with Whispering Rise Farm & Animal Sanctuary in Freeland, Md., is launching a multipronged horticultural initiative – “Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project” – in an effort to advance disability inclusion and promote the overall health and wellness of the men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the nonprofit supports in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults with disabilities are three times more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions than adults without disabilities. Numerous research studies over the past decade have shown that people with disabilities, experience worse health and poorer access to health care than the general population, and are vulnerable to high rates of health risks including physical inactivity and obesity. In addition to being vulnerable to disability-related conditions, they are also at higher risk of chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cancer and heart disease.

Penn-Mar, a recognized leader in providing innovative, quality supports and services to hundreds of individuals with IDD, is staunchly committed to disability inclusion, which allows for people with disabilities to take advantage of the benefits of the same health promotion and prevention activities experienced by people who do not have a disability. By piloting the new Garden Project initiative through its Community Learning Services (CLS) program, Penn-Mar is taking a multipronged approach to promoting greater community inclusion and improved health and wellness for participating adults.

The Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project will progress throughout the growing and harvest season into the fall at the nonprofit Whispering Rise Farm & Animal Sanctuary. Fourteen Penn-Mar CLS participants along with instructors have already established garden beds and begun planting. Working off the theme of Seeding Transformation the project aims to:

  • Seed Inclusion, by promoting engagement, interaction and opportunities for individuals in the community through education and partnerships.
  • Seed Health and Wellness, by promoting nutrition and physical activity through gardening. By creating a tangible educational experience, individuals will learn to grow and harvest their own food, learn the nutritional value of food, and how to prepare it.
  • Seed Employment, by promoting opportunities for job discovery, whereby individuals may discover they have a passion, interest and talent for gardening, which could lead to paid career opportunities through Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program that partners with regional businesses.
  • Seed Relationships, by promoting relationship-building exercises, CLS participants will be working side-by-side with their peers, Direct Support Professionals, families, the participating public and business community, who have stepped forward to get involved.

“We have a lot of experience at Penn-Mar with the transformation process, continually ‘transforming life into living’ for the individuals with disabilities we serve,” says Greg Miller, president and CEO. “The Seeding Transformation Garden Project is a great example of how we leverage the strengths and talents of our staff to find out what they are passionate about and then using their considerable skills and knowledge to support and energize programs like this that positively impact the well-being of our individuals.”

For more information about Penn-Mar’s Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project and how the community can get involved, contact Kathy Rogers (410-343-1069,, or visit

About Penn-Mar’s Community Learning Services Program

Penn-Mar’s Community Learning Services (CLS) provides the individuals we serve with the opportunity to access and participate in the communities in which they live, in the same capacity as those in the non-disabled population. Different from a traditional, facility-based day habilitation program, Penn-Mar’s Community Learning program partners with the community, and supplies the means by which individuals can develop maximum independence in meaningful activities of daily living – through exposure to and integration with their individual communities. This is connected and authentic learning, where real-world experiences are lived and engagement with the community is a possibility. Designed with the individuals’ interests, preferences, strengths, and needs, the program provides goal oriented services that assist individuals in developing skills, and promoting positive growth.

About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.


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May 12

Creating Side by Side: Drawing out the Superhero

Ever since the debut of Superman in 1938, our fascination with superhuman, crime-fighting, heroic characters has not only gone unabated, but has intensified. Today we live in an age of the superhero, one who dominates the big screen with blockbuster action taking out the supervillains and setting the world right, until another baddie comes along.

If there’s anyone who has a finger on the pulse of our fascination with superheroes, it’s Bobby Prado. In fact, Bobby has more than just a finger. With a color pencil or oil pastel in his hand he can render in startling likeness his favorite costumed crusaders. His love of drawing began when he was five, he says, and like our captivation with the crime-fighting comic book and animated characters that he likes to draw, hasn’t stopped.

When Bobby, 22, joined Penn-Mar’s Day Program in Freeland two years ago, it was no surprise that he instantly gravitated to the Adapted Art Studio Program.

“It was evident from the beginning that Bobby has a talent for drawing,” said Rebecca Lee, Art Activities Instructor, who began her career at Penn-Mar five-and-a-half years ago, combining her love of art, she’s an artist herself, and passion for working with people with disabilities. “He’s always been interested in art, and draws constantly, even when he’s not in class. He’s prolific and very creative in his output. He can draw better from memory than most people I know, myself included.”

Recently, Bobby has taken to identifying staff and individuals with comic book characters and action heroes and then drawing them – Rebecca is Rey from Star Wars, and he himself is Tony Stark AKA Iron Man.

Penn-Mar’s Adapted Art Studio Program is targeted as therapeutic for Day Program participants (Rebecca works with between 90 and 115 individuals a week), and encourages them to use their skills creatively on an individual and collaborative basis. Over the years, they have produced an extraordinary body of work that has been exhibited in gallery shows in Pennsylvania and Maryland, including in Bobby’s hometown of Hereford. Two of their pieces are on permanent display in York’s Central Market, and every year for the past four years, participants have created stunning works that are auctioned off at Penn-Mar’s annual Black-Tie Gala. Proceeds from the auctions directly support the art program and help cover the cost of materials and art supplies.

Not only are participants creating art, but they’re learning about art and famous artists as well. In addition to the group work and lessons, Rebecca provides one-on-one instruction for those who have a keen interest in art, like Bobby, or who simply enjoy it. Everyone benefits from the experience, she says.

“As an art teacher you want to keep the students focused on a specific task, but you also want to give them creative license,” she said. A recent example of Bobby’s creative license was turning a spring tree into the superhero Groot, the sentient tree-like creature from Guardians of the Galaxy, and turning a cardinal into an Angry Bird.

Bobby’s had a lot of encouragement along the way, from his family, teachers and staff at Penn-Mar, where’s he’s been able to take his art to the next level and expand his creativity. “Art means everything to me,” he says. “It makes me happy.”

You can bet Bobby will be seeing Wonder Woman when it comes out. Can he draw her? Yes, probably with his eyes closed.


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Apr 26

Living Side by Side: For the Love of the Game

Everyone who knows Jon Martin knows that he has a deep, abiding love of all things sports, particularly NASCAR and golf, which he’s been playing since he was eight. His encyclopedic knowledge of competitive games extends beyond teams, players and stats to include the very venues where all the action takes place. Show him a picture of a speedway, and he’ll tell you which one it is. Watching the Masters and you don’t know what hole Phil Mickelson is playing, just ask Jon, even though he may have just walked into the room.

By all accounts, Jon, 41, a 15-year Penn-Mar resident, should be in a wheelchair. He was born with cerebral palsy with left hemiplegia that involves paralysis of one side of the body and developmental delays. His parents Martha “Marti” and Nathaniel “Nat” Martin were living in Richmond, Virginia at the time of his birth, and in an ironic twist, Nat, an occupational therapist, had just completed an affiliation with the city’s Cerebral Palsy Center.

“Call it whatever you want – divine intervention,” says Nat. “My experience with the CP Center was a blessing, as it gave us the tremendous basis for understanding and providing Jon with early intervention therapy. He was six months old when he started and today we can’t believe how functional and active he has been.”

Despite his cerebral palsy which has mainly affected his speech, fine motor skills and sensation on his left side, Jon has always been very active, outgoing, and competitive playing a host of sports over the years including softball and bowling with the York Special Olympics, and of course golf, which he plays regularly with either his dad or both his parents. He’s competed in the Special Olympics National Golf Invitational three times, and the year he played in Port St. Lucie, Fla., he took home a gold in his flight.

Not surprisingly, Jon’s love and deep knowledge of sports has prompted him to express to Penn-Mar Residential Supervisor, Ruby Jarrett, who oversees Jon’s home, which he shares with four active roommates, that he would have liked to have been a sportscaster. “That would have been his ultimate dream,” she says. “He watches all sports, and never misses a NASCAR race. Jon knows all the teams, when they’re playing, what their current stats are, and who’s won in the past. It’s amazing what he knows.”

Interestingly, Jon’s passion for NASCAR came via football. During the 1980s Jon was attending therapy in Carlisle, Pa., and on occasion, as a special treat, Marti would take him to watch the Washington Redskins train (Carlisle was their training camp for 34 years). A chance meeting with former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs one year, led to an invitation for Jon to come down to Redskins Park to watch the team practice. Jon became an instant Joe Gibbs fan. When Gibbs retired from coaching in 1992, to focus on his NASCAR team, Jon also made the transition, and has been a loyal NASCAR fan ever since.

For years now, Jon, Marti and Nat have been attending a race a year, which Jon gets to pick out for Christmas. His current favorite driver is “Rocket Man” Ryan Newman, and, as his dad points out, he has a thing for Danika Patrick. This year the family will pack their motor home, which they recently acquired after years of tent camping at the various NASCAR sites, and head down to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. Their trip this coming August 21st coincides with the total solar eclipse that will pass through the center of the U.S., making this year’s trip that much more exciting.

“I used to say Jon would have been a good athlete,” says Nat “No, Jon IS a good athlete.” Marti adds, “He’s slowing down a little bit now, but he still plays golf. His interest in NASCAR has given him another outlet, and an opportunity for all of us to share in an exhilarating experience.”

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