Chapel Haven artist has taken his talent to the road!

Vito is traveling widely with Truck'N with Vito

Chapel Haven graduate Vito Bonanno has taken his artistic talent on the road with a van transformed into an art gallery.

TRUCK’N WITH VITO is the name of his gallery on wheels and its purposes is to travel to venues around Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts to share his amazing art, while spreading the message that autism can be a gift accompanied by rare talent.

Since launching the van campaign, Vito has showcased his one-man show.

Vito, born in 1983, was diagnosed just before his 4th birthday as being on the autism spectrum, according to the biography on his website. Vito was language delayed and so his parents and teachers tapped into his high visual acuity, using storyboard styles to help him academically and socially.

The storyboard grid stuck, remaining prominent in his work. Through the help of his dedicated family and the “tireless work of professionals,” Vito defied the odds to become a high-functioning man who, according to his biography, “has learned to take the information trapped in his head and transform it into art that contains the essence of his life, feelings, thoughts and dreams.”

Vito says his disability helps him remember dreams, but also doesn’t let him forget the unpleasant aspects of life. It’s those vivid memories and feelings that often end up on canvas. “Drawing these things helps me get this stuff out of my head for a while,” Vito has said. Continue reading

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REACH graduates take the joyous step into independence

NEW HAVEN – This year’s graduates of Chapel Haven’s REACH program were spirited as they took the joyous walk down the aisle in their caps and gowns on June 20, thanking family, staff and most of all the friends who helped get them through.

In his graduation speech, Jonas Belon, who came to Chapel Haven from Denver, said the most important thing he learned was how to solve problems.

“I learned to solve them without getting me or my friends in trouble. I learned how to be a better friend,” he said. “Graduating REACH means a lot to me.”

Congratulations to Jonas, Joe, Allan, Hannah, Dylan, Justin, Ben, Juliana and Nick on their graduation! To see a photo album, click here.

Continue reading

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Eight Graduate from Chapel Haven West and move into community life

Successful internships, jobs, college,  life skills and lasting friendships celebrated at Chapel Haven West graduation

Chapel Haven West Class of 2014

Eight students graduated from Chapel Haven West’s two-year residential program on June 8. The graduation ceremony, held at the Tucson Marriott, was attended by parents, family members, friends and staff. Each student gave a speech and received a graduation certificate from Director Kenneth Hosto and President Michael Storz. All eight graduates are remaining in Tucson.

Graduation day!

“At Chapel Haven West, I learned that if you really put effort into what you do, you will be a success,” Daniel Stafford said. Daniel works at the Home Depot. He hopes to live in Florida or England someday.

“I’m taking Pima Community College classes, working at Home Depot, and living life to the fullest,” Jonah Sabol said. Jonah said he learned how to “keep a conversation going” at Chapel Haven West and that he’s a much better person to talk to.

“I plan on getting my AA at Pima Community College to become a veterinary technician, hopefully in the near future,” Ryan Urban said. Ryan said her greatest accomplishment at Chapel Haven West was volunteering at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Continue reading

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Project SEARCH Graduation a Joyous Event

Eight Project SEARCH interns from Chapel Haven were lauded at a joyous graduation ceremony June 19 at Yale-New Haven Hospital, thronged by hospital supervisors, Chapel Haven staff and proud, beaming parents.

“I remember when you started,” said Lynelle Abel, Director of Volunteer Services at YNHH. “There were lots of nervous faces, concerns about ‘how are we going to learn this new job and navigate this big medical center.’ But you did it. You have become really important members of our health care team.”

Congratulations to:

  • Jolysa Anthony
  • Heather Chisholm
  • Marcus Hammel
  • Tim Heydenburg
  • Laurel Marietta
  • Maria Rivera
  • Rachael Warden
  • Kerry Wilson

To see a photo album, click here Continue reading

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ASAT graduation a testament to independence

Rubin Levinson, shown here with his father, gave an eloquent speech about the independence he has gained at Chapel Haven.

Rubin Levinson said at one time he spent so much time in front of a computer that his mom would say when Rubin went away to college, he was going to find, “a skeleton with a baseball hat.”

But the skeleton prediction is off the table since the Levinsons found Chapel Haven’s Asperger’s Syndrome Adult Transition Program.

Speaking at the ASAT graduation June 14, Rubin told fellow graduates and their families that Chapel Haven has given him a solid foundation to build upon in life. He can now socialize and perform practical chores for independent living.

“This is the end of my foundation. Now, I’m getting ready to build the pretty stuff,” he said.

Read more about the graduation in the New Haven Register here

Eight graduated this year from ASAT and among the performances were a song in Japanese, a reading of a creative writing piece and a song.  Continue reading

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Chapel Haven students honored for bringing “sunshine” to Tower One/Tower East

Left to right, Michael Storz, president of Chapel Haven, with Andy Schlessing, Eric Kay and Towers' CEO Mark Garilli

Two Chapel Haven community members received special awards on May 29 for bringing sunshine and joy to the residents of Tower One/Tower East, an apartment and assisted living community in New Haven.

Honored were Andy Schlessinger and Eric Kay, who for two years, have operated the “Sunshine Cart” at Tower One, dispensing with snacks, novelties and other items.

CEO Mark Garilli gave each young man an inscribed glass award and commended the duo for showing up through rain, snow and sunshine, “brightening our day with goodies from their Sunshine Cart. They inspire us to smile and remind us of how insignificant our worries may be.”

Barry Vine also took to the podium to announce a legacy gift in which Eric and Andy will have bronze leaves inscribed and added to Tower One’s Tree of Life in the center’s lobby “in lasting tribute to both of you.”

“Rushing into the Towers, I am often met by Eric and Andy. Their smiling faces calm me  down completely from a hectic day at the office. Their kindness and eagerness to please, and their passion for their work, is evidencet in everything they do,” Barry said as the many seniors gathered in the dining hall nodded and smiled.

Chapel Haven President Michael Storz commended Tower One for taking the time to honor its many volunteers, including Eric and Andy. “My message today is very simple: Chapel Haven’s success depends on open doors like this one, at the Towers. I am delighted to hear that Eric and Andy have brought so much enjoyment to your residents as they make their rounds. These young men have been given an opportunity, by you, to make a real difference through volunteerism. I am proud of both young men for representing themselves and Chapel Haven with such distinction.”

Eric Kay with his parents, David and Linda. Linda helped start the partnership at Tower One.

 

Andy and his mother, Monica, who was instrumental in starting a partnership with Tower One/Tower East

Monica Schlessinger, mother of Andy, and Linda and David Kay, parents of Eric, attended the event. Storz credited both families with helping to get a partnership started at Tower One, along with Richard Wurtzel, a consulting speech-language pathologist at Chapel Haven.

“The result – the Sunshine Cart – is, as Mastercard would say, priceless,” he said. In addition, Tower One/Tower East is one of nine Working Partnership internships for students, who help set the tables during lunch. “On a bigger level, our students are learning about what it takes to be successful in the workplace,” Storz said.

The festive event included a performance by the Towers’ Gospel Choir and Chorus. Afterward, the seniors thronged Eric and Andy to thank them in person for being such a great presence. The door remains open for Chapel Haven at Tower One!

 

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Family Weekend draws 500 friends and families!

Chapel Haven celebrated its 42nd anniversary on Sunday, April 27 with a showing of nearly 500 friends and family members at Woodwinds in Branford.

Stay tuned for more photos to come from the wonderful day!

The festive event included a silent auction, buffet luncheon, a keynote speech by community member Diana Bilezikian, who has just published a new book, and the honoring of three community members who have lived at least 30 years independently in the Chapel Haven community. Laura Mintz, who was honored at last year’s brunch for her 30-year achievement, introduced the three honorees. Those three individuals are:

  • Claire Adams
  • Chris Murray
  • Paul Gordon

“We were honored to recognize Claire, Paul and Chris,” said Chapel Haven President Michael Storz. “We have a growing group of individuals that we are proud to welcome into what we fondly call our ’30-plus’ club. Having maintained independence and happiness in the Chapel Haven community for 30 years is indeed, a milestone.”

Chapel Haven Community member Diana Bilezikian was honored for publication of her book, “Dear Diana…A Guide to Help Those with Special Needs Negotiate Everyday Situations,” published by AAPC Publishing. Nearly 100 signed copies of the new book were purchased by interested families and friends at the brunch.

Jonathan Slifka, Governor Dannel Malloy’s newly appointed liaison to the disability community, attended the event and presented Diana with a proclamation in honor of her achievement.

Chapel Haven President Michael Storz also honored Diana by presenting an engraved clock on behalf of Chapel Haven.

Diana’s book is getting rave reviews in the autism and special needs community. Reviewer Merri Rosenberg, of Education Update Online calls the book “poignant, brave, touching and incredibly practical.”
The book is published by AAPC Publishing. To learn more or order the book visit: https://www.aapcpublishing.net/

Jennica Harris, soon to graduate from Chapel Haven’s Asperger Syndrome Adult Transition program, drew a standing ovation for her remarks about how much Chapel Haven has changed her life.

“In my time in the program, I have built strong friendships with some of the graduates, and I am acting as a friend and mentor to the first-year students,” Jennica said. “I have been in Southern CT State University’s choir for two semesters building music skills and friendships…I am thankful that ASAT has helped me prepare for my career, and I’ve had success in jobs.”

“In my time in the program, I have built strong friendships with some of the graduates, and I am acting as a friend and mentor to the first-year students,” Jennica said. “I have been in Southern CT State University’s choir for two semesters building music skills and friendships…I am thankful that ASAT has helped me prepare for my career, and I’ve had success in jobs.” Read her full remarks Jennica’s Brunch Speech

 

 

 

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Chapel Haven Community Member Organizes His Own Seder

A big congratulations to Chapel Haven Community Member Sam Shwartz, who hosted his own Seder in his apartment at Chapel Haven.

Sam hosted a Passover Seder for 13 friends. The conversation was brisk, the laughs were plenty and they ate matzo ball soup, beef brisket, broccoli casserole, grape juice and mandel bread for dessert. Sam did a great job reading the story of Passover and leading blessings and prayer. Hebrew music was provided through recordings of the cantor from his family synagogue in the Boston area. Way to go Sam! This was no easy task!

The New Haven Register captured the celebration for a front page story on April 15. Check it out here.

Chapel Haven President Michael Storz said the fact that Sam organizes and holds a seder in his apartment at Chapel Haven is a true indicator of independence. Storz said he’s especially pleased that Sam continues to honor the traditions of his faith even as he pursues a life of independence.

“Sam considers Chapel Haven his home and his parents fully support that,” Storz said. “Our staff helped Sam organize his invitations, plan the meal and shop, but for the most part, Sam is in the lead and that is wonderful. We recognize how important it is for clients to find fellowship here, in our community. That’s what adult life is all about.”

Chapel Haven also has been privileged to have its own unique Jewish Students Organization, with the help of Jewish Family Services of New Haven’s Shalom Group, which serves Jewish individuals in the New Haven area who have developmental needs. The Shalom Group helps individuals experience holiday observance, Torah study and shared fellowship. Rabbi Hesch Sommer of Jewish Family Services and JFS social worker Rachel Scolnic Dobin teach sessions twice a month at Chapel Haven and the group is a popular option for clients at Chapel Haven. While Sommer focuses on religious teaching, Dobin handles etiquette, daily living, holiday observances and activities through the Jewish Community Center.

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Chapel Haven’s Diana Bilezikian publishes handy guide!

Chapel Haven has an author in the house!

Diana Bilezikian, a graduate of Scarsdale High School and a longtime Chapel Haven community member, is the author of the just-published book, “Dear Diana…Diana’s Guide to Independent Living – For Adolescents and Young Adults with Different Learning Styles and Special Needs” (AAPC Publishing).

The book is chock-full of advice and tips on how to navigate practical aspects of daily living. Diana will sign and sell copies of the book at Chapel Haven’s upcoming Family Weekend Brunch on April 27. The book is also available for sale by logging onto https://www.aapcpublishing.net.

Diana’s book is an outgrowth of a series of Diana’s emails, sent to relatives and friends about her life and the skills she was learning as she negotiated daily life at Chapel Haven. Backed by Michael Storz, president of Chapel Haven, Diana’s original ideas were expanded into a helpful collection of advice and support for how to live an independent and meaning life.

She is already attracting wonderful reviews! Reviewer Merri Rosenberg, of Education Update Online, calls the book “poignant, brave, touching and incredibly practical.”

Proceeds from the sale of the books will benefit Chapel Haven.

Way to go, Diana!

 

 

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Chapel Haven joins Yale University in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day

Kimber and Hannah work on a mural, to be displayed at Yale

Chapel Haven students and community members collaborated with students from Yale University to create artwork together in advance of World Autism Awareness Day.

All the art supplies were donated by Yale. The resulting artwork will be displayed April 2, in Yale’s Woolsey Hall rotunda to increase awareness of autism.
Click here to read coverage in the New Haven Register and to view a video and photo slide show.

Yale will also celebrate the international day in other ways. Yale’s Harkness Tower will glow bright blue on the evening of Tuesday, April 2, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.The colorful illumination on the campus landmark is part of “Light It Up Blue” by Autism Speaks, a global initiative designed both to kick off the celebration of April as Autism Awareness Month and to raise awareness about autism. Many iconic landmarks, hotels, sporting venues, concert halls, museums, bridges, and retail stores around the globe will also be lit in blue that evening.  Continue reading
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