There is no question that Ellen Alemany is a powerhouse. She is the Chairwoman and CEO of CIT Group – one of the 50 largest banks in the country – and a long-standing leader of the Board of Directors at The Center for Discovery. But perhaps her most important role is that of a mother. Ellen and her husband Jack have three children: Jackie, David, and Ellen Jr. — who is the eldest. Ellen Jr. has cerebral palsy and has been a resident at The Center since she was 14.
On May 1st Ellen was the honoree at The Center for Discovery’s annual Evening of Discovery Gala at Chelsea Piers in New York. There she was saluted for her leadership, generosity and her commitment to helping all those like Ellen Jr.
In her inspiring remarks, Ellen opened up in very personal terms about what she called the “life-changing journey” her family has been on since they discovered The Center about 20 years ago. “Since being at The Center, we’ve seen Ellen grow and thrive in ways that would not have been possible anywhere else. Each day she is engaging in activities to build her skills, confidence and social connections. She works on the farm-to-table program prepping food and taking the stems off greens. She swims twice a week and takes the ENERGym fitness class. She goes on trips to the local movie theatre and she even takes a movement class at Sullivan Community College. These are things that would not be possible for Ellen at home or in any other residential program.”
Ellen paid tribute to The Center’s staff as tireless and driven. “They focus on a person’s ability, not disability and create an environment where they can thrive and live a purposeful life with dignity. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want and, of course, that’s what we want for our children.”
Ellen said that as with many parents first struggling with the realization they have a special needs child, she did not talk about her daughter’s disability in the early days because she found it too difficult. However, she learned along the way that sharing her story encouraged others to share theirs and that sharing could have a profound impact.
Ellen, her husband Jack, Jackie and David, visit Ellen Jr. often on weekends and for family celebrations. In a moving video played at the Gala, that captured the family’s joy at spending time together, Ellen talked about how they have peace of mind knowing that their daughter will be cared for her entire life in a place she calls the “gold-standard” for care.
Ellen is now focused on the future and urged those in the Gala audience to help tackle the issues surrounding complex disabilities by getting involved in any way they can. “Maybe it’s creating a culture in your workplace that takes the stigma out of disabilities. Maybe it’s advocating with policymakers to continue to fund needed programs and research for those with special needs. Or, maybe it’s helping to support the research and care model that The Center is building and working to expand through the forthcoming Research Institute and the Children’s Assessment Hospital, which will transform the standard of care for complex conditions. There are so many ways to make a difference, and I know we can, in fact, make the future different for the millions of people affected with these issues.”
Knowing Ellen as we do, you can count on it.
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