Some attendees at the City
Hall celebration are, back row left to right, award winner Vikas Khanna;
the Rev. John Massari of Our Lady of Pompei, R.C.; award winner Lawrence
Joseph Seiler; Comptroller William Thompson; Tara Cortes, president of
Lighthouse International; Brother Rick Curry, S.J., founder of the
National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped; and Marco Damiani, director
of clinical and family services, YAI/National Institute for People with
Disabilities Network. Front row left to right, are award winners Edith
Prentiss, Rhoda Rousso and Flerida Pena.
City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr. recently honored five New Yorkers
and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest at his national disability
awareness month celebration. The event was co-sponsored with YAI/National
Institute for People with Disabilities Network and Lighthouse
“We need to
spread the word and drive the message home that there is absolutely no
limit to what can be achieved by people who are living with disabilities.
Break down the assumptions, open the doors, make it possible for all
people to contribute their talents, ideas and leadership, and we all
benefit,” said Thompson. We all know that victories, great and small, do
not happen overnight. That’s why it is important to honor the hard work
that has made progress possible, and pay tribute to the men and women who
paved the way. Let us draw inspiration from those who are setting a
positive example today – the people who work every day to bring about
first honoree, Vikas Khanna, is a chef, restauranteur and activist. He is
the founder of Cooking for Life, a non-profit organization that brings
together celebrated chefs for tasting events that raise funds for relief
efforts around the world.
The next honoree, Edith Prentiss, is involved in numerous
organizations and initiatives that are working to improve the lives of
people with disabilities and the elderly. She is first vice president of
Disabled in Action, president emeritus of the Manhattan BoroughWide
InterAgency Council on Aging and chairperson of the Presbyterian Hospital
Community Health Council. She also is a member of the Disability Network
of New York City, the Washington Heights and Inwood Council on Aging and
the New York State Independent Living Council, as well as a leader in the
Taxis For All Campaign.
Next, Thompson honored the New York Lawyers for the Public
Interest’s Disability Law Center. The Disability Law Center is one of the
leading legal advocacy organizations for people with disabilities in New
York state that provides a full range of services to protect and promote
the civil rights of the disabled.
The next honoree, Rhoda Rousso, is a social service provider and
community advocate. She currently serves as coordinator of Deafness
Services at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn. She also has served as an
instructor to deaf students at New York City Technical College and
LaGuardia Community College and worked at the New York Society for the
Deaf, American Sign Language Institute and New York University. She is an
honorary member of the Brooklyn Society for the Deaf and a former member
of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association and the New York
American Sign Language Teachers Association.
The next honoree was Flerida Pena, a service coordinator
for the early intervention program at Volunteers of America, where she
helps families with special needs. Pena also participates in the City
University of New York’s Youth Transition Demonstration Project, where she
helps parents and their children with special needs prepare for their
transition to adulthood. She also participates in a parent support group
at Services for the Developmentally Challenged.
The final honoree was Lawrence Joseph Seiler,
creator and host of the acclaimed Bronxnet television program “Special
People/Special Issues,” which addresses a wide range of issues affecting
people with disabilities who live in the local community.
The YAI Players/Theater of Dreams performed
at the event. Brother Rick Curry, artistic director of the National
Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped, gave the Invocation and the Rev. John
Massari of Our Lady of Pompeii Roman Catholic Church offered the