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United Cerebral Palsy Center celebrates its grand opening

May 05, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN-Patrick McLester gazed at the sky smiling, watching as a cluster of green and yellow helium balloons launched Friday afternoon floated in the air in celebration of the Hagerstown United Cerebral Palsy Center's grand opening.

It was McLester's idea to include the balloons as part of the ceremony. The 26-year-old Hagerstown man, who suffers from several disabilities, said he has built more self-respect and confidence since enrolling in the center's new College 4 Living program, which teaches its disabled students life skills through lectures and interactive trips.

After the ribbons were cut in front of the new South Pointe Shopping Center site, McLester happily recalled to his family and friends the balloon launch and acknowledged, as the center's director Jennifer Maust had, that the balloons were "really a good idea."

"They teach them respect, and you have to learn what respect is before you can give it to someone else," said his mother, Gail McLester. She raved about the program and its benefits for her son, who had had problems adjusting to other programs in which he had been enrolled.

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McLester was the inspiration for the College 4 Living program, Maust said. McLester was working only odd jobs through the job development program at the center, and Maust said she thought, "There had to be a bridge between the programs we were offering and ways we could better their life."

In the College 4 Living program, which began in January, 53 students recently have learned about the food pyramid and checkbook balancing.

"I'll point to a banana and they can tell you that's potassium and it helps you with metabolism," said Deena Cady, a personal development assistant who works one-on-one with the students "When we teach them finance, we take them out and give them money and ask them what they could buy with that amount."

Carolyn Gardner, whose daughter Stacey Gardner, 36, is in the program, said her daughter had been away from a structured environment for a while and has benefited from the structure of the program.

She said there are few programs like College 4 Living for disabled adults in Washington County and she liked having more options.

United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland is a nonprofit organization that promotes independence for people ages 16 and older with all types of disabilities.

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