Champions of Challenge and Change
We recently visited with Legacy Circle members Mary Ellen and Peter Ferrantelli on behalf of St. Madeleine Sophie's Center. We found ourselves immersed in a warm and welcoming home, rich with generations of family history and abundant with love.
Mary Ellen and Peter have two daughters, Jennifer and Juliana, a son, Michael (Michael Angelo is named after Peter's father) and four grandchildren. Now 51, living at Noah Homes and so happy with his long-time job at Pizza Hut, Michael attended St. Madeleine Sophie's Center as a very young boy.
From there, Michael grew up with all the challenges and joys that an autistic person – and their loving families – naturally experience over the years. His parents were clearly painstaking ‘pioneers' over the years in their research and resources to provide their son with the highest quality and dignity of life that now continues.
Bottom line, the Ferrantelli's remain a role-model family to others in coping effectively with raising a son with special needs. As our discussion with them turned further toward the current and future needs of the developmentally disabled, we wanted to share several of their thoughts that are relevant, real-world and helpful to other families.
Peter feels strongly about how we need to perceive those with special needs:
"I think it's important for everyone to recognize that there is really no difference between those who are disabled and those who are not. Basically, the daily routine remains pretty much the same…we all do the same things from when we wake up to when we go to bed. We all have so many things in common…I think we just need to stop viewing our disabled ones as ‘different' and instead, focus on their abilities…and how we can help develop them (just like we do for ourselves). With the tough challenges can come great joy and growth when you can broaden your perspective and outlook."
Mary Ellen shares some foundational thoughts that have helped her then, now and into the future:
"As a mother, I have always relied very strongly on my faith in raising all of my children. I think that one's faith gets them through those most difficult times in life. I also advise other mothers (parents) who have a developmentally disabled son, daughter or other family members to network and talk (and even laugh) with others under similar circumstances. Take advantage of the many services and organizations available to you today and do your homework…study up on the field and let knowledge guide you. Keep that sense of humor and remember to celebrate the joys and accomplishments of your loved ones along the way."
The Ferrantelli's may be humble about it, but the exemplary work they continue to do has a powerful impact on the developmentally disabled community -- and those who support it. Actually, their generous work as philanthropists and volunteers is virtually ‘immeasurable' from St. Madeleine's perspective as Legacy Circle members. Peter and Mary Ellen are actively involved in supporting those with special needs on so many levels, including their current full-throttle volunteer support behind Noah Homes ‘Noah's Ark Angel Foundation', for which Peter serves as Chair.
--Kellye Buchanan and Sharon Esche Irving