Adaptive Martial Arts

Instructor Ken Goodrich is a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, a nine time US and World Breaking Association champion, and a three time USA Taekwondo champion in Board Breaking. He has broken 12 concrete blocks at once…using his elbow. What does someone with a skill set like that offer to kids with disabilities? Quite a lot. And when CHD Disability Resources reached out to him about teaching a class in Adaptive Martial Arts, he was all in.

“We realize this program has to be different for everyone, so we talk to families and fit what I’m teaching to their needs,” Goodrich explained. “Martial arts training is about motivation and confidence. We always want a positive attitude so people feel good and don’t give up. It’s also about respect. The kids are expected to address the instructor with courtesy, as sir, and to show respect for their peers.”

Among the eight kids in class, one has cerebral palsy, two are blind, one has prosthetic legs, one is autistic, two have ADHD, and one has epilepsy. Goodrich starts the class by sitting in a circle to talk. He wants to get to know everyone’s name and something about them. “If I don’t know you, it’s hard to teach you,” he tells the kids. “We’re family here so everybody gets what they need. In this class there is no excuse for not trying your best.”  

Right away it appears that expectations in this class may be higher than some of these kids have been exposed to in other environments. When one kid says, “But I can’t…” Goodrich interrupts and says, “Don’t say those words! Do the best you can. Everyone is expected to do the best they can.”

Importantly, what constitutes “the best I can do” is different for each kid, and Goodrich is not critical of the outcome, only the effort. “We’re figuring it all out, but I’m not taking it easy on you. Are you OK? Do you want a hug? C’mon, you can do it. Do the best you can.”

Half way through the class, kids break out into groups. Leanne, who has epilepsy, works with an instructor and thinks about her goal: a kick. Her wheels are spinning and she is focused. “Know in your head that you can do it,” the instructor says. Her kicks get higher with increasingly good form. She smiles realizing what she can do.

“Leanne is 11 and goes to middle school in Agawam,” her mom Lynn explains. “She’s athletic and likes to move her body. She has enjoyed playing basketball and soccer at her own pace with some good coaches. I was looking for something different and I learned about CHD’s Disability Resources. I talked with Jessica Levine and she told me about the Adaptive Martial Arts class. I wanted Leanne to be with other kids, and everyone here is mellow and supportive. I can already see a difference in her. She is happier and looks forward to being here. It’s uplifting to be in a welcoming community, to be with other parents, and to get out of the house and be active. I think it’s great.”

How does Leanne feel about Adaptive Martial Arts? She says, “It makes me feel happy, like a butterfly.”

As these kids with disabilities complete another session of Adaptive Martial Arts and head off with their families, each one is better for having lived up to a simple expectation: do the best you can.

Leanne was able to attend the entire 8-week Adaptive Martial Arts session because a generous benefactor donated her tuition. Disability Resources receives no state or federal money to run our programs. Every dollar of our funding—100%—is raised through grants, special events and generous people. When you make a generous donation to Disability Resources, just follow the charge given to these disabled children: do the best you can.


To learn more at Adaptive Martial Arts or any CHD Disability Resources program, contact Jessica Levine at 413-788-9695 or


Helping women ‘feel beautiful’ – one wig at a time

Copied from Westfield News Group, June 28, 2017. By Lori Szepelak

WEST SPRINGFIELD-Joan Quinn learned the art of making wigs in the 1960’s at her first job – Steiger’s in downtown Springfield – and that skill has been a blessing throughout her career and is now helping women battling cancer who have lost their hair.

On Monday morning, Quinn proudly showcased the Wig Boutique at the CHD Cancer House of Hope at 1999 Westfield St. which has had a makeover since Quinn began as volunteer Wig Boutique coordinator last year. “After talking with director Joe Kane I felt that I could contribute,” said Quinn, who also taught Cosmetology and Aesthetics for 26 years at Springfield Technical Community College. “There were quite a few wigs available, but it wasn’t the kind of environment that made a woman feel good about herself.”

Quinn created a vision for the room and turned to her “angels” – friends and businesses – who transformed the space into a tranquil, warm and inviting atmosphere.
“I recruited volunteers, people with different talents and resources, to transform the room,” said Quinn. “I never thought I had a lot of friends but it turns out I do, and they’re my angels. Together we got the room painted, added shelving to display the wigs on model heads, and revamped lighting. We also raised money by selling plaques which purchased the needed materials, and Home Depot employees in West Springfield donated the labor, led by design coordinator Cyndi Marshall Gallant. It was their generous free labor that really made our boutique’s dream happen sooner.” Quinn’s goal for every “guest” who visits the Wig Boutique is to “feel beautiful” when they leave.

 “A woman’s hair is such a personal thing,” said Kane. “Joan has been doing this kind of work for her whole career. She can tell by the shape of a woman’s face, the form of her features, and the shade of her skin what kind of wig will look, fit and feel right. And she really cares about every guest who comes in.” Quinn is joined by Jan D’Orazio, a former hairdresser, who brings a complementary skill set to the cause. Together they staff the Wig Boutique weekdays and by appointment. Quinn explained that wigs offered at the boutique – all free to women fighting a cancer diagnosis – are synthetic. Some wigs are donated by retailers from a line that has been discontinued, and many are donated by individuals.

 “Sometimes wigs come back from a guest who is cured or in remission,” said Quinn. “Sometimes a wig is brought back if a guest dies, which is a sad event but also a cleansing experience for a surviving spouse or family member who can leave knowing that the wig can make a meaningful difference in the life of someone on their own journey with cancer.”

If a wig is being donated or returned, a “refreshing process” is done to ensure it is clean and sanitized. “Cosmetology students at STCC now volunteer to perform the task for us,” said Quinn. “They learn a career skill and help a good cause.” In the past six months, close to 100 wigs have been provided to women, as well as hats and scarves. There are close to 60 wigs in a variety of styles on display at all times with more than 100 waiting to be draped on mannequins. The hairstyles are diverse and encompass all age ranges – from girls to those in their 90’s.

Westfield resident Colleen Chevosky is one of the guests this spring who received a wig, hat and some scarves. “On my first visit in February before surgery I felt very welcomed,” said Chevosky, who noted she has been “very open” about her breast cancer journey. “I didn’t think I would need a wig but when I went back in May I wanted to have one.” She is currently finishing up her chemotherapy appointments and will still undergo six weeks of radiation and further surgeries. Chevosky enlisted her two children, ages five and eight, to join her at the Wig Boutique to help her pick out the right wig.

“I wanted them to be more comfortable so I asked them to help me pick out a wig,” said Chevosky, noting they could then say, “I picked that out for Mommy.” After Chevosky tried on several hair style options at her children’s urging, her son and daughter ultimately chose a hair style that was similar to what she had. “This is the new me – with no hair,” said Chevosky, adding that while she did take a wig, she wears the scarves most of the time. Quinn recently launched a “Hang Cancer Out To Dry” clothesline campaign which travels to local salons each month and all money collected goes toward purchasing needed boutique items. In the coming months, Hairworks Salon on College Highway in Southwick will be one of the supporters of the cause.

 “Our salon is very active supporting breast cancer causes,” said Paula Zering of Hairworks Salon, who also started volunteering at the Wig Boutique. “We have helped women shave their heads and tweak their wigs to fit more comfortably over the years. We rally together to help women.”

Quinn explained that the Wig Boutique is not a hair salon. “We’re a boutique where a guest can look at various options and choose one or two that she likes best,” said Quinn. “When she walks out, you wouldn’t know she’s wearing a wig. She leaves feeling beautiful.” Meghan O’Leary, a volunteer at the boutique who previously owned the salon, @round the corner on School Street in Westfield, echoed those sentiments. “I’ve had clients and friends diagnosed with breast cancer,” said O’Leary, noting that several she helped by shaving their heads. “I’ve had clients say they wouldn’t see me in six months because they were going to die. I can’t imagine what each woman is going through.”

O’Leary said she is donating her time at the Wig Boutique to wash and trim wigs, and pick up wig donations. She also works with several artists including Sabrina Garrity and Ruth Butler who bring their artistic talent to the boutique – including painting the styrofoam mannequins that grace the boutique shelves. “We’re like a friend who listens, provides emotional support, and promises we will find the right wig for you,” said O’Leary. Quinn concurred. “A little piece of my heart goes with every guest who comes here,” said Quinn. Programs and services also offered at the Cancer House of Hope include Reiki, certified oncology massage therapy, yoga, breast prosthesis fittings, a Relaxation Group and a Breast Cancer Support Group. For more information, call (413) 733-1858 or visit

AW Hastings knows windows, and Caring (Together)

The employees of A.W. Hastings came together to make a positively life changing donation to CHD’s Caring Together Program. Caring Together is a residential foster care program serving children from zero to 17 years of age. All too often, children will arrive at the program with all of their belongings in a trash bag. It is unacceptable to CHD, and, to the employees of AW Hastings who generously donated the supply of bags you see here which are filled with personal care supplies. Despite the inconsistency in the lives of these children, they now have something to call their own.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Month

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Awareness Month Spotlights Processing Trauma with Therapy

SPRINGFIELD, MA – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often viewed in the context of soldiers coming home from war where they experienced trauma. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault or disaster. But it’s not only members of the military who suffer trauma. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt the person’s life, it may be due to PTSD.

Consider these facts, based on the U.S. population:

  • About 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
  • About 10 percent of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 percent of men. Overall, about 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
    Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The death of someone close, particularly a parent or a child, can result in trauma. The loss of job can be traumatic, especially when the job was central to the person’s identity. The end of a relationship with a friend or an intimate partner can be traumatic. Even a change of environment can leave someone feeling isolated, which can be traumatic.

PTSD is not rare, nor is receiving therapy to help address the after-effects of trauma. In fact, lots of folks get therapy. “People talk to a therapist to process things that are having an impact on their daily lives,” said Earl C. Miller, Coordinator of Peer Roles for CHD. “It can be especially helpful to talk with someone who doesn’t have any weight in your life, not an intimate partner, for example, where talking through how you are feeling could be misinterpreted or otherwise affect your relationship. Most people do need some emotional support at times, but not everyone has people in their lives to provide the kind of support they need to feel well.”

Miller offered an example of someone who was going through the loss of a parent. “This person’s mother had been really important in his life,” said Miller. “When she died, he lost his foundation. Just waking up every day and knowing he wasn’t able to reach out to his mother was overwhelming. By talking with a therapist, he realized that he isn’t broken by feeling bad, that grief is real and that grieving is important. It was hard when he had daily reminders of parenthood in the world, like seeing strangers with their kids. The therapist was able to help him reframe those reminders, hold onto the memory of his mother and view himself as a representative of his mother in the world. Talking with the therapist made him feel more in control, which helped return to work and move forward in his life.”

According to Miller, having someone to talk to who is a professional and can open themselves up to your circumstances and feelings can be transformative. “A good therapist, clinician, outreach worker, or peer support specialist can mirror the qualities of a good friend, but without the baggage or burden that can come with friends and personal relationships,” he explained. “Therapy can get you out of a rut. It can help you way to reframe the way you make connections or rethink your game plan for life. It can improve your mental wellness, your relationships with others, and your ability to live life to the fullest each day.”

Miller emphasized that it’s OK to get therapy. “Wanting to feel better is absolutely a sign of strength,” he said. “If you aren’t feeling right, try therapy. See how it goes. You may be surprised when that first conversation, which lasts an hour, feels like it’s over in ten minutes and you want it to continue.”

To find out more about therapy resources in your community, call 1-844-CHD-HELP.

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults, and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.

Feelings Are Mentionable and Manageable

Fred Rogers, famous as TV’s Mister Rogers, was a gentle, thoughtful man whose unique way of talking about feelings put children at ease. When he testified before Congress in 1969 for public support of intelligent TV programming for children, Rogers told the Senate Commerce Committee chairman that “feelings are mentionable and manageable.”

These words came to mind when I read results of a new study on depression in children. Published this week in the journal Translational Psychiatry, it reveals alarming data about the state of children’s mental health in the U.S. Notably, the researchers found that depression in children appears to start as early as age 11, and by the time they reach age 17, 13.6 percent of boys and an astonishing 36.1 percent of girls have been or are depressed.

This was a large study involving in-person interviews with more than 100,000 children who participated in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2009 to 2014. The study’s author, Elizabeth Miller, is Director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Miller said that until researchers can get a better understanding of why some people can come out of depression without intervention while others need help, parents, teachers and others who work with children should learn to recognize the signs of childhood depression.

What are those signs? According to Nina Slovik, LICSW, Community Based Flexible Supports Clinic Director for CHD, parents should look for warning signs of depression, such as:

  • Seeming more withdrawn, reactive, irritable, or sad
  • Stomach pain, headaches, etc., without any discernable cause
  • Missing school/cutting classes/acting out in class
  • Changes that might correlate with time spent on social media
  • Victim (or potentially perpetrator) of bullying
  • Recent significant losses (e.g., death of a close relative friend, or pet, or divorce of parents)
  • Unusual preoccupation with celebrity deaths or current event disasters (e.g., mass killings)

Many children and teens with emotional problems keep their pain secret. Others express their feelings in risky or offensive ways. Due largely to stigma—fear, shame, and misunderstanding about mental health disorders—about half never receive clinical care. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that only 50.6 percent of children with mental disorders had received treatment for their disorder within the past year.

As parents, how can we help our kids? Take a lesson from Fred Rogers: remember that feelings are mentionable and manageable. Find time to ask your children, “How are you?”—and then listen to what they have to say. With certain emotions, some kids can’t simply “shake it off.” Talking to someone with the right training and credentials, someone who knows how to listen, can help your child understand what they’re feeling. It can make a world of difference. Realize, too, that mentioning and managing feelings doesn’t mean your child needs medication or a prescription.

CHD is a great local resource regarding emotional wellness.  As a major social service organization for our region, we offer extensive behavioral health programs, including services designed to identify and treat depression in children.

If your child needs need corrective lenses to see well, you take them to the optometrist. It’s not any different when it comes to mentioning and managing their feelings.  Help is available—and CHD is ready to provide it. To find out more, call 1-844-CHD-HELP.

Ask your children how they’re feeling. You can begin the conversation with three words: “How are you?”


Kimberley A. Lee, VP Office of Advancement for CHD