YAI Opens New Deer Park Home

Fri, May 13, 2016

"After all the things I've been through, this is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my 25 years of practice." — Kurt Widmaier

Widmaier, the court-appointed guardian for Johnathan Elias, had just assisted his move from a residential school in Yonkers to YAI's Deer Park Residence, which opened Monday, in Long Island.

Transitions can be difficult for Johnathan, who does not use words to communicate. Yet Widmaier said Johnathan appeared "surprisingly calm and comfortable." 


Weekly Visits Before Move
Credit the Deer Park team's strategy, assigning a staff member to visit new residents weekly at their schools for months prior to the move. Joe Mongiardo, Assistant Supervisor, recalled school staff telling him Johnathan would only eat chicken nuggets and only when he was in a particular seat. After getting acquainted, Joe began taking Johnathan out in the community, even to restaurant where Johnathan enjoyed pizza, french fries and coke. "There's a lot in there, we've just got to get it out," Joe said, referring to Johnathan's communication style.

Andrej Drofenik, Supervisor of the home, described the transition from child services to adult services as "coming from a world with rules into a world with agreements." 
Coming Home
For Randy Stubenrauch, the move was a homecoming. He grew up in Deer Park with his grandparents, father, step mother and dog Allie. "I found her two years ago as a stray," Randy said, unpacking trash bags filled with sports equipment, clothing and a wrestling belt. "I like wrestling," he added.
Knowing What They Like
Like a proud father, Dave O'Keefe, Coordinator, smiled as people moved in. He hooked up Randy's X-Box, played Jonathan's favorite music (Lenny Williams' "Cause I Love You") and added his personal touch to decorating—a model car rested on a living room shelf. "One of the men loves cars; so I brought this from home,” Dave said. 

John and Meena Oommen toured the home as they awaited their son Jobi's arrival from his residential school in Rome, New York They wrapped their arms around him upon arrival. 
'This is Your New Home'
"This is your new home Jobi," John said, with an arm around Jobi.

"We're happy to have him closer to home," Meena added, as she helped unpack clothing. 
Meanwhile two staff from the school who drove Jobi to the home couldn't contain their tears. "We’re so happy for Jobi. We're going to miss him," one said.

Congratulations to the Deer Park team and all staff who helped make this home a reality.

"We're excited for them to learn and grow," said Courtney Zollo, Assistant Behavioral Intervention Specialist, reflecting everyone's sentiment.