Gov. Malloy accepts award from Kennedy Center, promises better partnership

Gov. Dannel Malloy said he has a special appreciation of the work done at the Trumbull-based Kennedy Center.

“Simply put, we could not do, as a state, what you are doing,” Malloy told Kennedy Center employees, volunteers and clients last week. “We couldn’t do it as well, as efficiently, or, quite frankly, as compassionately.”

The Kennedy Center Inc. has been providing numerous and varied services to individuals with disabilities for more than 60 years, currently serving a broad population of about 2,000 people, including those with intellectual and physical disabilities, mental health issues, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, and more. The Kennedy Center held its annual awards ceremony last week at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport, giving the governor the nonprofit’s 2013 Vision Award. Kennedy Center CEO and President Martin Schwartz said that though potential state funding cuts will hurt the work the center and other nonprofits do each day, the governor has made a commitment to focusing on support for those with disabilities and is an inspiration for overcoming disabilities of his own.

Gov. Malloy said that even in times when the economy was stronger the state wasn’t necessarily a good partner to nonprofits like The Kennedy Center and he promised to do better. Malloy cited his creation of a bonding pool that allows nonprofits to apply for money to make infrastructure improvements. Malloy also mentioned the creation of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, which seeks to promote full inclusion of people with disabilities into the community. He also mentioned the work of the state’s Autism Feasibility Study and the state getting better at planning for the future, when the children who are diagnosed with autism grow into adults.

“We need to make assets available wherever we can because agencies like yourself will likely have to serve more children in the future,” Malloy said.

Malloy said his appreciation for The Kennedy Center also comes from his experience as a child with “severe physical and processing disorders.” Malloy said he was spastic and unable to overcome the physical disabilities until eighth grade. His dyslexia was a longer battle, and he said he was the first person who wasn’t legally blind to take the bar exam orally, which was permitted because of his disability.

“My commitment to these issues and persons with varying disabilities comes from that and one other thing. My mother saw something in me and didn’t accept what doctors told her I wouldn’t be able to do,” the governor said. “She said to me, ‘Dannel, you have an obligation to leave this world a better place for having lived in it.’”

Malloy said he was inspired to be surrounded by so many people who work to do that each day.

“What you are doing and, in some cases, what you’ve overcome is far more important than what I’ve accomplished,” the governor said after he accepted his award.

Three Trumbull residents were among those honored at the awards dinner. Elizabeth DeLucia, Rachel Skyer and Robert Granata Jr. were each named Youth Volunteers of the Year.

“The lessons I’ve learned at The Kennedy Center are countless,” Martin Schwartz said, quoting award winner DeLucia. “But one of the most important is that differences are what makes the world awesome.”

The other award winners included Hector Bravo of Fairfield, who was given the Silver Bowl Award, Kyle Corner of Stratford, who was named Supported Employee of the Year, Barbara McWilliams, who received the Competitive Employee of the Year award, and Brian Kennedy, who received the James Rebeta Award. Charles Dowd and Shane Beardsley accepted the Competitive Employer of the Year award on behalf of the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard.

To learn more about The Kennedy Center, visit