60th Anniversary Spotlight Series
The Walsh Family
May 31, 2016
There have been many families with deeply connected roots throughout Cantalician Center for Learning's history. The Walsh family was one of those that have spent the majority of their lives investing time and energy into the agency's mission. Kathie Walsh began working at Cantalician Center as an educator in 1971. Her first son, Patrick Walsh Jr. was born in 1974. Kathie and her husband Patrick "Pat" Walsh Sr. felt there were some delays with their baby boy so they took him to several pediatricians for advice.
Finally, after multiple opinions, the Walsh's decided that Patrick Jr. would be in the "best hands" at Cantalician Center who was starting up a new infant day program at their Main Street facility at the time. Kathie said Felician Sister Raphael Marie's vision was to serve individuals with developmental disabilities from "cradle to grave." Patrick Jr. ended up being the very first baby enrolled into Cantalician Center's new infant program.
"We had this inherent trust of the Sisters. Sister Raphael Marie was a Registered Nurse and so was Sister Laurita who ran the infant program, so we just trusted them," said Pat Walsh Sr.
The school offered families specialized programs such as Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapies. The staff worked with Patrick Jr. on things like walking and muscle strength. They worked on building up his physical strength for years until he finally sat up on his own at 3-years-old.
When the Walsh's second child was born in 1977, Kathie decided it was best to stay at home while her children were young and leave her teaching job at Cantalician Center. She remained an active volunteer with the organization for years and is still willing to help in any way until this day.
In 1974, Pat Sr. began volunteering with Cantalician Center. He served on the Board of Advisors from 1979 to 1983, when Sister Raphael Marie asked him to be on the organization's first official Board of Directors. Pat Sr. served as President of the Cantalician Center Board of Directors from 1983 until 2004. He recalled a list of accomplishments and memories from the 21 years he served on the Board.
The Cantalician Center opened its Eggert Road location in the first few years Pat Sr. was President of the Board. The building was opened to house the Pre-K and infant programs. The programming for the agency's youngest students remained there until 2011 when the George Urban Boulevard location was purchased.
The agency later grew to open its first Workshop program to allow people with developmental disabilities to have employment opportunities in a store front next door to its old Main Street campus. The former Workshop space is occupied by a hydroponics shop today.
"The thinking behind opening a Workshop was to serve individuals with disabilities after they graduated. It gave them a meaningful job to report to," said Pat Walsh
The Workshop moved from the store front on Main Street to Central Park Plaza for a short time allowing Cantalician Center's individuals to work in the heart of the community. This was until the organization purchased the former Cardinal Dougherty High School Building on Hertel Avenue. The 61,336-square-foot facility would become the agency's last home for its Workshop before the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities required all Workshop's across the state to be transformed as part of its Transformational Plan to integrate people with disabilities into community based settings. The Hertel Avenue site was sold in January 2016.
The opening of the Workshop was one of the "biggest" things to happen during his tenure on the Board said Pat Sr. But, he said it was worth all of the time and effort to make Sister Raphael Marie's idea come to life. He described Sister Raphael as a smart and caring woman whose motivation kept the organization going.
"She was determined," said Pat Walsh Sr. "She was always thinking of new ideas and the board really supported her and tried to make her vision for the future come to fruition."
Pat Sr. said as the agency tried to expand its services it faced resistance and misunderstanding from the community. He said people were afraid of individuals with developmental disabilities coming into their neighborhoods.
"When Kathie and I were growing up, we rarely encountered someone with developmental disabilities, because it was so common that they were institutionalized at a young age," said Pat Walsh Sr. "The world has come lightyears in their understanding and acceptance of people with developmental disabilities and it's great for me to see in my lifetime."
Patrick Jr. graduated from preschool at Cantalician Center when he was 6-years-old and went on to attend a different program. He came back to the organization when he was 21-years-old. Today he attends Cantalician Center's Day Habilitation Without Walls program three days a week and works at Diversified Labor Solutions, the organizations division of employment services two days a week.
"I love volunteering at the Salvation Army, going to the YMCA, and packaging rubber parts and 3M sponges at Tri-Main Center," said Patrick Jr. "I really like it there."
Pat Sr. recalled "great times" serving on the Cantalician Center Board of Directors with key players such as Jack Kelleher, Dick Hull, Mike Flynn and John Langer.
"We all just felt connected to the agency and the mission," said Pat Walsh Sr. "We all went to Catholic School and were taught by nuns so when we were working with Cantalician and Sister Raphael would cook up an idea, we supported it."