Ferncliff Manor

Annual Appeal 2020

We need your Support

Message from Our Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Stars. In the sky, they are as distant as can be, yet here at Ferncliff Manor, our students reach for them every day. They find their way into our thoughts, our academic lessons, our stories, our artwork and our dreams. 2019 was a year where we reached as high as ever for them. Our special education program celebrated the graduation of one of our largest classes in recent history. Our students surpassed their personal and educational goals in record numbers. Our administration moved ahead with the establishment of two new Individual Residential Alternative Adult Group Homes in Westchester County and our students enjoyed participating in the life the community more than ever. Year after year, it is your support that helps us reach our stars. Whether cheering us on as we march up McLean Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, visiting our school or residence to read to our kids, donating to our projects, attending our special events, or advocating for us in the community, every gesture helps our kids be the stars we know they can be.

I invite you to read the story of our very special student, Craig MacDonald, who joined our family in 2006. His sister Olivia tells the story of her family’s courage, strength and boundless love, which has inspired us since the day he arrived. Soon, Craig will move to one our recently acquired Adult Group Homes located just a few short miles away from his family. As an adult, he will live among a small group of his peers, receiving the care and support he needs as we proudly provide his care for a lifetime.

Thank you for your consideration of a gift of support.



Kristen Yurczak
Executive Director

The story of our very special student, Craig MacDonald

At 5 years old my brother was the boy on the Wheaties box, literally and figuratively. He was what any parent would have dreamed up in a child.While he was both charming and soft spoken, he had a glint in his eye and a tall frame that could catch any kid on the flag football field. His dimples and knock-knock jokes could make any exhausted kindergarten teacher smile. Even after my harshest moments as an older sister with first-born syndrome, it was as if my little brother was simply programmed to show me nothing but love. It was just his nature. In all honesty, Craig was perfect. However, I’ve come to realize any parent really just wants their child to be two things: happy and healthy. On Thanksgiving morning of 2003, my parents’ worst fear was realized. Craig was no longer healthy and he couldn’t tell them if he was happy. A long series of gran mal seizures had wiped out his speech and cognition. He now lived with a seizure disorder and was no longer able to communicate in any regular capacity. That first Thanksgiving morning was followed by long stays at Westchester Medical Center and Blythdale Rehab Center, as well as so many specialists visits I’m sure my parents lost count. Life for our family was forever changed. Since his first seizure almost 16 years ago, Craig has needed around the clock care and supervision, and will likely always require such assistance.

He never regained his speech or cognitive abilities, and while my parents still to this day hold hope for some sort of recovery, they long ago accepted that Craig would never live or function independently. I remember a lot of anger and confusion in the years following Craig’s initial illness, never understanding why my little brother’s future was seemingly ripped out from under him. I watched my parents sacrifice almost everything to provide him with the best care possible, including at times, their sanity. But what I remember more than the anger and confusion was the love, strength, and support that poured into our lives, especially from Ferncliff Manor. Due to Craig’s unique combination of behavioral issues and a seizure disorder, he was asked to leave his public-school Special Education program and later the BOCES program as well. No school within a 3-hour radius was willing to take my brother.

Ferncliff was my parents’ last hope; and it’s likely Ferncliff is the very reason my family is still intact. Craig was enrolled as a day student at Ferncliff in 2007 and later as a residential student in September 2011. I know how difficult the decision to place Craig in residential care was for them because I was kept in the dark until only weeks prior to his transition. This was likely the hardest choice my parents have or ever will have to make, but it’s one that has been a source of the comfort and normalcy my family had been lacking for many years…and more importantly a source of structure for Craig. Ferncliff has given my family the flexibility to bring Craig home for day visits, weekends, and holidays, paired with the stability of a second home and a support team who truly knows and cares for my brother. Ferncliff, filled with its dedicated staff, was the light at the end of our tunnel. With your support, Ferncliff can remain that light, and hopefully burn even brighter for more families like mine.

– Olivia MacDonald

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Our mission is to empower the students and young adults in our care to achieve their highest level of independence, well being and self-esteem through our individualized special education, lifeskill programs and nurturing care.

Our efforts aim to contribute to the understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of persons with disabilities as we champion their integration into the mainstream of the communities in which they live.

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