For far too long, New York’s special needs community has faced an immense gap in available care. Over one million New Yorkers are developmentally or intellectually disabled and depend on direct professional support for their day to day lives, yet many government resources for special needs New Yorkers are underfunded or understaffed, with organizations often turning away individuals who rely on such services.
Nineteen years ago, seven year old Joey Ceonzo was turned away from a special needs program due to his significant needs. In response, his mom, Jackie Ceonzo, brought together a pediatric neurologist, a disability advocate, and behavioral specialist to create the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids and Adults (SNACK). SNACK is dedicated to never turning anyone away, no matter how challenging the behavior or degree of disabilities.
SNACK has grown into a community based organization serving over 200 teens and young adults with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities on a weekly basis through a variety of programs throughout the year. Programs include various 60 minute classes, such as art, music, and cooking, as well as a swimming program, teen fitness, a holiday program, and a full day program for young adults who have aged out of school. SNACK’s full day program runs from Monday to Friday, and runs through the holidays when schools are closed.
SNACK’s programming, which has a 95% re-enrollment rate, is in such high demand that there is now a waitlist, yet the organization is committed to serving all kids on its waitlist.
To support SNACK’s efforts to provide all New Yorkers with special needs with programming and community, the Foundation provided a grant of $100,000, enabling SNACK to expand its operations. The grant will support the hiring of three program directors, staff training, supplies, equipment, and software that will help the team create and maintain their programming.
New Yorkers with special needs often do not have access to the care and programming that they and their families need. SNACK was created in response to this gap in care, and for nearly 20 years has been empowering hundreds of New Yorkers with special needs.
To learn more about SNACK and to support their work, visit their website here.