Annual Report

Gracinda Serrazina shares a moment with Joy Pearson. Photo by Bill Dwight.

Honor Roll of Donors

I am grateful for the residential staff supporting my brother and today found myself once again overwhelmed with how profound an impact Pathlight has had.” – Patricia, family member

2022-2023 at a glance
(July 1 2022 – June 30, 2023)

Fiscal Year 2023 Financials

Support & Revenue $38,188,054
Expenses $40,750,267
Assets $28,585,761
Liabilities $12,830,431

Where did our donations come from?

Number of gifts made

Organizations, 78 gifts, which is 12%<br />
Friends and family, 525 gifts, which is 83%<br />
Foundations, 29 gifts, which is 5%

Dollars donated

46% (individual)	9% (foundation)	46%	(corporation)

A message from the President

Denise Cogman

Denise Cogman President, Board of Directors

The past year was marked by transitions – transitions that brought both challenges and opportunities for Pathlight. Under the guidance of a new leader and through the hard work and dedication of our staff, Pathlight achieved some remarkable milestones:

icon_check_alt icon We received CARF accreditation, the “gold standard” in our industry!

icon_check_alt icon We completed an extensive licensing and certification process through the state Department of Developmental Service’s (DDS) Office of Quality Enhancement (OQE)

icon_check_alt icon And we were awarded a renewed contract to continue providing adult long term residential services through DDS.

As the year unfolded, we faced unexpected change with the departure of our Executive Director, but through the transition the Pathlight community showed amazing resilience and adaptability, which exemplifies the strength of our organization. We remain committed to our mission and core values as we continue to work tirelessly to uphold the principles that define us.

To all of you who have played a role in supporting Pathlight, I extend my deepest appreciation. Your commitment to our mission is what keeps us moving forward. I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Pathlight and confident that with your continued support, this period of transition will only serve to further strengthen us and enhance our ability to make a positive impact in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities and autism and their families and caregivers.

With gratitude,

Board of Directors

Denise Cogman

Bridget Haley
First Vice President

Kelly Pignatare
Second Vice President

Trevor Smith

Jon Lumbra

Mark Germain, CPA, CITP
Assistant Treasurer

Henry “Hank” J. Drapalski Jr.
Past President

William Brown
James F. Foard, Jr.
R. Susan Hurt
Mary F. Knight
Kristen Lech
Stephen J. Levine
William H. Loomis
Judy Luddy
Tenneille McFarlane-Smart
Michael Moriarty
Glenn S. Welch

In memoriam: Michael J. Cooley

We were deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of longtime Pathlight board member Michael Cooley on November 14, 2023.  As a board member with a disability himself, he offered a unique perspective in guiding the Pathlight mission. A generous spirit, Michael was an active volunteer at many local nonprofits in the Springfield area such as Grey House and the Golden Age Club. He began his career at local radio stations before joining the staff of the Registry of Probate where he worked for almost 20 years before retiring.

Audience members at Pathlight’s Let’s Dance event will recall his enthusiasm and charm as a judge, a role he loved performing given his passion for dance. In tribute, next year Let’s Dance will feature a Michael Cooley award. Michael leaves behind a loving wife, Leila Dahabi, a brother and sister (Larry and Debbie), an extended family and countless friends.

Every donor makes a difference

We are grateful for all our donors who help us achieve our mission in serving people with disabilities. More and more donors are choosing to spread the love throughout the year by making their donations monthly. These monthly donations give us breathing room to think beyond immediate needs, and push innovation and advocacy for people with disabilities throughout Western Massachusetts.

“Our daughter Sabrina has participated in Whole Children’s Joyful Chorus since she was eight years old,” said Eric Aasheim, who with his wife Sarah set up their donation to recur each month.

“It gives us great pleasure to be able to support the extraordinary programming at Whole Children with a recurring monthly donation. Giving monthly is easy, helps underwrite ongoing cash flow needs and allows us to give a more meaningful gift than if we gave a one-time donation at year’s end,” he added. “Please consider supporting Whole Children with a recurring monthly donation and feel great all year long!”

Our goal for 2024 is to double the number of supporters who make a monthly donation of any amount. Can we count on you to become part of this loyal and committed group?

Eric, Sabrina and Sarah Aasheim

Eric, Sabrina and Sarah Aasheim

Theater as transformative experience

The Emily List Fund for Performing Arts Therapy was established by Emily’s family to honor her memory as an actor, a dancer, a reviewer and a lover of the performing arts. Emily, who died at age 26, believed in the power of the performing arts to foster communication and to heal.

The Fund has been an important supporter of the Whole Children and Milestones theater program since 2017. We sat down with Emily’s mother, Karen List, to talk about Emily, the Fund, and how theater can change lives.

Tell us about Emily and her connection to theater.

Emily was passionate about theater from the time she was a child enrolled in every available theater camp. She performed in almost every Amherst Community Theater production through school, then majored in theater in college and earned a Master’s degree with distinction in theater at Reading University in the UK, while taking workshops at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. She acted on stage through it all and had many starring roles. But no matter the size of her parts, she gave each one her all, whether it be Hampshire Shakespeare, Old Deerfield Productions or Wilde Irish Women. She was an exceptionally talented actor (particularly in Shakespeare) and a graceful dancer with a beautiful singing voice. In her last summer—a few months before she lost her life to cancer–she appeared in two plays, including Hampshire Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.”

Your first grant to Whole Children/Milestones theater program was in 2017. What made you want to support our program?

 Once we learned about Whole Children’s theater program, we attended a performance, and we were hooked. Such exuberance and joy on that stage! And it all translated directly to the cheering audience.

How do you think theater supports a community?

The artists are drawn together through a magical production, and the enthusiasm of their artistic expression is then shared with the audience, making people’s lives richer and more meaningful and allowing them to connect with their own inner artists. The arts generally enrich life in any community.

How do you think Whole Children’s theater program supports teens and adults with disabilities?

Emily would want Whole Children’s actors to build confidence and enjoy sharing their talents on stage. When I write about Emily’s Fund, I often quote Pathlight’s own Valle Dwight, who once said: “People with disabilities should not be relegated to the sidelines in theater or in life.” This is the mission of Emily’s Fund: To help make sure that everyone, despite their circumstances, can benefit from acting, dancing and playing music. We believe that our Emily is still making the world a better place–one play, one dance, one song at a time. And Whole Children has been helping her do that for six years. And counting.

Emily List

Emily List

The cast and chorus of Whole Children and Milestones Theater Studio's June production of WonkAvengers.

The cast and chorus of Whole Children and Milestones Theater Studio’s June production of WonkAvengers.

WonkAvengers performers

WonkAvengers performers. Watch the show >

Autism Conference

33rd Annual Autism Connections Conference. Save the Date: April 10, 2024Autism Connections hosted another successful and inspiring Autism Conference on April 27, 2023. This event offered education and empowerment to professionals and families from across Massachusetts. Some topics covered were early diagnosis, job seeking, relationships, and driving. The 33rd annual conference is April 10, 2024 at the Sheraton Springfield. Save the date!

Keynote speaker Jennifer Cook signs copies of her book at the Autism Conference.

Keynote speaker Jennifer Cook signs copies of her book at the Autism Conference.

Steve Lewis visits the<br />
Inclusive Community Center and the Milestones Day participants.

Steve Lewis visits the  Milestones Day participants.

Subaru Shares the Love

We are so grateful for our continuing partnership with our friends at Steve Lewis Subaru. This year General Manager Joe Clark and his team presented Whole Children and Milestones with $25,000 from their “Share the Love” event. In this event, a portion of every Subaru sold or leased in a 6-week period in 2022 was donated to Whole Children. To top that off, Steve Lewis himself made an exciting visit to our Inclusive Community Center where he greeted his many fans and revealed another surprise donation! This extremely generous check was his retirement gift to us. Whole Children is thrilled to be the hometown charity of choice for “Share the Love” event in 2023 as well.

Our Generous Golf Buddies!

Many thanks to Jennie and Joe Clark for organizing their annual Golf Tournament in August 2022 in Hinsdale, MA to benefit Autism Connections. Jennie and Joe launched Buddy’s Sunshine Angels Golf Tournament for Autism many years ago in honor of their children. The event raised over $2,600 to assist children, teens and adults with autism who live in Berkshire County.

Buddy’s Sunshine Angels Golf Tournament for Autism

A community passion for Pathlight’s mission

We greatly appreciate it when a community group demonstrates such passion for our mission that they invest time and energy into organizing their own fundraiser for Pathlight.

This past fiscal year, in addition to Steve Lewis Subaru’s Share the Love event and Buddy’s Sunshine Golf Tournament, there were several of these third-party events.

Board gamers dedicated 15 hours in a day to playing games in support of Autism Connections, Florence Bank customers cast votes for Whole Children in the Customer Choice poll, family and friends of Bella Price-Slade hosted a fundraiser in her memory, and shoppers at the Springfield Stop and Shop purchased special bags to benefit Pathlight. Many thanks to Milestones participant Letitia Ward who as a choir member of Valley Rock Voices recommended Whole Children to receive the proceeds of a summer concert fundraiser.

Thank you to our wonderful community!

Board game day

Board game day raised $1000 for Autism Connections

Pathlight goes to Boston

For a week in June, the fourth floor of the Massachusetts State House featured 20 stunning black and white portraits of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, all part of the award-winning Portraits of Pathlight project.

The exhibit was hosted by Senator Jo Comerford, and she and Representative Lindsay Sabadosa co-hosted a reception in honor of Pathlight and the portraits at the end of the week. A busload of people from Pathlight, including some of the photographers and portrait subjects, traveled to Boston to tour the State House, see the exhibit, and attend the reception.

The event garnered attention from prominent figures such as Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh and Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Jane Ryder. Both attended the show and reception, using their voices to acknowledge the vital work done by Pathlight and the individuals we serve.

“Too often we see that people with disabilities are pushed to the edge of the frame or are viewed through a sentimental filter that oversimplifies the fullness of the person,” said Valle Dwight, Pathlight’s director of Development and Communications. “At Pathlight we believe that the people we serve are the directors of their own dreams and goals, and they are front and center as the stars in all we do.”

See all of the portraits and read about the photographers. >

The Pathlight gang in front of the State House in Boston.

The Pathlight group in front of the State House in Boston.

“We really love Pathlight because they’ve been so supportive of us. . . . [I]t’s great to know that you have somebody that you trust and you know that’s going to be there for you.” -Linda, Parent and Shared Living Provider

Darren FUNd and the Aronson Fund

Pathlight is privileged to be the home of two special funds that allows individuals served by our Family Based Living Program to have memorable life experiences. The Darren FUNd, established in 2007 in honor of Darren Harrington, has made several dreams come true in the past year. It has paid for 13 activities, including tickets to see a favorite band in concert, a new iPad to participate in an online peer group, a YMCA membership, and attendance at Grotonwood, a two-week camp for adults with disabilities. The Aronson Fund, founded in 2011 in honor of Michael “Mikey” Aronson, paid for six activities, including the other half of the summer camp cost, goodies for a Halloween party, and funds toward a trip to Cape Verde.

Whole Selves workbook page

Sample page from Whole Selves workbook

Westfield Bank Supports Whole Selves

Thanks to ongoing support from Westfield Bank Future Fund, the Whole Selves program is reaching more students and educators every year. Whole Selves is a curriculum for all ages that teaches about healthy relationships, sexuality, self-esteem, and consent. In FY23, the program increased the number of educators currently using Whole Selves curriculum to 54 teachers. They also developed a unique student workbook and teachers manual adaptable for a range of ages.

Annual Report wins Award

Graphic Design USA honored Pathlight with an Amerian Graphic Design Award for the 2021-2022 Annual Report.

Pathlight is a Telly Award Winner!

Our short video “Happy World Down Syndrome Day!” is a 2023 Silver Telly Winner in Social Video – Diversity & Inclusion.

What do Whole Children and Milestones mean to you?

Darren H., Milestones Participant


I tell parents all the time about how great Whole Children is about creating a space where everyone belongs…even my neurotypical kids loved going. [My son with special needs] is very proud he could take Kung fu. He tried a Kung fu class [at another program], and at first the instructors did not understand him and it was a bit harsh. He didn’t wanna tell them what his needs were. Eventually they figured it out, but he just didn’t have the same level of confidence afterwards because they either treated him too harshly or they treated him too leniently, and he never felt like he was just a ”normal” kid which is what he always wants. He really loved taking classes at Whole Children because it helped him to build up his confidence.

Nanci S.

“I’m always inspired by Whole Children — the dedication of teachers, administrative staff, case managers, volunteers. Lots of work and heart goes into it and it shows.” – Whole Children donor

The individuals of High Meadow with two of their care givers.

The individuals of High Meadow with two of their caregivers.

Home is where the heart is

At one of Pathlight’s residential homes, a team of compassionate nurses, Direct Service Providers (DSPs) and staff are transforming the lives of the individuals who live there. High Meadow in Hadley is home to men with intellectual disabilities and complex medical needs who, prior to moving to the home, were living in nursing homes.

Nurses Marian Ako-Brew, Terri Schmitter and Nadine Kosman, who have worked at Pathlight for years, are just some of the Pathlight employees who have an unwavering commitment to the men of High Meadow house and have been diligent in ensuring that each resident is living their best life. The dedicated staff works hard so that the individuals get out into the community to enjoy activities, including bowling, movies and walks.

“Being a nurse here, you feel rewarded to be able to take care of such great guys,” Schmitter says. “You get to know them really well.”

Schmitter opens up about one of their newest residents, Shawn, saying, “He loves [the house] and everything. These guys, they become your second family.”

Ako-Brew, discussing her favorite part of working at Pathlight, says “When, at the end of the day, if I’ve done anything with them, and when I’m leaving, I see a smile on their face, it makes me happy. It makes me feel like I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”

Information is power

Family Empowerment is the Family Support Center for Hampshire and Franklin Counties. Whether you are caring for a child, teenager, or an adult at any life stage, they will help you find state and local resources to develop a unique plan of action and a community supportive of your needs.

Family Empowerment activities over the past year have included a “Friends Out and About” social group for ages 18-35, sensory friendly movie showings, bowling, a high school fair, support for respite programs, farmers market trips, family picnics, and workshops on assistive technology, MassHealth, special needs financing, housing, guardianship and more.

Buddy Walk 2022

Spirits were high at Stanley Park in Westfield in October as families walked and rolled for the annual Buddy Walk organized by the Down Syndrome Resource Group (DSRG), Established in 1999, the DSRG of Western Massachusetts helps families embrace the potential of all individuals with Down syndrome. In addition to support for new families, they have monthly playgroups, a teen/adult social group, and educational and professional scholarships. Save the date for their next World Down Syndrome Day Celebration party on March 9 in Chicopee, and the next Buddy Walk on October 5, 2024; and welcome to new board president Joyce Leckey.

Chris with his Community Companion Barrie

Chris and Barrie on a visit to the videogame store.


Pathlight has many ways to keep the people we serve active and engaged in their communities. One way is through a position in our Family Based Living program called a Community Companion/Individual Support Specialist. Pathlight currently has an estimated 32 Community Companions that work with 44 individuals served by the Shared Living program. These Pathlight employees help guide their clients—all people with developmental disabilities—to reach their personal goals and participate in local activities with them.

Our spotlight is on one of our Community Companions, Barrie Vogel. She has been at Pathlight two years. Her clients are Nate, Chris, Pam, and Carol. They decide what the activity will be for the day, and Barrie picks them up and drives them to it, also participating in the fun. Barrie says, “I am working with my clients on personal goals such as making healthy food choices, spending their money wisely, and exercising. They are doing a great job! As a Community Companion it’s important to know that it is all about the clients making choices for themselves. There are still days where they choose to not work on their goals, and that’s fine too.”

Often the day starts with going out to eat breakfast. Clients then typically choose local activities such as going to Lupa Zoo, McCray’s Farm, or going bowling. Other times clients need to get some shopping done at the local mall or store. Barrie has noticed that the people she works with develop more confidence over time as they work on their goals and choose their own activities.

Barrie says, “I like my job a lot because it is very rewarding. I get a lot out of seeing my clients happy and having fun while we are out on an activity. Or when we are playing music where we’re both singing, just brings me a lot of joy.”


Upcoming Events



World Down Syndrome Day Celebration

The Down Syndrome Resource Group of Western Massachusetts hosts their annual party at the Castle of Knights in Chicopee.



33rd Annual Autism Conference

The day-long educational conference, A Whole Life: The Empowered Journey, brings together agency and education professionals, families, parents, caregivers, individuals with autism, sponsors and exhibitors to build knowledge, inspire and make meaningful connections.





Whole Children theater production

Our annual original play, written, produced and performed by participants in the Whole Children and Milestones programs at the Hallie Flanagan Theater at Smith College in Northampton. Come to the evening show Friday, May 31 or the afternoon matinee on Saturday, June 1. Tickets go on sale in April.



 Western Mass Buddy Walk

The beloved Western Mass Buddy Walk is back for 2024, and will be held on Saturday October 5th, 2024 at Stanley Park, 400 Western Avenue in Westfield MA.



Let’s Dance!

It’s our most exciting night of the year, and our mission in action. The next spectacular event will be held in November 2024. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of this impactful and life-changing experience!

Ongoing Activities

Make sure to check out Autism Connections, Whole Children and Milestones and Family Empowerment for updated information about our frequent activities and events.


Pathlight partners with people with disabilities to create opportunities and build relationships throughout their lives.


We want to live in a world where people with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and autism are recognized for their full human potential; where they are empowered to build engaged and connected lives, made up of the people and activities that they choose and that are meaningful to them.

Guiding Values

Empowerment / We support people to achieve their goals.

We are not daunted by perceived limitations; we see potential in all people. We support personal choice over decisions that affect a person’s life. We invest in ideas, learning and growth.

Respect / We value each other.

We recognize the inherent dignity in all people. We accept, promote and embrace each person’s unique qualities and experiences, including those that differ from our own. We listen to learn and understand.

Resiliency / We persevere.

We all face obstacles in our work and our lives. We prepare people to be flexible and responsive to meet those challenges. We approach change with curiosity and intention.

Inclusion / We are better together.

We seek out and listen to all voices. We invite different perspectives, ideas and individuals into our decision making process. We amplify the voices of people with disabilities to ensure their inclusion in the community.

Creativity / We look at the world differently.

New ideas are all around us. We take our purpose seriously, but not our egos. We use our imaginations to drive innovation.

Integrity / We keep our promises.

We honor our commitments. We act in accordance with our values, even when it is difficult.

I want to support Pathlight