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Dear Friends,


Our son Joseph was born on October 5, 2001. He was four months premature. 

Doctors said he contracted a virus while in utero and needed blood transfusions to stay alive. Following three blood transfusions and two weeks in the hospital, Joseph was born via C-section: he weighed 2 lbs.  The first few days of Joseph’s life were critical. We weren’t given much hope that he would survive his first week, so we baptized him, naming him Joseph Patrick.

Thankfully, we made it through these first weeks. After four months in the hospital, and many surgeries and procedures, Joseph was breathing on his own and we could bring him home.  He would need early intervention services and a great deal of support.

The life we once knew was now changed forever.

We lived in an apartment in Brooklyn with our two other young children, Michael, 6, and Louis, 3.  We soon relocated to Long Island and Joseph began receiving early intervention services at home.  It was around this time that Joseph was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  I recall his neurologist told us that “at best” Joseph would be “mentally retarded”.  We were devastated – and we never saw that neurologist again.

Once Joseph turned 3 years old, he was no longer eligible to receive intervention services at home. Joseph is legally blind, cannot speak, walk, or feed himself. Yet we now needed to find a school to provide the services Joseph needed.  

This seemed impossible – how could I trust my child to strangers?

After visiting several schools, we arrived at The Children’s Center of Long Island. There I met children with needs similar to Joseph’s. Although I toured the school in tears, the staff was very reassuring. Everyone I met listened and understood what Joseph needed; they were very caring. I knew that we had found a school for Joseph.  

At The Children’s Center, Joseph receives physical, occupational, speech and vision services and a personalized curriculum. The aides take incredible care of him and tell me he is a constant joy, and the therapists are dedicated to ensuring he reaches the goals outlined for him.  Plus – he loves it there.

The Children’s Center became a sort of “second home”.

Joseph has now attended The Children’s Center for 18 years. He has learned to walk with the use of a gait trainer, has worked to develop his fine motor skills, activates cause and effect toys, makes choices and benefits from using tablets and the school’s technology.  He is surrounded by friends, and a staff who genuinely care for him and who work tirelessly to provide the care that enhances his life.   

UCP is a sort of lifeline…

Raising a child with special needs is not easy. But at The Children’s Center I joined  the parent’s group, attend special events, and became part of a “community”.  We met other parents and understand each other’s struggles and celebrate each other’s triumphs.

It is difficult to imagine where we would be without UCP and The Children’s Center.  In June of 2023, Joseph will graduate from The Children’s Center.  Once again, we need to search for a program that best meets his needs – an Adult Day Program, since Joseph is now 21.  We know that whatever awaits him as an adult, he is well-prepared for his future, thanks to the foundational support he received at The Children’s Center.

I often say “it takes a village”. UCP is our village…

The Children’s Center gave us hope when no one else did. They taught us to focus on Joseph’s strengths rather than his weaknesses. Like his family, the staff love and appreciate Joseph for who he is.  We are grateful for every day Joseph spent there. 

Thanks to UCP, we were not alone.

The Children’s Center at UCP of Long Island has been a life-enhancing resource for children with disabilities and their families for more than 60 years. Parents are supported, and Joseph and his peers receive the best possible opportunities to learn and grow.

But they need our help.

This holiday season, please consider a donation to UCP of Long Island.  Your gift makes a powerful and significant difference in the lives of so many children and adults with disabilities.  

Please donate online at or use the enclosed envelope and send your donation today.

Thank you for remembering UCP of Long Island this holiday season. We wish you a peaceful and healthy New Year.



Maria and Tom Pfundstein



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