The Center For Discovery

At The Center for Discovery, people with disabilities work hard to find a way forward as they shape lives of meaning.

The supports we offer are grounded in the land and our community of care and education, which for many years has integrated food and farming, science and research, and health and wellness.

We are a vibrantly successful program that encourages people with intellectual and physical challenges to defy expectations, while simultaneously evolving new models for living.

What happens here matters everywhere.


Walter J. Scherr is a highly successful international businessman who overcame many obstacles through persistence, honor, and commitment. He grew up during the depression in Ozone Park, Queens, was diagnosed with tuberculosis at a young age and then quarantined at a large sanitarium for a number of years. Walter never forgot what it meant to be removed from society because of a disability nor the compassionate care that he received from his caregivers.

Walter was first introduced to The Center by his respected surgeon, Dr. George Todd, who invited him to tour the agency’s advanced programs and facilities. In response to what he witnessed and the high quality of care provided, Walter established the Vera and Walter Scherr Scholarship Program to provide financial assistance to Center staff looking to pursue an advanced degree or continuing professional education/certification. This innovative program not only served to assist The Center by enhancing its workforce, but also provided the means to honor caregivers and recognize those who committed themselves to the caring profession.

More recently, Walter and the Scherr Family have gone on to champion the development of a Maker’s Lab and Learning Center featuring the use of such technologies as 3-D printers, laser cutters and CNC routers. In this environment, the engineering, artistic and design talents of people in the larger community will be joined with the specialized skills of The Center’s long-established Advanced Rehabilitation Technology Design group. Their objective: to create and encourage new technologies and devices that assist people with special needs, disabilities and age-related conditions – and share them with the world.

Learn More About Walter’s Life Through His Book: Walter’s Way

See Article About Walter in the Wall Street Journal

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  This is Discovery Drumline


With those two words, a group of five young men instantly stand at attention, raising the drum sticks they hold in their hands.


 Their feet begin to march in time.


They march into their first formation.


 They begin to play the drums in front of them. Maintaining a steady beat, they play various rhythmic patterns with great precision and acuity. They are focused, dedicated, and unified as one unit. An impressive feat for any group, the success of this drumline group is all the more remarkable given the challenges the group members face and must overcome in their day-to-day pursuits.

This is Discovery Drumline.

Led by The Center for Discovery’s Music Therapy and Dance teams, Discovery Drumline formally began about one year ago, though its roots can be traced back much further. Many years ago, we began exploring the use of rhythm as a means for channeling and organizing the interfering behaviors of our students. We worked from the precept that rhythm is a great organizing agent, with the potential to impact focused attention, behavior regulation, and basic interactivity. After all, most aspects of human life involve rhythm, including the way we walk and the way we talk (Ross, 2016). The human body is driven by various rhythmic cycles with everything from our heartbeat to our awake/asleep patterns to the changing seasons (Hodges and Sebald, 2011). Luce (1971) purported that if a child learns to listen to their inner rhythmicity, they might learn to recognize and appropriately self-monitor mood fluctuations and behavior.

Our early experimental work in this area morphed into our “Socialization through Original Music & Movement Program”, or STOMP. Within STOMP, participants are led through a variety of interactive music and movement experiences using rhythm-based strategies. Ross (2016) defines rhythm-based strategies as the utilization of rhythmic elements to create, express, and guide successful therapeutic experiences. Rhythm-based strategies within STOMP include the use of chants, dances, creative movement, body percussion, drumming, and instrumental play. These strategies are presented within both free, improvisational formats, and within more structured forms. Participants use traditional musical instruments and dance/movement props, as well as non-traditional items such as chairs, brooms, garbage cans and newspaper, to aid in their rhythmical pursuits. The overall aim of the program is engagement in co-active, shared experiences through the unifying power of rhythm, leading to enhanced socialization.

The rhythmic beats of STOMP can now be heard in classes across The Center’s programs to noteworthy outcomes. Our Drumline group grew from a particular STOMP class where the participants showed significant rhythmic perceptiveness and musical intelligence. The team working within the group knew a next step was necessary and Discovery Drumline was born. Moving away from the various props of STOMP, Drumline participants now use traditional marching percussion instruments, including snare drums, tom toms, a bass drum, and crash cymbals. And, the expectations have grown. Participants must now learn and recall routines and patterns from session to session. They must integrate their rhythmic playing with their body movements, all while building the physical stamina necessary to wear the instruments. And, they are gaining a sense of responsibility and accountability as their individual part is integral to the success of the larger ensemble.


And with that, the Drumline retreats…but, without a doubt, the beat goes on.


  Hodges, D. and Sebald, D. (2011). Music in the human experience: an introduction to music psychology. New York: Routledge. Luce, G. G. (1971). Biological rhythms in human and animal physiology. New York: Dover. Ross, S. (2016). Utilizing rhythm-based strategies to enhance self-expression and participation in students with emotional and behavioral issues: a pilot study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 34(1), 99-105.

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Department of Nourishment Arts - Corn


The Perfect Summer Salad Recipe: Featuring Corn

Looking for a delicious and nutritious recipe that incorporates one of your favorite summer vegetables…corn? You’re in luck!  Our Department of Nourishment Arts (link to LP) constructed a perfect summer recipe that’s easy to make and something the whole family will enjoy!

Before we get to cooking, let’s get to know your corn.  Surprising to some people who generally think of corn as a plain, staple food, corn is truly a unique phytonutrient-rich food that provides us with well-documented and antioxidant benefits.  It’s also a great source of fiber!  One cup amounts to over 20% of the daily recommended amount.  Oh, and did we mention how insanely good it is? Go ahead, try it out in one of our favorite recipes.


Zucchini, Corn, and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette


  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn, shucked from the cob

For the basil vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste


Prepare all veggies and place in a bowl. Make the vinaigrette by placing all dressing ingredients in a blender and pureeing them until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. From seed to belly… bon appétit!

Not a fan of salad? Here are a few other ways to enjoy corn:

  • Grilled – wrap cobs in foil, cook for 15-20 minutes
  • Sautéed with onion and top with fresh herbs
  • Add a little crunch to your guacamole
  • Add to soups to enhance hardiness and nutritional profile
  • Add washed husks to your stock pot for a woody flavor
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Click the link to watch the video:

On June 23rd through June 26th, The Center for Discovery, in partnership with the 82nd Airborne Association - an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting members of the 82nd Airborne - hosted 20 service men and women for the first ever ‘All American Adventure.’ The inaugural event, inspired by The Center’s world-renowned model for health and wellness, was developed to help support and honor men and women who have recently returned home from service after nine month deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

The ‘All American Adventure’ program idea was initially developed through a request of the 82nd Airborne Division Association to pursue areas to assist the 82nd Airborne Division with the reintegration process of recently redeployed Troopers of the Division. The outstanding support provided by the Division’s Leadership, and their care for the welfare of their Soldiers, allowed for The Center for Discovery and the 82nd Airborne Division Association to make this program a success.  


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Members of the 82nd Airborne Association join with The Center for Discovery staff at the summit of Slide Mountain - the tallest peak in the Catskills.

Four-Day Event made Possible by Vera and Walter J. Scherr Foundation

HARRIS - The Center for Discovery, in partnership with the 82nd Airborne Association - an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting members of the 82nd Airborne - hosted 20 service- men and women for the first ever ‘All American Adventure' recently. The inaugural event, inspired by The Center's world-renowned model for health and wellness, was developed to help support and honor men and women who have recently returned home from service after nine-month deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo. 

The ‘All American Adventure' program idea was initially developed through a request of the 82nd Airborne Division Association to pursue areas to assist the 82nd Airborne Division with the reintegration process of recently redeployed Troopers of the Division. The outstanding support provided by the Division's Leadership, and their care for the welfare of their soldiers, allowed for The Center for Discovery and the 82nd Airborne Division Association to make this program a success. The ‘All American Adventure' program was made possible by a generous gift from the Vera and Walter J. Scherr Foundation. 

Through decades of philanthropy and the publication of his award-winning autobiography, “Walter's Way”, Walter J. Scherr has made it his life's mission to commemorate the heroic service of individuals who have served in the armed forces of the United States. Mr. Scherr has continued his work honoring soldiers and caretakers by working with the 82nd Airborne Association to support its troops.  "We feel incredibly honored to have spent time with these young servicemen and women who have made enormous sacrifices for our country. They have each built a special bond with all of us here - our staff, our residents, and I - and we look forward to welcoming them back with open arms. They are selfless, dedicated, and courageous individuals and we are proud to know them," said Patrick H. Dollard, President & CEO of The Center for Discovery.

Throughout the four-day event, individuals participated in exciting athletic and outdoor adventure type experiences, among other activities at The Center, including: a boot camp class, a bike tour of The Center's campus with opportunities for interaction with Center residents, guided meditation, yoga, campfires, farm-fresh meals, and more. 

An additional portion of the event was held at Frost Valley YMCA, which included fly fishing, a hike up Slide Mountain, and an activity on their Y climbing tower and zip line. ​





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HARRIS, N.Y. — It takes innovation, passion, and a willingness to fiercely confront challenges head-on to have the level of impact The Center for Discovery is making.

A newly released economic impact study highlights how The Center for Discovery is improving the local and state economy, the fields of education, healthcare and research, and most of all, the lives of individuals with complex disabilities. Still Sullivan County’s largest employer, The Center has created more than $1 billion of economic impact for the State of New York between 2011 and 2016. The non-profit organization generates nearly $200 million of economic activity for the state each year, according to the report, entitled “Transforming Lives Through Research, Innovation & Economic Development.”

From just 25 employees in 1980, The Center has grown to 1,560 employees in 2016, and it pays an average compensation that is 33 percent higher than the average private sector wage in Sullivan County. The Center has invested $9 million over the last decade into the hamlet of Hurleyville’s downtown area, refurbishing small businesses and building the Hurleyville Maker’s Lab, Hurleyville Arts Centre and sidewalks to benefit the public as well as residents and students of The Center. Major philanthropy, government grants, infrastructure support and new businesses have all contributed to these revitalization efforts, and their success has created jobs, preserved land, improved the local economy, and enhanced the lives of students, residents, and the whole community.

“Disability care has been stifled by the historic bigotry of a system with almost nonexistent expectations for individuals with complex conditions to have a quality of life,” said Patrick H. Dollard, President and CEO of The Center for Discovery. “We challenge that. We believe all people can have a meaningful life. We use research, philanthropy, public-private partnerships and other innovations to continually build better lives for our residents and students. But the best part is that this is good for everyone- our research breakthroughs can assist people with any form of brain dysregulation, from dementia to normal aging. And the private philanthropy we’ve brought to our local community of Hurleyville have resulted in resources like the Hurleyville Arts Centre and the Hurleyville Maker’s Lab, which everyone benefits from.”

Among the highlights of the report:

  • The Center’s pioneering practices are internationally-recognized and have led to its designation as a New York State Center of Excellence;
  • The Center is uniquely positioned to conduct groundbreaking research that will improve health and learning outcomes for thousands of individuals with Autism and medical complexities worldwide;
  • The Center’s public-private partnerships have brought in significant external funds that would not otherwise have entered Sullivan County;
  • The Center’s Hurleyville revitalization initiatives serve as a model for how a prominent institution can play a leading role in economic redevelopment while creating more inclusive and supportive communities;
  • In 2016, The Center paid nearly $200,000 in direct property taxes while generating $9.9 million total state and local tax revenue;

The Center for Discovery is a provider of healthcare and education services for more than 1,200 children and adults with complex disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders, located 90 miles northwest of New York City. It has long been a leader in developing new models of care for individuals with complex conditions. On 1,500 acres of land in Sullivan County, The Center houses school campuses, residences, medical and research facilities, organic and biodynamic farmland, and leased private businesses. Deeply focused on an individual’s personal potential and possibilities, rather than a disability, The Center strives to create better care and opportunity for the most vulnerable populations.

Read the full report here: View Fullscreen

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By Daniel Axelrod
Times Herald-Record 

HURLEYVILLE – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday that he and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have introduced bipartisan legislation to remove roadblocks to industrial hemp growth and production.

Schumer made the announcement at the Center for Discovery’s Michael Ritchie Big Barn Center for Environmental Health and Education in Hurleyville, where the Center is in its second year of a three-year hemp-growing trial.

Working with SUNY Sullivan, which has a state-issued permit to grow small amounts of hemp, the Center experimented last year on less than an acre to find the best practices for hemp production.

The bi-partisan Senate bill, supported by Sens. McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky, Schumer, and Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, would:

* Remove industrial hemp as a federally classified Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin

* Empower states to choose whether to allow hemp growth and production

* Make states the principle regulators of hemp

* Permit hemp farmers to apply for crop insurance

* Allow hemp researchers to apply and compete for U.S. Department of Agriculture grants.

Little hemp is currently grown in New York, which also lacks production facilities, except for several dozen farms that have state exemptions to grow small amounts for research purposes, Schumer said.

Yet, there’s no reason for the prohibition, the senator added, given that hemp contains miniscule amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s principle psychoactive substance, and hemp can be used for a long list of industrial products from paper to bioplastics and fabric.

“It’s a crock,” said Schumer, who stressed the bipartisan nature of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which also has been introduced in the House. “It makes no sense that the DEA is the primary regulator, and that they stop farmers and investors from growing hemp.”

“Why are we buying hemp from other countries, when we have hundreds of acres that could be grown right here in our backyard?” Schumer said of the more than $600 million in hemp products the U.S. imports.

With hundreds of acres of hemp already authorized to be grown in the region for research purposes, Schumer thinks the mid-Hudson is poised for tremendous economic growth if the feds give New York the ability legalize hemp.

The state currently allows farmers in Sullivan County to grow more than 21 acres of hemp, 426 acres are permitted in Orange County, and seven acres are authorized in Ulster County.

“It couldn’t be a better product … and New York would benefit overnight” from growing hemp, said Patrick Dollard, the Center for Discovery’s president and CEO, who called on more study for the medicinal potential of cannabidiol, which comes from hemp oil.

SUNY Sullivan President Jay Quaintance agreed, adding that “the impact can be profound” for education and the economy if New York is allowed to legalize hemp.

Full article link:

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Holbrook, N.Y. (PRWEB) May 09, 2018

American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (AP) CEO Lon T. Dolber was formally acknowledged by The Center for Discovery (The Center) as its 2018 Honoree at the non-profit organization’s annual “Evening of Discovery Gala,” which was held May 2, 2018, at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers in New York, N.Y, and attended by prominent guests within the spheres of business, health care and entertainment. The event, which was underwritten by AP so proceeds would benefit the non-profit organization, raised more than $1 million in gross revenue to support The Center’s essential programs and services.

The “Evening of Discovery” is the signature fundraising event for The Center—an internationally-recognized research and innovation center that provides high-quality programs and unique opportunities for personal growth—that serves nearly 1,200 children and adults annually who have complex disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Dolber, a major philanthropic leader with a long history of giving back to the community, was chosen as the 2018 Honoree for his exceptional leadership and dedication to The Center’s mission. “Beyond my humble appreciation for being recognized by The Center is the privilege of spending time together year after year with The Center’s residents, students and their staff, joined by AP employees and affiliated colleagues for a weekend Adventure Team Challenge,” said Dolber of the honor. “Each time has created wonderful, transformative experiences for everyone involved; by taking the time to see the reflection of humanity in any shape or form, you inevitably see a reflection of yourself. Corporate social responsibility is a significant part of AP’s mission statement and a big part of what draws investment professionals and staff members to AP, all with common values for making a difference in people’s lives locally, nationally and even globally.”

“We are thrilled to recognize Lon Dolber as our 2018 Evening of Discovery Honoree and our 10-year partnership with AP to provide extraordinary outdoor and athletic experiences to the residents and students at The Center,” said Patrick H. Dollard, president and CEO of The Center. “Lon is not only a respected leader of a highly successful financial services firm, but someone who has emerged as one of our most passionate advocates with a unique gift for bringing people together to achieve transformative things.”

In 2001, Dolber founded AP—a privately-held, independent broker/dealer that services financial advisors across the United States—with the vision of like-minded financial professionals to provide unbiased advice for the investing public. AP’s strong infrastructure supports the client service needs and investment oversight of more than $25 billion dollars in assets under management. Additionally, as AP’s chief investment officer with 38 years’ experience working in the financial services industry, Dolber’s financial product and service knowledge as an investment professional—combined with a strong technological background—has provided both the firm and the industry with leadership and strategic thinking to the business challenges of the day, as well as opportunities for the future.

The Gala, which was attended by more than 800 guests, kicked off with a cocktail reception that was followed by formal dinner programs and a performance by Dolber’s That Motown Band. Many among the guest list hailed from Fortune 500 companies, the stage and screen—including longtime supporters of The Center actors Aidan Quinn (“Elementary”), Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”) and Didi Conn (“Grease”), as well as prominent members of the financial services industry: Xtiva Financial Systems, Inc., Gerstein Fisher, Franklin Templeton Investments, Hilton Capital Management, Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. Also in attendance were co-host of Good Day New York Rosanna Scotto, lead anchor for WABC Eyewitness News Bill Ritter, owner of the New York Islanders John Ledecky, and former head coach for the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns Eric Mangini. The event afforded various opportunities to lend financial support to The Center, such as through an auction—conducted both online and live at the Gala by famed auctioneer Guy Bennett—that offered unique experiences, including a guest appearance on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; VIP tickets to daytime and primetime talk shows, and sold-out concerts; and exciting excursions, such as an exclusive tour of the Vatican and Papal Basilicas in Italy, which drew the largest single donation of $17,000.

Dolber, who also serves as the vice chairman for World T.E.A.M. Sports (WTS), is the organizational force behind the partnership with WTS, a non-profit organization that brings adaptive and able-bodied athletes together by empowering individuals through inclusive athletic events. The Center has partnered with AP and WTS since 2010 to present the Adventure Team Challenge (ATC) for challenged athletes from The Center. Groups of The Center’s participants partake in a series of athletic, recreational and outdoor experiences to provide a sense of achievement and teamwork for those with significant physical and behavioral disabilities. Each year, a number of AP employees, friends, disabled veterans and others volunteer to serve as team members and assist The Center staff in providing essential logistical support to these events. Dolber has also been instrumental in implementing, supporting and participating in other socially responsible events, including the Return to Kilimanjaro Expedition; 11 Face of America (FOA) bike rides; the Coastal Team Challenge; and the cross-country Sea to Shining Sea and Ottawa-to-Washington, D.C., CanAm Veterans Challenge bike rides.

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The Discovery Health Center



The Discovery Health Center is recognized by NCQA as a Level III Patient-Centered Medical Home, meeting their highest level of recognition. The Department of Health certified Article 28 Health Center provides services for our students and residents, as well as select services for the broader community. We facilitate partnerships between patients, their families, and their physicians.



Primary Care: We are a central resource for all healthcare needs, providing services for children and adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and other special needs. Our primary care team includes physicians and nurses that are dedicated to helping patients live the healthiest life possible.

Specialty Care: Services include Audiology, Cardiology, Nutrition Experts, Gastroenterology, Ophthalmology, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Physiatry, Podiatry, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Pulmonology.

Dentistry: Providing general dentistry to the community, including preventative examinations, cleanings, restorative treatment, gum evaluation/treatment, and other minor procedures. We have a relationship with our local hospital to provide sedation dentistry. We specialize in compassionate and comprehensive care, especially for people who require more care and support.

Clinical Services:  Counseling, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Early Childhood Services, Assessments and Evaluations, and Assistive Technology are all part of our clinical services.

Assessments and Multidisciplinary Diagnostic Evaluations: We offer multidisciplinary diagnostic evaluations individually tailored to each person’s unique needs. Our team of highly skilled, experienced and licensed clinicians work together over a period of one to five days to examine an individual’s functioning and needs within their particular physical and social environments. At the conclusion of the assessment, they meet with individuals and their families to make recommendations to maximize improvement and independence in the areas of school, health and daily living.

We accept Medicare, Medicaid and most Private Insurances. Individual insurance coverage will vary and prior approval may be required. Private pay and school district requested assessments are also available and can be customized for an individual discipline assessment or a more comprehensive, intensive assessment.

Universal Design & Assistive Technology Institute: The Center has long been a pioneer in developing universal design solutions that improve functioning and quality of life for people with disabilities. As an example, our Flex-table™ is commercially available and speaks to the thoughtfulness of The Center’s design innovation; the design accommodates people with different physical needs, allowing them the experience of eating and interacting together. The IndieGo is a current project, focused on developing a new technology to expand opportunities and access for people who use wheelchairs.

Doctors and Key Staff: We are proud to have a diverse staff providing a variety of specialized services. To view a full list of staff please contact the clinic.

To Schedule an Appointment Call: (845) 707-8400

Hours of Operation:  9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Monday through Friday

Some services available evenings and weekends by appointment.

We accept Medicare, Medicaid and most Private Insurances.

Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in cooperation with Crystal Run Healthcare.

The Discovery Health Center Announces “Patient Portal” through eClinicalWorks, featuring leading edge technology to promote healthcare and allow our patients convenient access of their medical records. Click Here to Download Information on How to Sign-up for “Patient Portal”

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HURLEYVILLE – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer publicly introduced a new bill on Thursday at the Center for Discovery’s Maker’s Lab he says will allow people with medical disabilities to become more independent and stay in their own community.

The Disability Integration Act of 2015 – written and sponsored by Schumer in December – would improve long-term services for medically disabled people, Schumer said.

It allows for a disabled person to receive the same care at home – or in a setting of their choosing – that they would receive at a live-in facility. It would do so by prohibiting public entities and insurance companies from wait-listing people, capping their services or screening them out.

Schumer said states that comply with the bill could see a five percent increase in their Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, which determines federal Medicaid expenditures for each state.

Schumer said he isn’t against live-in facilities that provide care for the medically disabled.

“But there ought to be a choice,” Schumer said.

Schumer chose to unveil the bill at the Center for Discovery because he says it is a place that treats its 300 daily and residential children and adults with medical disabilities equally, and helps them become more independent.

One example is the recently opened Maker’s Lab, which is a think tank and invention center where projects are created for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Patrick Dollard, president and CEO of the Center, praised Schumer for the bill. He said it could pave a path for a variety of housing options for disabled people that could take them out of their homes and help them become even more independent.

“I think, overall, the idea is brilliant,” Dollard said.

Funding for the bill has not yet been figured out, Schumer said. But he pointed to the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 – which financially supplements insurance benefits for disabled people – that was funded by closing corporate loopholes.

“We will find the same amount of money here,” Schumer said.

The cost of care for disabled people could be reduced by helping people with disabilities become more independent, Dollard said.

“It forces people who provide services to anticipate people getting better,” Dollard said.


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As Aevary Kiernan belted out “Circle of Life” with her classmates during The Center for Discovery’s three-show run of “The Lion King,” there was hardly a dry eye in the room. For her mother, Jill Kiernan, it was an especially emotional moment.

Aevary grew up asking her parents when she would get a chance to participate in a school performance like her brother and his friends. She watched others act in school plays, compete in sporting events and dance in recitals. It broke her mother’s heart that the 13-year-old didn’t have the same opportunities.

But all that changed when Aevary began attending school at The Center for Discovery last summer. Aevary travels more than an hour each way to the specialty center that is internationally recognized for its innovative education and treatment program for children and adults with complex disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders. With The Center’s whole-person, whole-community approach, a diverse team of professionals come together to incorporate music, dance and recreation therapies along with the more traditional occupational, physical and speech therapies.

Aevary’s life was truly changed the day she came home, grinning from ear to ear, holding a letter about auditions for “The Lion King,” her mother said. The young Rafiki would jump out of bed on rehearsal days, and enthusiastically engage in conversation with others about her upcoming play.

Over the seven years since The Center for Discovery began its drama program, Senior Director of Music Therapy Conio Loretto, who directed “The Lion King” and The Center’s previous three shows, said drama has become one of The Center’s most successful therapeutic tools. Between productions, the music therapy department along with a multidisciplinary team offers drama classes, to teach everything from acting to stage directions.

A general audience may take for granted all the little things that go into putting on a performance, said Rachel Chaiet, production manager and occupational therapist at The Center. The students and adult residents at The Center for Discovery face a wide range of challenging and complex disabilities. Some of the teens and adults have sensory challenges that make it hard for them to adjust to lighting changes or have makeup applied to their faces. It is important for performers to follow directions, maintain focus and be flexible when things don’t go according to plan, but this can be a significant challenge for many of those who participated in The Lion King.

Those challenges are why many students like Aevary, in other educational settings, never get the chance to participate in activities. But recreation therapist Erin Atkins said that at The Center, staff simply assess the areas in which a student is successful, and create opportunities around their skill set and interests. The script and costumes were adapted for the actors, but the whole experience of the play was just like any other school production. And everyone’s expectations were blown away.

“Because we’re raising the bar for them, they meet it,” Chaiet said.

The acting was professional, and no detail was overlooked in the production’s performance and design, Jill Kiernan said. But it went further than that.

“One thing that really impressed me was seeing how these kids helped one another, and cheered each other on,” Kiernan said. “There was no sense of competition, but a strong sense of camaraderie.”

Drama teaches students empathy and social skills, Loretto said, as they explore their character, learn to help each other with lines and build meaningful friendships, both on- and offstage. Those skills and characteristics may not always stand out to an audience, Loretto said, but the students have grown in so many ways through their experience.

“I think that’s the biggest compliment, if you’re watching our shows and you don’t understand what it took to get us there,” Loretto said. “That’s what we want.”

This show was a whole-community effort. Staff, students and residents from every department at The Center for Discovery pitched in, building sets and designing costumes. The Hurleyville Maker’s Lab, a public space for innovation and creation, helped design and build props and costumes. The Maker’s Lab Director Mark McNamara taught the production crew how to use lab equipment like the laser cutter, helping Atkins and her team create stunning wildlife props.

Coming together around this type of production is all part of helping the individuals at The Center be their best selves and live their best lives, Loretto said. He would like to see some of his actors find opportunities to act in the community in the future. Students like Aevary, and all those on stage during The Lion King, are proof of how life-changing it can be to provide an opportunity.

“It’s always been my philosophy that you follow where the work takes you,” Loretto said. “And if this is what the kids need, then this is what we provide for them.”


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School Program

Education: Our school program educates children ages 5-18 with complex disabilities including medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Center is committed to meeting the educational and health needs of each and every child in our care. Employing our HealthE6 model, we aim to educate and support the whole child with evidence-based methods and meaningful interprofessional collaboration. Our nature-based curriculum is aligned with New York State education standards and our programs are taught with consistency and excellence. Content is delivered through Explicit Instruction that is systematic, direct, engaging and success-oriented. Our students, when ready, participate in pre-vocational and vocational opportunities to prepare them for adult life and careers.

Residential: Our residential facilities and program are designed to help each student develop to their fullest potential. Our picturesque setting includes outdoor learning environments, spaces for creative and therapeutic pursuits, and comfortable homes. Activities such as performing arts, yoga, gardening and organic farming, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, snowshoeing, skiing, and various team sports provide opportunities for individuals to learn, grow, and have fun.

Admissions and Transition Services at The Center for Discovery guides families through the process from initial inquiry to day of admission.

We receive referrals for day and residential programs from school districts, physicians’ offices, families, service providers, etc.

Funding for services at The Center comes from a variety of sources including New York State Education Department (NYSED), the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and private payment contracts.

Please call us at (845) 707-8889 to discuss what services may be best for your family , or to submit a referral.

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The creativity and collaboration at the heart of The Center for Discovery were on full display  as clinicians and educators gathered for the annual SEED talks at the Michael Ritchie Big Barn Center for Environmental Health, Education and Research.

The SEED (Synergistic, Experiential, Evidence-based, Discoveries) talks were created in 2012 as a way for staff to share their innovations and current projects with each other. What began as a clinician-only event has spread to this year including more than 100 staff members, from occupational therapists and teachers to farmers and dance therapists. With such a big staff spread across varying departments and campuses at TCFD, Manager of Clinical Innovation and Special Projects Jason Kean wanted to design an event that would enhance communication across disciplines and reinforce the collaboration that already happens on its own at The Center every day. It’s certainly working, Kean said – the content of the 15-minute talks presented by staff are of the highest quality, and each year the event becomes more inspirational.

Senior Director of Music Therapy Conio Loretto has presented a SEED talk each year, and he said the day serves as a vehicle to share the innovation and creativity happening at The Center, and be inspired by it.

“It celebrates the collaborative spirit that is The Center,” Loretto said.

This year, Loretto presented a talk with a teacher and a behavior specialist who shared their team effort in using music to help a student regulate his emotions. As they played video of the student singing songs he wrote in order to calm himself down, other staff were moved to tears.

It was the first year the SEED talks were held on a teacher conference day, so the entire teaching staff could participate in the event. It’s so beneficial, Education Director Jeff Bordeman said, because teachers get so focused on what’s happening in their personal classroom that they don’t have a chance to see their work as a piece of what’s going on across the whole Center. Teachers got to see things they hadn’t thought of, Bordeman said, and now they have fresh ideas to try in their own classrooms.

It’s all about inspiring that creativity in order to come up with the ideas that will help The Center’s students and residents most, said Nicole Kinney, Chief of Clinical Services.

“It’s a culture, really, of ‘I have a cool idea, it’s going to be supported,’” Kinney said. “I think that drives people to want to do more.”

Christine Ertola and Sherma Williams, co-directors of the Therapeutic Dance Department, helped present their team’s work in using dance choreography and music to teach students how to complete farming tasks like weeding, raking and feeding the pigs. When Williams told her they had been asked to help the farm team, Ertola said her first reaction was that they didn’t know anything about farming, and dance and farming didn’t belong together. But they quickly realized they had exactly the expertise needed to teach unfamiliar body movements. Soon enough they were dancing in the fields.

“We’ve done a lot of different things, but this one was definitely out of the box,” Williams said.

Sometimes there’s risk involved in trying a new technique, Loretto said, but The Center knows how to take creative risks that pay off. The SEED talks show that.

“They represent the risks we take here, to try something new and go down whatever path the work is taking us,” Loretto said.

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HARRIS, N.Y. — A cookbook collaboration between New York City Italian Chef Cesare Casella and The Center for Discovery CEO Patrick H. Dollard has been recognized with an international book award.

“Feeding the Heart: Recipes, Flavors and the Seed to Belly Philosophy of the Department of Nourishment Arts” received a gold award in the category of Best Adult Non-Fiction Informational E-Book in the 2017 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY Awards).

“Feeding the Heart” shares dozens of delicious whole foods recipes, as well as stories about how The Center for Discovery’s “Food is Medicine” philosophy brings together farmers, chefs and nutritionists to cultivate a food program that promotes health, healing and quality of life among students and residents who all have complex disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and medical frailties. Casella serves as chief of The Center’s Department of Nourishment Arts, and Dollard has led the nonprofit for more than 30 years. The book shares emotional stories about caretaking, food and farming, and gives insights into the passion behind the work at The Center for Discovery.

The IPPY Awards are the world’s largest international and regional book awards competition. The annual awards contest seeks to bring increased recognition to thousands of exemplary independent-, university- and self-published titles. This year’s contest drew 5,000 entries for 117 categories. The winning books create an excellent and diverse reading list for those exploring ways to solve the world’s problems, Independent Publisher said in announcing the list of winners.

Cesare Casella is an acclaimed New York chef and restaurateur known for the ever-present rosemary sprouting from his shirt pocket. As Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center, Casella’s Tuscan roots have guided him through a career that celebrates simplicity and quality of ingredients. His newest venture is Casella’s Salumi Speciali, where he makes salumi from American raised rare-breed heritage pigs in Hurleyville, NY, near The Center for Discovery. Casella has written several other books, including “True Tuscan” and “The Fundamental Techniques of Italian Cooking,” and he was the man behind celebrated New York restaurants Beppe, Maremma and Salumeria Rosi.

The Center for Discovery is a residential, educational and research facility in Sullivan County, NY, recognized internationally for providing highly innovative and effective care for people with complex disabilities, as well as advancing medical research in the field. Hundreds of students and adults come to The Center from across New York and other states for education and healthcare. The Center’s Department of Nourishment Arts manages Thanksgiving Farm, the site of 150 acres of certified organic and biodynamic farmland that produces more than 60 types of vegetables, flowers and herbs, and is home to egg-laying hens, beef cattle, pigs and sheep. Thanksgiving Farm feeds all The Center’s residents as well as many of its 1,500-member staff, and brings healthy food into the community through its 300-member Community Supported Agriculture program.

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