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“Every child is special … some need special adults to care for them”

“Every child is special … some need special adults to care for them”

TORONTO – “Every child is special to a mother. Some children need special adults to understand and care for them. Do you have the stuff to be one?”  That was my first conversation with Grazia Molisse in 1983.
 
The Franciscan Fathers and the Metropolitan Separate School Board had just opened a state of the art new high school, Cardinal McGuigan, and I was its administrator, no big deal. She and a group of volunteers – the Ethic Organization for the Handicapped (EOH) – wanted space to conduct some after hours programs for children with special needs (developmental delays, multiple handicaps and challenges I never dreamed existed) and to provide parents with “respite care”.
 
The EOH had severed its relationship with the March of Dimes and been rebuffed by Villa Charities (both organizations had their own approach to dealing with special needs children and adults). Grazia’s group included Giuliana Marrone, Aldo Colangelo, Nino Provenzano, Germano Rotolo, Mimma Regina – all special adults, God bless them; after consulting with the Franciscans, i gave them space. They stayed with McGuigan for three years.
 
But Grazia was already looking to go the next step: a day and night-time location that the EOH’s “dependents” could call their own. She was persistent, unrelenting sometimes domineering, but, she used to say, “I don’t know how to be special for our kids unless I speak loud enough to get your attention”. She had it –  a lot!
 
By 1986, Grazia and Mimma had devised a program they wanted the [new] provincial government to fund. We approached MPP Joe Cordiano for seed funding. He was able to secure a modest “pilot project” amount to open a drop-in centre on Jane St. Aldo provided the name: the META Centre.
 
Within two years the Ministry for Government Services (COMSOC), impressed by the Molisse-Regina duo, converted the pilot funding into an A based government sponsored program. By then, Grazia had become friends with Vic De Zen, who chose the META Centre as a focus for his company’s philanthropic activities. Incidently, he was at the wake Saturday night to pay his respects and took a few moments to reminisce on about one “who had the stuff to be special”, for her children and for those of others. 
 
Grazia Molisse will go to her final resting place today to rejoin her friend Mimma, but for Carmine, her husband, and her daughters Rosaria and Rita, she will have left a legacy of “what it means to be special” behind.
 
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