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December 27, 2013

Local woman enjoys trip of a lifetime

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A recent grant from the Trustees of the NYSARC Trusts allowed a Fleischmanns woman’s lifelong wish to be granted.

Kelly Piskacek, a developmentally disabled woman who attends a day program through The Arc of Delaware County, was given the opportunity to travel to New York City in November after The Arc received the $6,000 grant.

The money was given to support recreational opportunities for people to whom The Arc provides services and support, according to a press release.

Piskacek traveled to the city with her support staffer, Heidi Friedman, Life Coach VII at Community Living Skills (CLS) in Arkville. Hope Townsend, program director at Arkville, said the trip was part of a multi-day excursion for Piskacek, which began and ended with free time in Oneonta for Piskacek to go to the movies and just enjoy herself.

“Just staying in a hotel is a really special experience for Kelly,” Townsend said. “She doesn’t have that opportunity very often, so that was exciting for her.”

Piskacek and Friedman spent hours walking around New York City and taking in the sights and sounds, according to the release. She was in awe of the tall buildings, enjoyed doing some Christmas shopping and being pampered at a beauty salon, and made her way around the Big Apple like a seasoned pro.

Townsend said Piskacek’s favorite part of the trip was to Radio City Music Hall, where she saw the Christmas Spectacular. According to Friedman, Piskacek was “on the edge of her seat” as she watched the Rockettes dance.

“When the Santas started to appear one by one, Kelly was staring at the stage saying ‘Heidi look, Heidi look,’ but she couldn’t take her eyes off of them,” Friedman said. “When the nativity set was performing, a low but clear ‘WOW’ was heard.”

Friedman said Piskacek was full of wonder and seemed to be transported to another world while watching the show.

According to Townsend, The Arc occasionally receives similar grants from the state that allow the organization to treat some of the people it provides services to.

Townsend said Arc employees were notified of the grant and had a meeting to talk about how they could use the money to do the most good. She said they were encouraged to think of creative ways to make a difference in the lives of the students. Townsend said there were several other people besides Piskacek whose wishes were granted by the funds.

According to Townsend, Friedman was emotional after returning from the one-on-one trip with Piskacek and experiencing firsthand how much it meant to her.

“Heidi told us it was clearly a life-altering experience for Kelly,” Townsend said. “She said, ‘I wish you could have seen the joy it brought her.’”

According to Townsend, although Piskacek’s trip was transformative and a dream-come-true, it was an extension of a life in which every day is filled with joy.

“Kelly soaks up every experience,” Townsend said. “She appreciates the little things in life that the rest of us take for granted.”