LIVINGSTON, NJ — Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey (CPNJ) recently shattered its previous fundraising record when it raised more than $1.4 million as part of the organization’s annual Steps to Independence Celebration held last week at The Crystal Plaza in Livingston.
With nearly 350 guests in attendance, CPNJ also honored Michael Petillo, chief executive officer of Petillo Construction Incorporated, who began volunteering for CPNJ last year. As co-chair for the 2018 Steps to Independence Celebration, which honored his business associate, Bob Murray, Petillo helped CPNJ raise more than $1 million.
“I became involved with Pillar Care through Bob Murray, who asked me to serve as a co-chair of the event when the nonprofit honored him in 2018,” said Petillo. “Our first planning meeting was held at the agency’s elementary school, which serves students with severe and multiple disabilities and medical challenges. Having the opportunity to interact with the students and to see the level of care provided by their staff truly changed my perspective and made me more committed to help than ever before.”
Petillo said he was honored when he was asked to serve as the honoree for 2019 and worked as hard as he could to make the event "as successful as possible” so that the agency can continue to support all the infants, children and adults it serves.
He also donated funds to build The Petillo Family Life Skills Room at Horizon Elementary School, which is designed to help students practice life skills. The classroom features a kitchen with a stove and an island to teach students how to cook by following a recipe. It also contains a washer and dryer for laundry practice as well as a bedroom setup.
Mayor Al Anthony, who served on the organization committee for this year’s event, called the celebration a “tremendous evening.”
“It is an honor to work with such a caring group of people on the PCC (Pillar Care Continuum) event committee, who work tirelessly to make this night more successful each and every year,” said Anthony. “It’s an incredible feeling when we hit a new milestone for such a great cause. It makes a big difference in people’s lives, and that is a satisfaction I can’t even describe.”
During the event, CPNJ announced that the agency is officially changing its name to Pillar Care Continuum (PCC).
Anthony mentioned that in addition to serving as the proud home of the PCC headquarters, the Township of Livingston also has two special needs schools and three group homes located within the community.
“Our town continues to be a leader in providing opportunities for everyone, which makes me incredibly proud,” he said.
CPNJ’s website reveals that the new name, PCC, represents the pillars of the organization’s work. Board Chair David Carlson explained that the pillars refer to family members, staff members and volunteers who are “all working as a team to support [PCC] participants.”
PCC will also be using a new tagline: “Lifelong Support for Individuals with Disabilities.”
According to the website, the agency is proud to assist individuals throughout their lives and help them transition from preschool to childhood to adulthood and through their senior years.
The Livingston-based schools formerly known as Horizon Elementary School (which houses the preschool) and Horizon High School will now be known as Pillar Elementary School and Pillar High School. Each provides speech, occupational and physical therapy as well as state-of-the-art educational technology.
Since 1953, PCC has helped people with more than 100 physical and mental disabilities. In fact, although PCC was founded by parents of children with cerebral palsy, less than one-third of current participants have a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
The agency has grown from operating in a donated space in the Orange Memorial Hospital basement to becoming a $36-million organization with more than 800 people on staff at 19 locations. It now serves approximately 1,500 individuals nationwide.
According to the CPNJ website, its mission is to “enhance the lives of people with disabilities and other special needs by supporting personal growth, independence and participation in the community.”