FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Carabello Brings Willowbrook to Thornton-Donovan School
New Rochelle, NY. (March 10, 2014) – For 18 years, Bernard Carabello endured depravity only imaginable in death camps – filth-caked floors, feces-smattered walls, and naked, straight-jacketed, soiled children and adults.
The squalor of the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, NY was not revealed until Geraldo Rivera’s jarring 1972 WABC-TV investigative report that highlighted the destitute conditions of the facility.
On Tuesday, March 11 at 11:00 a.m., Carabello will hold an exercise in empathy with Thornton-Donovan School’s eighth grade English class.
Carabello, who has cerebral palsy, was wrongfully diagnosed as mentally retarded and sent to Willowbrook where he remained until Rivera’s expose. In 1982, he returned with Rivera on WABC-TV’s 20/20 to see the progress made at Willowbrook and Rockland County’s Letchworth Village following 1975 court-mandated changes.
Still the civil rights activist who snuck Rivera into Willowbrook in 1972, Carabello, now 64, champions the cause of the developmentally disabled for New York State OPWDD.
He, along with event facilitator and Thornton-Donovan parent Jennifer Teich, will hold a viewing of the 1982 20/20 follow-up report before leading a discussion on the history of the civil rights movement for people with developmental disabilities and the current state of institutions for the mentally disabled.
The eighth graders initially read about Willowbrook in a May 3, 2000 New York Times article “Recalling a Victory for the Disabled” by Shaila K. Dewan. This piece, along with other secondary sources, was used to introduce Daniel Keyes’s novel Flowers for Algernon with a text-to-life connection.
Carabello, a living piece of history, humanizes the plight of the developmentally disabled, an issue many of the students have never had to consider. On Tuesday, Thornton-Donovan School’s eighth grade will understand not only an incomprehensible struggle but, even more so, just how resilient the human spirit is.
Headmaster, Thornton-Donovan School