Port Washington Patch
By Peggy Kalia (Patch Poster) – Updated September 20, 2017 12:23 pm ET

Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults (HKNC), a division of Helen Keller Services (HKS), will hold a special anniversary brunch on Saturday, October 7th, from 11 am to 2 pm at its Sands Point headquarters to celebrate 50 years of service with and for individuals who are DeafBlind. The event will feature honorary guest speakers who played a key role in the early growth of HKNC, culminating in the unveiling of the Helen Keller National Center Wall of Fame — a permanent installation paying tribute to five extraordinary people whose life work directly benefited DeafBlind individuals. Each year additional figures will be added to the Wall.

“The brunch will be the highpoint of what has been a terrific anniversary year,” noted HKS President and CEO Joseph Bruno. “HKNC’s founding was a major milestone in the advancement of services and programs that help DeafBlind individuals live independent, rewarding lives. For 50 years, the Helen Keller National Center has stayed true to its mission while setting a remarkable standard for innovation and progress.”

According to HKNC Executive Director Susan Ruzenski, the October 7th event will take its cue from HKNC’s 50th anniversary theme — Honoring the Past. Changing the Future.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming back colleagues and former students who helped make HKNC a national presence and leader in vocational rehabilitation training for and with indiviudals who are DeafBlind,” explained Ruzenski. “We have guests coming from around the country, including spouses and family of friends who are no longer with us. It will be a day of reflection but mainly a day of celebration. We have much to be grateful for as we look forward to the next 50 years.”

Honorary guests will include Martin A. Adler, former executive director of HKNC and former president of HKS; Joseph J. McNulty, former executive director of HKNC; and Michelle J. Smithdas, a former participant and employee of HKNC, whose husband, Dr. Robert J. Smithdas, was one of its founders, a former director of HKNC’s community education department, and the first DeafBlind individual after Helen Keller to earn an undergraduate degree and the first DeafBlind person to receive a master’s degree. Smithdas was also a respected poet. His lifetime friend David Goldstein created a new compilation of his work in a book titled, “My Song, My Delight,” which will be available at the celebration and which Michelle Smithdas will sign for guests.

The 50th anniversary brunch and program are open to the public. For information on tickets and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.helenkeller.org.

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