Melmark New England Celebrates 25 Years of Mission First Moments

Melmark New England Celebrates Twenty-Five Years of Mission First Moments Serving Individuals with Autism, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Andover, MA – May 6, 2023 – Melmark New England, founded in 1998 as a division of Melmark, Inc. (Berwyn, PA), celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala dinner and special program. The event honored the past, present and future of the organization committed to enhancing the lives of individuals within diverse communities with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families by providing exceptional evidence-based and applied behavior analytic services, every day.


Hundreds of leadership, families, staff and philanthropists gathered at Melmark’s Andover day school campus to pay tribute to founders Rita M. Gardner, Frank L. Bird, Helena Maguire, and Peter Troy and to raise funds to support the mission of Melmark New England. The evening program featured live entertainment from Latin percussionist and Berklee Professor, Eguie Castrillo, a formal dinner, a live auction led by Susan Wornick, renowned auctioneer and former News Anchor at WCVB Channel 5, and dancing to acclaimed DJ Axis Pro. Leading the evening’s ceremonies, nearly 300 guests also enjoyed co-emcees Cindy Fitzgibbon of WCVB StormTeam 5 and Kendra Petrone, MAGIC 106.7’s morning co-host.


Highlights of the evening included Rita M. Gardner, President and CEO, presenting Melmark New England’s Lighting the Way Award to Congresswoman Lori Trahan for her exceptional support in helping Melmark pursue Provider Relief funds through Congress’s CARES Act during the height of the pandemic, and the 2023 Vision of Hope Award to Joseph Gold, MD, Chief Medical Officer at McLean Hospital, for his steadfast commitment and dedication as Melmark’s consulting psychiatrist and more over the past twenty-four years. Frank L. Bird, current Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Melmark, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his invaluable forty-five year career including twenty-five years of dedicated service to Melmark.

Rita M. Gardner presenting Melmark
New England’s Lighting the Way Award to Congresswoman Lori Trahan
Rita M. Gardner and Frank L. Bird presenting the 2023 Vision of Hope Award to Joseph Gold, MD, Chief Medical Officer at McLean Hospital Dedicating to Frank L. Bird with the Lifetime Achievement Award


As a surprise, senior leaders from across all Melmark divisions took to the stage to honor Rita M. Gardner for her leadership and dedication by speaking about each of the organization’s core commitments and the organization’s work serving individuals from twelve states.

Rita M. Gardner, M.P.H., LABA, BCBA, CDE®
President and CEOFrank L. Bird, M.Ed., LABA, BCBA, CDE®
Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical OfficerPeter Troy, MBA
Retired VP of Business Operations, MelmarkHelena Maguire, M.S., LABA, BCBA, CDE®
Executive Director, Melmark New England

Thomas Crofcheck, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, shared his thoughts on the state of employee wages. Crofcheck said “Human services organizations rely on direct support professionals who are predominantly women, people of color, and immigrants. Nationwide this workforce is grossly underpaid for the challenging work they perform. Rita refuses to accept this. Despite the fact that some public funding agencies do not support annual DSP wage increases, Rita did it anyway. Through a combination of advocacy and fundraising, Rita has implemented wage initiative after wage initiative, investing millions of dollars to increase the wages of our lowest paid staff by up to 100% over the last 6 years.” This poignant statement drew cheers from the crowd.


Melmark New England founders were honored and presented with a Proclamation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a Citation from the Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools, a Congressional Citation and personalized awards from family members whose loved ones currently receive services at Melmark New England.


Melmark is approaching $500,000 raised from ticket sales, sponsorships, ads, donations and auctions. The funds are dedicated to the organization’s 25 for 25 endowment campaign with a focus on bridging the funding gap for adult day services as well as to fulfill future strategic initiatives.


Melmark is a not-for-profit human service organization providing clinically sophisticated evidence-based special education, residential, vocational and therapeutic services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental and intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries and other neurological and genetic disorders. All specialized special education services are based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and are designed based on each student’s individual needs.


Recognized as one of the leading providers in the country, Melmark has a combined staff of over 1,200 at its service divisions in Pennsylvania, New England, and the Carolinas and serves 500 individuals from across the country. To learn more, visit www.melmark.org.


If you would like more information, please contact Karon Mattox at kmattox@melmark.org.