The legacy of a mother’s determination to get the best for her son continues to benefit generations of Long Islanders.
Mary Karry needed somewhere to place her developmentally challenged son, Danny, back in the 1980s. After aging out of the children’s hospital, Danny was placed in an adult hospital for those with special needs, said Casey Karry, Danny’s sister and daughter of Mary, who has since died.
“A state hospital for a developmentally disabled person is not a good situation,” Karry said. “My mother was determined to get him out of there, determined.”
And she did, with the help of a family friend who was a state senator at the time and instrumental in getting laws passed for those who were developmentally disabled, Karry said.
The family was able to get a state-funded home for developmentally challenged adults opened in March 1984 in the hamlet of Northville, in Riverhead.
On Wednesday, friends and families gathered at the serene three-acre property featuring a sensory garden to posthumously honor Mary Karry and make a dedication to Danny, who died in March at age 64.
“He was a big fan of 7-Eleven orange soda, so I had a soda cup painted on the rock, along with his name,” Karry said. “Not a headstone, no dates, just in loving memory.”
When the facility was established, the nonprofit operating its residential program went by the name Aid to the Developmentally Disabled. The organization grew quickly and began offering a variety of services for the developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dual-diagnosed adults.
In 2018, it was renamed RISE Life Services to better reflect the scope and mission of the services the organization now provides, according to the organization's website.
Charles Evdos, executive director of RISE Life Services, said the facility is special because it’s the first of its kind.
“If you think back to when the Creedmoors and Pilgrim States were closed down, there was a tremendous need to open up group homes like this site,” he said. “Mary was able to open up this site and really provide the great services and also provide the sensory garden where individuals can go take walks, enjoy the streams. This is probably one of the best kept secrets on Long Island.”
Karry said she is so proud of what her mother, who also was the founding board president of RISE Life Services, despite only having a GED.
“She started this organization, she was determined to get it done,” Karry said. “Now there are 32 houses helping hundreds of people.”
With Howard Schnapp