Sister Mary June: What Matters to St. Mary’s Home

Sister Mary June Morin truly is the heart and soul of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, where she has worked for 50 years. On Friday, May 22, at 8:30 p.m., the community affairs program “What Matters” will devote its entire half hour to Sister Mary June, the last nun at the Home. You can catch the program on WHRO Channel 15 (digital channel 15.1), Hampton Roads’ public television station. To learn more about the program, click here.

Here’s a photo of show host Cathy Lewis, left, and Sister Mary June after they taped an interview on the set last month.
UPDATE: The program is available online here. You will need QuickTime to view it. If you don’t have QuickTime on your computer, you can download the free application here.

What Does "New Book" Smell Like?

Months ago, St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children began working with Norfolk author Lisa Suhay to bring out a new, special revised edition of her children’s book “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale.”

On Monday, Lisa received a shipment of the beautiful books. “My whole house smells like new book,” said Lisa, who now has boxes of newly printed books stacked up in several rooms. “It’s the best smell ever.”

Suhay will donate a portion of the proceeds from the book to SMHDC and to The Virginian-Pilot’s Joy Fund. Order your copy by June 1 and Suhay and the book’s illustrator, Sam Hundley of The Virginian-Pilot, will autograph and personalize it. Get the order form here. Learn more about the book here.

The book will be officially launched during a party at St. Mary’s Home on Sunday, July 12, from 2-5 p.m. Everyone is invited. 

A Special Night for the Home’s Teens

Putting on fancy dresses or tuxedos. Dancing to the latest music and retro tunes like the requisite “YMCA.” Voting for king and queen.
Twenty-one of the older residents of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children took part in these time-honored rituals of prom on Sunday.
This was the fourth prom held at St. Mary’s Home and the second done in collaboration with students from Norfolk Academy, who were matched up with residents as their dates and decorated the Atrium in an Asian-influenced style, with red balloons and golden bows. SMHDC staff also helped with prom, providing food, putting on the girls’ makeup and dancing a bit themselves. St. Mary’s Auxiliary Board paid for tuxedo rentals and a DJ.
“Every opportunity they have to interact with their peers who are not disabled is wonderful,” said Marie Armstrong, whose niece, Victoria, was all smiles during the dance. 
You can read more about the prom in today’s Virginian-Pilot and see a video of the prom below:

Ready, Set, Go …

As Team Hoyt VB’s members readied for a fun run at St. Mary’s Home on Saturday, they wondered if Mother Nature would smile on them. Despite earlier showers and clouds in the distance, 15 joggers/walkers and a dozen children in jogger strollers made half-mile laps around St. Mary’s property with laughs, smiles, squeals of joy and even a few claps. A few gentle raindrops felt refreshing, and the sun came out just in time for a final group picture.

Team Hoyt VB formed in April 2008 with the same goal as the national father-and-son Team Hoyt: to integrate the physically challenged into everyday life. This local group of Team Hoyt supporters embrace that spirit wholeheartedly. They go the extra mile to make the running events happen, loading as many as 25+ jogger strollers on multiple vehicles to reach the starting line. Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.” That message rings true with this enthusiastic group.

Look for Team Hoyt VB at these  upcoming races: CHKD 8K on June 13, Allen Stone Memorial on July 18, Surfers Healing on August 22, Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on September 6 and finishing the season with St. Mary’s 5K fundraiser on October 3 at Fort Story

One of the Happiest, Yet Saddest, Days of the Year

Smiling and wearing blue caps and gowns, 12 residents filed into St. Mary’s Atrium this morning to the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Mikey even pumped his fist. 

Graduation Day is one of the happiest days of the year at the Home, a rite of passage that signals completion of the graduates’ formal education. Yet it’s also one of the saddest days; the graduates are 21, or will reach that age soon, and so they will be leaving the Home. They may move, for example, to an adult group home.
“The people here are so caring and so loving,” Devon’s mother, Tia, said as she delivered the parent tribute during the ceremony. “I thank you. I really wish he could stay, but I know he has to move on to make room for the next special child.” 
Lisa Suhay, an English teacher and author of eight children’s books, gave the keynote address. Suhay has come to know St. Mary’s Home well as she has worked on a new edition of her book “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale,” proceeds of which will in part benefit the children and young adults who live here. The Home, she said, “is a place of deliberate acts of kindness, where minds and spirits grow together.”
Each resident who comes to live at St. Mary’s Home ends up finding a special friend among the staff of the Home and the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs’ REACH Program teaching team. (REACH stands for “raising expectations and abilities for children with complex health needs.”)  The caregivers who knew today’s graduates the best shared a bit about them — their infectious laughs, their million-dollar smiles, their playfulness, their determination and their independent spirits. 
Congratulations, Anthony, Crystle, Devon, Ericka, Jamie, Jo Jo, Michelle, Mikey, Patrick, Renee, Vickie and Wayne. You are loved, and you will be missed. 

The Year of Sister Mary June Keeps Going Strong

William C. Giermak, CEO of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, likes to joke that 2009 is the “Year of Sister Mary June.” She’s been getting some — very well-deserved — attention since celebrating the start of her 50th year with St. Mary’s Home back in February.

An article about Sister Mary June Morin that appeared that month in The Virginian-Pilot has led to a half-hour program about Sister that is expected to air on WHRO, Hampton Roads’ public television station, later this month. Elsie Duval, a member of a women’s group from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newport News also read that article with interest. She invited Sister to speak to the group and share lunch with them, and Sister did so on Monday.

Sister told the group that she knew in the sixth grade that she had a calling to become a nun. She joined the Daughters of Wisdom right out of high school and spent seven years working at a children’s clinic in Brooklyn before being sent to Norfolk. “If help was needed, that’s where you went,” she said. Decades later, Sister is still dedicated to helping the children and young adults who call St. Mary’s “home.” You can read more about Sister in the spring issue of St. Mary’s newsletter, The Guardian, on our website.

Thank you to the St. Andrew’s women’s group (shown here with Sister, who is seated second from the left) for your hospitality and your gift to St. Mary’s Home in Sister’s honor.

Working Out With SMHDC’s Head of Physical Therapy

Soozi McLain is head of the Physical Therapy Department at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. She’s also a physical fitness fanatic; working out relieves stress and gives her the strength and endurance she needs to lift children and young adults every day as part of her job. 

The May 4 issue of Inside Business magazine features a profile of Soozi in its “Inside Fitness” feature. You can read the article here.
This month, Soozi will ride in her 11th MS 150-mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis. You can support Soozi here. Mary Helen Hilton, SMHDC’s director of annual giving, is part of the same team. You can support Mary Helen here.