Inclusion Matters

MAY 2023

Mentor Spotlight

Caitlin Tessier

From a Steppingstone to Moving Mountains

There are few roles as rewarding as that of a Mentor with Advocates. There may be even fewer that provide the flexibility, stability, diversity, and resume-building skills that the position brings. But as Caitlin Tessier has demonstrated throughout her nearly 12-year tenure with the agency, the experience she’s gained and the people she’s supported along the way are more than simply bullet points on a resume…they are some of the most beneficial components of her life.

From a young age, Caitlin knew that she wanted to enter a field that would make a difference in people’s lives. Her mother was a registered nurse, and although Caitlin wasn’t sure if nursing was right for her, she was certain that she wanted to impact people’s lives just the same. In pursuit of this goal, she obtained her degree in psychology from Syracuse University. Not quite knowing what would come next, Caitlin was hired as a Mentor with Advocates. She quickly fell in love with the work and the two young women was supporting at the time. “Mentoring began as a sort of steppingstone, and so it’s hard to believe that I’ve been supporting them since I started,” Caitlin reflected. “In so many ways, it’s not even a job to me anymore; the people I work with are like family to me now.”

With her bachelor’s degree behind her and some experience in the field, Caitlin took another big step towards her long-term goals. She received a master’s degree in social work from the University at Buffalo while continuing her hands-on experience working as a Mentor part time. Though it’s impossible to quantify the value of a master’s degree, Caitlin argues that she’s learned more through her work as a Mentor than she ever learned in the classroom.  

“Here I was, assuming I would be doing all the teaching,” she laughed. “I’ve learned so much more from them (the people she has supported) than I can even describe. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to not be so fearful and to step outside of my comfort zone, because everyone we support is so much braver than I am.” As quick as Caitlin is to credit others for the meaning they’ve brought to her life, others are just as quick to echo those same sentiments about her.

“Caitlin is simply an amazing woman and is always putting everyone else first,” said Lisa Larioni, a parent of someone receiving services from Advocates. “The respect for her individuals and their families is second to none, and it’s just a pleasure to watch.” For these and other reasons, it was difficult for those who had worked with Caitlin to see her go, as she recently became a full-time Mental Health Therapist for the Baldwinsville School District. There, she provides students from grades 6 through 9 with 1:1 counseling and collaborates with their families, the school, and even physicians to ensure that students’ mental health needs are being met. With the need for mental health professionals being at an all-time high, Caitlin’s services are as crucial today as they've ever been.

However, regardless of the impact she’s making in her new career or how full her schedule is these days, Caitlin still makes time to mentor for Advocates on the side. “It’s the amazing people we support and the Mentors who have become my friends…” she said. “That’s why I still do it and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Though Caitlin has happily settled into her new role, there are those who would happily take her back at a moment’s notice, should her schedule open up.

“Her work ethic is unbelievable and she means the world to my daughter," Lisa said. "How could every parent not want a Mentor like that?”

We are appreciative of all Caitlin contributes to Advocates and to the youth of our community, which is undoubtedly a better place with dedicated and compassionate people like her! 

Do you have a friend or family member who possesses Caitlin's great qualities and would make a great Mentor?

If so, please encourage them to apply on our website.

We look forward to meeting them!

Agency Updates

Reasons to Smile

Have you heard?

Mattel has just launched the first Barbie doll with Down syndrome!

The creator behind the newest addition to the line of iconic dolls is none other than Advocates' own Kayla McKeon! Kayla, an activist for the National Down Syndrome Society, was approached by the world-renowned toy company in hopes she would help to design the product. Kayla was even featured on Good Morning America to promote the new doll!

We are so proud of Kayla and her monumental efforts to advocate for people with disabilities! Job well done, Kayla!

Click here to watch Kayla unveil the doll on national TV!
Click here to read more about Kayla's many achievements!

Advocates Annual Talent & Art Show

In case you missed it...

Advocates virtually held its Annual Talent & Art Show at the end of April.

Many of the skilled artists, musicians, and performers receiving services from Advocates participated, and it was our great pleasure spotlighting them throughout an entire week. If you didn't have a chance to view this year's talent, be sure to check out Advocates' Facebook page.

We send our sincere thanks to everyone who submitted an entry to this year's show, family members and Mentors who assisted with submissions, and to our virtual audience, whose support is much appreciated!


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Dial "988" for 24/7 mental health intervention

Too many people experience a suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need. There are urgent mental health realities driving the need for crisis service transformation across our country.

There is hope! The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect to mental health professionals with the Lifeline network.

If you or a loved one is ever in a mental health crisis situation, we sincerely hope you will utilize this vital and potentially life-saving resource.

Click here for more info on the 988 hotline
Upcoming Events

Dine For Dollar$

You, your family, and friends are cordially invited to a special Dine for Dollar$ fundraiser for Advocates.

Each month, Advocates will offer a Dine for Dollar$ event at local eateries. We will be launching our first Dine for Dollar$ on Thursday, May 18th at Stinger’s Pizza Pub, located at 4500 Pewter Lane in Manlius.

Known or their delicious pizza, wings, and sub sandwiches, as well as their wide selections of wine, beer, and specialty drinks, you, your family, and friends can enjoy an evening out while making a difference for the individuals and families we serve at Advocates. Stingers will donate back 10% of all pre-tax sales to Advocates on May 18th. Our host, Nicholas Courgi, will be available on May 18th to hand out coupons at the door for dine in or take out meals. Check out their menu below.

On behalf of our individuals, families and employees, thank you for your anticipated support! We hope to see you there!

Stingers' Menu

Advocates Virtual Trainings

Finances 101: Money Concepts, Needs vs. Wants,

Budgeting and Identify Theft 

Presented by: Ashley Whitt | SFCU

May 24th @ 6pm

Learn about the basics of independently handling your finances. There will be an overview on the concepts of banking and managing an account independently. This will include understanding how your account works and navigating the basic financial world. We will also discuss budgeting and how important it is to have a plan and understand what a necessity is and what we may not necessarily need in the moment. There will also be information on identify theft and scams- examples of what is out there and how to stay safe! There will also be an opportunity for one on one coaching and direct contact with a specialist to assist with you all your questions and needs.

Click here to register for this training

Advocates John Wolford Coffee House

Same time, new location!

Our next John Wolford Coffee House will be held on Friday, May 26th from 6:30-8:30 PM. Space is limited to allow for the first 120 adults receiving services from Advocates. Please note the new location:

Pope John XXIII Church

8290 Soule Road

Liverpool, NY 13090

Please bring your favorite snack to pass and join us for an evening of music, dancing,

food, and friendship!

Click here to register!

Dreamnight at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Friday, June 2nd (5:30-8pm)

Admission is free, but registration is required by May 17th.

Join us for a very special evening just for you at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo! Tour the zoo, enjoy keeper chats, entertainment, games, activities, a picnic in the courtyard and more! Bring your support person and/or immediate family members. There is a maximum of 4 tickets per guest. Please reach out to your agency if you require more tickets or for assistance registering.

Originating in the Netherlands at the Rotterdam Zoo in 1996, Dreamnight is an inclusive and educational cost-free evening for children with special health care needs and disabilities to enjoy the zoo. Every year on the first Friday in June more than 100,000 participants and their families and friends celebrate Dreamnight on six continents and in 23 countries around the world. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is the only zoo in New York state to take part in this annual global celebration.

Since 2008, many Central New York organizations have worked with us to provide individuals in our community the opportunity to participate in Dreamnight.

Tickets are provided to families served by these organizations. The number of tickets is limited to reduce any risk of exposure or overstimulation for the individuals who attend.

We hope to see you there!

To learn more about Dreamnight and to register, click here

Advocates Kickball - Summer Session

Outdoor Summer Kickball is Back!

We are happy to announce Advocates summer kickball league is resuming! The 12-week session will run from June 7th to August 23rd for people ages 11+ who receive services from Advocates.

The session will be held on Wednesdays from 5pm-6pm at Carrier Field of Dreams, 1035 Kinne St., E. Syracuse, NY 13057. The fee for this session will be $45 per person. Please make your check payable to Advocates Incorporated and drop off or mail to:

Advocates Incorporated

Attn: Finance – Kickball

290 Elwood Davis Road, Suite 101

Liverpool, NY 13088

We will once again be able to sign up the first 60 people that register. Registration and payment must be submitted no later than Monday, May 29th. For more information, please email

Please be sure to provide the best phone number to receive text message notifications in the event we must cancel due to weather or other circumstances. If you feel the weather is not suitable, please do not feel obligated to attend. Safety comes first!

We look forward to seeing everyone back on the field!

Click here to register!

FLAME Concert

Mark your calendar!

On July 21st, Advocates will be hosting an outdoor concert and dance featuring FLAME at 5:30pm. FLAME is a musical group comprised of nine individuals with disabilities. Spreading hope and inspiration through their music, this is one event you won’t want to miss!

Formed in 2003, FLAME tours globally, performing classics, today’s hits, and some originals. They gained popularity from their appearances on Good Morning America and in People Magazine. Their mission is to change the world through their music. “They inspire people with disabilities and give hope to them and their families – hope that they can do great things and live a fun and fulfilling life. FLAME’s performances help change how the public perceives people with disabilities and increase the awareness and acceptance of all people, regardless of their differences.”

It will be an inclusive evening with music, dancing, and food for the whole family. Look for more details in upcoming editions of the electronic newsletter and Constant Contact messages!

Advocates 5th Annual Stroll & Roll

Last call to register for our 2023 Stroll & Roll!

Register today!

Advocates Partners with American Red Cross

Help us save a life!

Advocates is partnering with the American Red Cross and hosting a blood drive on Thursday, June 22nd from

1-6pm in the Board Room, located at 290 Elwood Davis Road in Liverpool.

As a bit of a "thank you" from the Red Cross, all participating donors will receive a $10 e-gift card to the merchant of their choice, as well as a coupon for a pint of Stewart's ice cream or gelato!

We thank you in advance for considering participating in this critical mission!

To help save a life, please click here