Inclusion Matters

NOVEMBER 2023

Mentor Spotlight

Curt Tornow

It Takes One to Know One

For more than 7 years, Curt Tornow has acted as a model Mentor for Advocates. Through his unique relatability to the people he supports and a genuine appreciation for his Mentor counterparts, Curt demonstrates that it really does “take one to know one.” Supremely humble at heart, Curt began by deflecting any focus on himself and instead recognized his coworkers who provide exceptional support. 


“I work alongside some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met,” Curt said. “Everyone is there to make the people we support feel included, and I’m blown away by the work of other Mentors within the agency.” By no coincidence, people under Curt’s tutelage have grown accustomed to feeling included, listened to, and perhaps most of all, valued.


“My son, Byron, has always had excellent Mentors with Advocates, but his world opened up even more when we met Curt,” said Anne Lee. “Curt is wonderful at connecting people to parts of life that will help them achieve their goals,” she added. Anne couldn’t emphasize enough that one of Curt’s standout traits is his ability to truly listen to the people he supports. 


“I’ve always viewed Curt more like a brother and friend than a Mentor,” Byron said, noting their many similarities. “He gives me the confidence to achieve things because he’s done so much in his professional life, and how he’s been able to handle all of it impresses and inspires me.”

Some might say that Curt’s professional career has been an atypical one. His creative nature and interest in fashion design led to a successful 30-year career in the fashion industry. Born in Buffalo, NY, his talent and experience led to working for prominent corporations in major cities like Chicago and New York, and he earned some prestigious titles along the way. Despite all his success and personal accolades in the world of fashion and advertising, he felt that something was missing. While living in New York City, Curt routinely supported a friend’s son who was diagnosed with autism. Around that same time, he attended the Alpine Learning Center to help advance his knowledge and understanding of disabilities. His personal experience and education helped to make a seamless transition from the world of fashion to the disability world. 

“All of this came very naturally to me,” Curt said. “I’m a part of the community we serve, so I am able to relate to our people,” he said, sharing that he, too, has disabilities. As a youth, issues with things like his speech, vision, mobility, and balance impacted his everyday life. Through the help of certain therapies and with a great support system in place, these challenges are a thing of the past. However, other challenges have lingered throughout his life, such as dyslexia, memory issues, and ADHD. Curt is proud of what he’s achieved in life in spite of his disabilities, and uses his story as motivation for others.


“I’ve always struggled with math, but there I was, managing multi-million-dollar budgets for big names in fashion,” he said, adding that leaning on others for support at the time was no easy task. “Being someone with a disability decades ago was different than it is today. It was exhausting living with a disability and feeling like I had to hide it, because that sort of vulnerability wasn’t looked favorably upon.”

Because Curt missed his family and the slower pace of rural New York, he eventually moved back to the state he’d first called home. When confronted with the necessity of finding work after the move, the decision to pivot to the disability services field was an easy one. His career transitioned to a childcare provider and later to a teacher’s aide in a kindergarten classroom with children with disabilities.


“I just wanted to be where I was needed and felt wanted,” he said. “It’s my job to remind people that there are no limitations in life. People with disabilities deserve to be heard, and they’re allowed to have hopes and dreams, too.” These fundamental rights are personal to Curt, as he can recall times when he was the one without a voice. It was those unfortunate times when others seemingly defined who he was or the person he’d amount to. “I’ll never forget when a high school counselor told me I could only be a trash collector,” Curt said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that job, but it was presented to me like it’d be my only option, and I felt that was so unfair.” And so, Curt makes it his daily duty to advocate for people with disabilities, act as a voice of encouragement and guidance, and assist people in reaching their maximum potential.


“He’s got an amazing work ethic,” said Elissa Tennyson, Support Broker with Advocates. “He has a very positive energy and truly cares about people’s goals and helping them grow.”


“That’s part of the reason I love Advocates,” Curt added. “Everyone here is united and gets along well, regardless of age or circumstance because the end goal is the same.” The strides people have taken under Curt’s mentorship are a testament to his dedication, passion for helping others, and a knowledge of what it’s like to be in their shoes.

“Because I know firsthand what it’s like to experience a lot of these things, I can better help others be the best they can be,” he said. “I make a conscious effort to accept others for who they are and value them for what they can potentially bring to the situation.”


According to Curt, his free time is limited. He likes to keep busy with mentoring at Advocates, spends time caring for aging family members, and visits with friends and family whenever he gets the opportunity. He shared that he doesn’t miss the thrills of big cities, big jobs, or big titles that were all a part of his former life. These days, he much prefers the personally rewarding work he does by day and the loving company of his pets by night. And with each passing day, Curt demonstrates that life should know no boundaries – either for himself or for the people he supports. “There’s always something amazing around the corner that people can achieve,” he said. “They just need to believe they can achieve it.” With the belief Curt has in people like Byron and their reciprocal faith in him, good outcomes are all but guaranteed.


“We trust Curt with Byron’s life every day,” Anne said with much sincerity. And with that deep trust comes endless possibilities and a confidence to achieve things that were once unimaginable. “Having him by my side with everything keeps me on track, no matter what I’m doing,” Byron said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be handling things as positively as I am.”


With empathetic, dedicated, and compassionate people like Curt, it isn’t a matter of if a person will achieve his or her goals; it’s a matter of when they will achieve them. Advocates is fortunate to have Curt on its team of more than 1,300 dedicated employees, and we thank him sincerely for the work he does day in and day out.

Do you have a friend or family member who

would make a great Mentor?


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

We look forward to meeting them!

Upcoming Events

Advocates-Sponsored

Syracuse Crunch Game

Join us for Advocates night at the Syracuse Crunch!

The Syracuse Crunch is offering discount tickets to people/

families receiving services from Advocates along

with our employees.


Join us on Saturday, Nov. 25th at 7pm as the Syracuse Crunch take on Laval Rocket.


Discount tickets ($18) can be purchased by contacting Annika Tyson: (315) 473-4444 ext. 126 or online at:  www.syracusecrunch.com using promotional code: ADVOCATES


The Deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday, November 23rd.

We hope to see you there!

Advocates Poinsettia Fundraiser

Start your holiday gift giving and help people with disabilities in the process!

Locally-grown poinsettias make excellent gifts for your family, business associates and colleagues, bosses, or friends! These beautiful flowers are 1' tall and come in 6 1/2" pots. For only $15, you can choose from red, white, or pink poinsettias to help brighten anyone's holidays.


Orders will be taken until December 15, 2023, and can be can be picked up beginning November 27th at Advocates' Liverpool location between 9am-4pm. Delivery service is available upon request.

Click here to place your order!

Proceeds from our poinsettia fundraiser will benefit children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Advocates Annual Holiday Party

We are excited to announce Advocates annual Holiday Party will be held at Driver’s Village on Sunday, December 3rd from 2:00pm-4:30pm in the Carnegie event area located between the Mazda & Lincoln dealerships. Entertainment (music provided by a DJ, pictures with Santa, crafts, bounce house) and a light lunch will be provided.

Click here to register for this event!
Agency Updates

Advocates John Wolford Coffee House

On Oct. 20th, Advocates held a Halloween-themed John Wolford Coffee House at Pope John XXIII Church in Liverpool.


More than 100 People receiving services from Advocates and their Mentors/family members joined us for an evening of music, dancing, food, and friendship! We thank everyone for braving the rain to make the night a special one!


Advocates would like to send a special thanks to Mark D'Alberto, who graciously devotes his time as our DJ at many Advocates events, including our Coffee Houses!


We thank you, Mark!

Advocates' 1st Annual Trick-or-Treat Event

This was the first year Advocates hosted a trick-or-treat event at its Liverpool office. People receiving services from Advocates and their family members/

Mentors joined us for an afternoon of Halloween fun, including decorations, costumes, cider and donuts, and of course, plenty of candy!


We are appreciative of all who attended, and we're looking forward to making this an annual event! We also thank our many staff members who participated and made the event such a success!

Click here for more photos from this event!

Advocates Annual Appeal

We sincerely appreciate our families, donors, community partners, and employees that have celebrated and supported Advocates throughout the years. Our mission would not be possible without the selflessness and generosity of our supporters.


If you are grateful for the supports and services Advocates provides, please consider making a donation to this year's Annual Appeal. Your gift will make a profound impact on people with disabilities in our community.

You can make a difference by clicking the tab below, making a credit card donation, or sending a check to:


Advocates Incorporated

290 Elwood Davis Road, Suite 101

Liverpool, NY 13088


For more information or questions, please contact [email protected]


On behalf of Advocates' families whose lives will be touched by your generosity, we sincerely thank you.

Please know how much we appreciate your support!

Click here to make a donation

Reasons to Smile

Volunteer Ambassador

We congratulate Paige Larioni and her Mentor, Mackenzie Curtis, for all they do for Upstate Medical University! Paige has selflessly dedicated her time for an amazing 12 years now, and was just named one of their Volunteer Ambassadors!


We are proud of Paige and everyone we support who contribute to our community in so many ways!

Inclusion Matters - The Podcast

Check this out!

Advocates' Executive Director, Amy Dugliss, and Self-Advocate, Nicholas Courgi, are collaborating to bring you a new, Advocates-themed podcast! The Inclusion Matters Podcast can be found by searching "Inclusion Matters Advocates" on Spotify!


We hope you'll tune in to hear them share inspirational stories and share the upcoming events that Advocates has to offer!

Click here to listen!

We are thankful to have you as a part of our family!

From all of us at Advocates, we wish you safe and Happy Thanksgiving, and all the best this season has to offer!

ADVANCING INCLUSION | EMPOWERING FAMILIES | CREATING COMMUNITY