June 1, 2023

Dr. Tom Kelbley Recognized with Advocacy Award

Staff and volunteers at Playhouse with Dr. Tom Kelbley on left side

Congratulations to Dr. Tom Kelbley, Psychologist, for his recognition as the 2023 Ron Kozlowski Advocacy Award honoree by Advocacy and Protective Services, Inc. (APSI.)

The annual Ron Kozlowski Advocacy Award is presented annually to someone who demonstrates lifetime achievement in advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities and has created a long-term advocacy connection within the DD service system. He will be honored at a June 14 ceremony.

In his 25 years at Cuyahoga DD, Dr. Tom Kelbley's work has supported the people we serve to flourish. In addition, he has guided community partners to become more inclusive and adaptive. In recent years, Dr. Kelbley provided training to the Cleveland Police Department and established sensory-friendly training for Playhouse Square performances and their Red Coats. Dr. Kelbley recently retired from Cuyahoga DD.

Thank you, Dr. Kelbley, for his service and for all his many efforts for people with developmental disabilities!

Building Hours on Juneteenth

In observance of Juneteenth on June 19 Cuyahoga DD administrative buildings will only be open from 7 AM – 2 PM.

Empower Pop-Ups: Self-Expression and Advocacy

Cuyahoga DD Empower Pop-Ups started strong in 2023! In May, Empower Pop-Ups were hosted by My Choice and RMS, and by SAW at Rocky River.

The goal of Empower Pop-Ups is to encourage self-advocacy and learning. Empower Pop-Up personal-choice advocacy activities include:

  • creating tools for leading individual service plans
  • living more independently with assistive technology
  • finding employment and community activities
  • health and fitness opportunities
  • voting rights and responsibilities
  • financial literacy
  • self-expression

We welcomed recreation and arts-and-culture community partners, staff, and volunteers. Additional Empower Pop-Ups will be held throughout the summer. To volunteer at an upcoming event, please email Stephanie Nalepa at nalepa.stephanie@cuyahogabdd.org.

two people racing in inflatables
people participating in an Empower Pop-Up
people participating in activity
person participating at wheel game at an Empower Pop-Up

Cuyahoga DD Presents at the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD 2023 Spring Conference

Many Cuyahoga DD staff presented at the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD 2023 Spring Conference!

  • Cross-Functional Strategic Process Improvement, presenters: Melanie Rak, Cuyahoga DD Division Manager Community Contracts & Residential Services

  • Intensive Supports for Youth and Young Adults, presenters all from Cuyahoga DD: Lori Mago, Division Manager Assistive Technology and Children’s Services; Alisa Jones, Intensive Support Teams Administrator; Dr. Rick Cirillo, Chief Clinical Officer; Dr. Kelly Rainey, Special Instruction Manager; Jo Elle Barath, Division Manager Service and Support Administration; Melanie Rak, Division Manager of Contracts and Residential Services; and Cassandra Brown, Supervisor Support Administration-Multi-System Service

  • Preventing Human Trafficking through Multi-System Collaboration, presenters all from Cuyahoga DD: Bonnie Demopoulos, MUI Division Manager and Katherine Antall, MS, Human Sexuality Specialist/Psychology Assistant; panel Dave Nodge, MUI Community Liaison; Amanda Kafcsak, Forensic Liaison and John O’Donnell, Investigative Agent

Congratulations and thank you to the Cuyahoga DD presenters for being leaders within their field and the community.

Cuyahoga DD staff on panel

Photo credit: Picture America Event Photographers

2023 Family Fun Fairs

family fun fair resource table

Cuyahoga DD is hosting three more Family Fun Fairs in 2023.

These FREE events are for families with children ages 14 and under with DD to meet and connect with each other, learn about Cuyahoga DD and HAVE FUN!

Registration is required and space is limited. Click the button below to register.




Saturday, June 10

11 AM - 1 PM

Big Creek Center, 6149 W 130th Street, Parma

Sunday, July 30

1 - 3 PM

Green Road Service Center, 4329 Green Road, Highland Hills

Sunday, October 22

1 - 3 PM

Big Creek Center, 6149 W 130th Street, Parma


In Case You Missed It: Marcus Thomas Featured on WYCK Heartstrings Series

WKYC Channel 3 Cleveland’s Lindsay Buckingham featured Marcus, a teen figure skater on the Heartstring series. Marcus uses Cuyahoga DD Family Supports Program funding to support his training. Read the full story below.

Marcus on WKYC
Marcus Thomas ice-skating

Credit: WKYC

DD Surveys Require Your Input

Family and Guardian Caregivers

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities is conducting a survey to gain feedback from family and guardian caregivers. The goal is to hear about the different ways families and guardians are impacted by caregiving. Click here to learn more.

Family/Guardian Survey

Inclusive Sports

Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council wants to know if Ohio school sports are accessible for youth with disabilities. Please take a short online survey about making sports programs more inclusive for youth with disabilities.

Who should take this survey?

  • Youth with disabilities in grades 6 – 12 in Ohio public schools 
  • Parents/caregivers of youth with disabilities in grades K -12 in Ohio public schools 
  • Ohio public school professionals who work with students in grades K-12
Inclusive Sports Survey

Supporting Caregivers

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University would like to understand your experiences as a caregiver of an individual with disabilities who live in Cuyahoga County. The first 101 participants in this voluntary survey will receive a $5 Starbucks card.

Caregiver Survey

DODD Communication and Resources

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) is increasing its communication and resources alignment with lived experiences of those served. Please take the survey below to share the family resources you've used from DODD and how to best support families in the future.

DODD Communication

Ohio Developmental Disabilities Crisis

Jan and Ben Young, with the Ohio DD Crisis logo in the top right corner

Ohio has a developmental disability workforce crisis. Providers cannot compete to fill open Direct Support Professional (DSP) positions with the Medicaid reimbursement rate at its disappointing current level.


Cuyahoga DD is working with partners across the state to educate legislators on why it is vital to significantly increase provider reimbursement rates.


Share YOUR story below. Tell our legislators how important DSPs are and what’s at stake for YOU.

Share Your Story

Independent Provider Meet and Greets

Virtual Independent Provider Meet and Greets are at two meeting times, 10 AM - 12 PM and 5 - 7 PM.

The next IP Meet and Greet opportunities are on June 7 and July 5. Come meet IPs who will meet your needs! To attend the meeting click the button below.

Join Meeting
left, photo of a person on virtual call on desktop. Left, plumberry background with arrow graphic and white text, Independent Provider Virtual Meet & Greet.

People First of Ohio: Cuyahoga County Advocacy Events

In partnership with People First of Cuyahoga County and The Arc of Ohio, Cuyahoga DD invites you to an upcoming Advocacy Event. The meeting is designed for ages 16 and up. Sign language interpreter and accommodations are available upon request.

LGBTQ+ & DD Awareness Event: In-person on Wednesday, June 21 at 6 PM, at the LGBT Community Center, 6705 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Register here.

Books with Inclusive Stories, Messaging and Representation

We will share books with inclusive messaging, stories and representation throughout the year. These books are joyful, fun to read, and selected from an anti-bias and anti-racism perspective. Check out these books at your local library.

Read Aloud, 0-8 Years

Picture Book Biographies

Board Books

I Love You Like Yellow by Andrea Beaty

I Love You Like Yellow by Andrea Beaty

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! by Sophia Gholz

We Are Little Feminists: How We Eat by Shuli de la Fuente-Lau

Middle School and Emerging Readers


What Stars Are Made Of by Sarah Allen

All the Right Reasons by Bethany Mangle

Cuyahoga DD Employee Spotlights
Cassandra Fellows


Forensics Liaison 

"I enjoy what I do as a Forensics Liaison. I help those involved in the criminal justice navigate the court process and ensure that their rights are protected."

Melonie smiling


Support Administrator

 "I like working at Cuyahoga DD because of the many talented coworkers I get to work with. It is such a pleasure to work with such creative and supportive people." 

Provider Shoutouts

Welcome House logo

Julie, a family member of someone served by Cuyahoga DD is shouting out Welcome House.

Julie said, “Welcome House has dedicated and professional staff who are committed to their clients.” She also wants to give a special shout-out to Becky B. at Welcome House for her commitment to the people she supports.

Learn More
Harmony Home Care

Cynthia, the parent of someone served by Cuyahoga DD, is shouting out Harmony Home Care.

Cynthia said, “Harmony Home Care is a first-rate agency run by smart, caring people who have provided us with the best, most reliable caregiver for our daughter.”

Learn More
Quick Links

Cleveland Clinic PEERS ® Social Skills Group for Young Adults

Family Health Forum with Special Olympics Ohio - 6/3

Westlake Porter Public Library Spread Kindness - 6/5

Cleveland Public Library An Evening with George M Johnson - 6/7

Westlake Porter Public Library Sensory Workshop - 6/9

Achievement Center for Children Bright Stars Summer Group - starting 6/19

Youth Leadership Forum: Northeast Ohio Session - 6/20 - 6/23

Ohio Adaptive Open Northern Ohio Golf Association - 8/5 - 8/6

Employment Collaborative of Cuyahoga County Golf Outing - 8/7

In the News

“I’m just me”: Dancer Kim Ocampo reimagines what’s possible with disability

The Land, 5/30/2023

Limited: searching for affordable mobility-accessible housing in Detroit-Shoreway

The Land, 5/23/2023

Strongsville students, teacher honored for excellence: Talk of the Towns

Cleveland.com, 5/26/2023

Friendship Circle gala honors families, teens

Cleveland Jewish News, 5/25/2023

Lakewood Elks Lodge No. 1350 raises funds for Westlake’s Connecting for Kids

The Morning Journal, 5/19/2023

Brecksville’s Valleybrook ‘Smart Home’ opens doors to the community for disabled individuals

Cleveland.com, 5/18/2023

11 Disabled-Led Businesses To Support This Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Forbes, 5/16/2023

Loudonville boy publishes book about adventures with his white cane

News 5 Cleveland, 5/12/2023

Founder of Frazier Behavioral Health has ‘lived it’

The News-Herald, 5/8/2023

Equine therapy used to help treat people with mental and physical health conditions across Northeast Ohio

Ideastream Public Media, 5/2/2023

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