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Deepwood Recognizes Foley Family, Special Olympians At Fall Fest

Lake County Board of DD/Deepwood commemorated the 45th anniversary of the 169 board laws with the dedication of the Foley Field House

The Lake County Board of DD held its second annual Fall Fest Saturday at the Deepwood complex in Mentor.

Usually, the fest is an opportunity to recognize the more than 270 Deepwood clients who compete in the Special Olympics.

However, this year the board wanted to recognize one of the couples who helped build the organization that begat Deepwood and Broadmoor School -- Mary Ellen and Robert Foley.

Four of their children -- Ellen Kessler, Deborah Foley, Robert Foley and Patrick Foley -- gathered Saturday at Fall Fest for the dedication of the Foley Field House.

Mary Ellen and the the elder Robert Foley were fundamental in supporting the passage of the 169 board laws 45 years ago. These laws provided a mechanism for funding and services, such as recreation and the Special Olympics, for individuals with disabilities in Lake County.

Furthermore, Mary Ellen Folley was the first president of the Lake County 169 Board -- now known as Lake County Board of DD/Deepwood.

Ellen Kessler thanked the Deepwood Board for honoring their parents.

"They were parents who any child could come to for help, but how lucky were we to call them mom and dad," she said.

Deborah Foley added that their mom and dad taught them the importance of embracing diversity.

"People are people. Diversity is a blessing. Embrace the differences," Foley said.

The younger Robert Foley played college basketball and coached professionals. However, he said he got more out of working with Special Olympians than any other sports-related experience.

Both Robert and his brother Patrick Foley recalled being picketed by the PATMR union about salary negotiations.

Patrick Foley, who was only nine or 10 years old at the time, remembered that his mother wasn't even mad at the people who picketed their Willowick home.

"It's their right," she told her son. "They're standing up for what they believe in, which is the same thing we're doing."

Board Superintendent Elfriede Roman thanked the Foley family for all of their work. She also noted how far services for those with developmental disabilities have come in a comparatively short time.

"We look around at all the services available now," she said, gesturing toward the Deepwood campus, "and we forget that 45, 50 years ago, none of these services existed.

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