In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Terry O’Neill

April 11, 1948 – April 6, 2014

Executive Director of SDC  2007 – 2014

Halvad TerryTerry O’Neill was born in Inwood and raised in the neighborhood of Kingsbridge in the Bronx. He decided to join the military in 1969.  After serving his country for one year in Vietnam, he decided to pursue a career in Social Work.  Mr. O’Neill graduated in 1973 from Mercy College with a BS in Sociology.  Shortly thereafter he enrolled in Fordham University where he pursued a graduate degree in Social Work. During his academic years, Mr. O’Neill took on a position with Catholic Guardian Society (CGS) as a Direct Care Worker at a group home in Staten Island for abused and neglected adolescents.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. O’Neill was promoted to Manager of this residence.  Right after earning his graduate degree, he was further promoted to Director of Group Homes for Abused and Neglected Children and Adolescents in Staten Island, where he coordinated the oversight of seven homes.

Two years later, the atrocities occurring at the Willowbrook Institution had been revealed to the public and there was an immediate demand to place the residents of Willowbrook in small, private homes within communities in and around the New York City area. Mr. O’Neill took interest in this case and investigated solutions for how to help the flux of individuals in need of residential service.  He encouraged his agency to get involved.  Mr. O’Neill’s ideas were received well and he was appointed Director of Homes for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.  Through this position, Mr. O’Neill expanded CGS’s residential services to individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities.  Between the years of 1975 and 2001, Mr. O’Neill oversaw the development of 20 residential homes.  These residences became homes for individuals that were previously living in institutional settings.  Because of this expansion, and Mr. O’Neill’s dedication to this population, one hundred and fifty-two individuals were integrated back into the community.

In 1996, Mr. O’Neill began to witness a gap in services to individuals with developmental disabilities. As non-profit agencies expanded, he witnessed a lack of responsiveness to present community needs.  While larger agencies were able to provide services, they were less able to personalize their services to meet the specific, often evolving, needs of individuals and families.  As agencies grew larger, families felt less in touch with the administrative and direct support staff, which made important decisions that directly affected their loved ones.  Recognizing that a successful residence must have input from families and self-advocates, Mr. O’Neill decided to found a small non-profit organization that would prioritize the needs of families, individuals, and self-advocates.  This agency is known as Services for the Developmentally Challenged, Inc. (SDC).  SDC now operates three residential IRA homes, a Day Program for adults, a Saturday Respite Program for children, an After-Day Program for adults, Family Education and Training Program, and provides Medicaid Service Coordination to 300 families in the Bronx and upper region of Manhattan.  Always keeping an eye on the future, Mr. O’Neill has initiated a project focusing on a specific population in need – individuals diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).  PWS is a rare chromosomal disorder that leads to excessive eating due to an inability to feel satiated and intellectual disabilities.  SDC is currently developing a home for individuals with PWS.  This home will be the first private non-profit home of its kind in the five boroughs.

Mr. O’Neill was married to Denise Fox O’Neill for 40 years. They have two sons; Christian, a successful accountant married to Stephanie O’Neill, and Alexander, a student athlete at Bucknell University, partnered with his long-time girlfriend Kitty Camarda.  Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill’s prize granddaughter Keira Grace O’Neill joined the family one year ago.

In Memoriam

Mary Bonsignore

1937 – 2020

Mother of Michael Bonsignore

Executive Director of SDC 2000 – 2007

Mary BonsignoreMary Bonsignore was a true Bronx Pioneer Mother and Advocate. “Mary B,” as we knew her, was part of the “Bronx Mom’s Squad” who continually pushed back on proposed cuts to services for children and adults with IDD. She fought for 55 years on behalf of her son, Michael, and others like Michael so that they could live full, decent, and respectable lives in the community.

Mary was a co-founder and Executive Director of Services for the Developmentally Challenged (SDC). SDC was founded in 2000 with the aim of providing a person-centered approach for families and individuals to receive a personalized care program.

Mary was involved in numerous Bronx DD Council activities since 1975 and was on its Executive Board. She was Co-Chair of our Family Support Committee that for 31 years would bring together 600 families and agencies for a day of networking and sharing of resources and information.

She also participated on the advisory boards of the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, and was on the Board of Directors for the Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD ).

In the 1980’s, Mary B was the co-founder of a parent group called UTOPIA United Together Parents in Action. In addition, she worked with another parent and social worker to develop a program for new parents at North Central Bronx Hospital called the Newborn Network which connected and supported new mothers with children with special needs babies. It was during this time that she volunteered her services to the Bronx Community Board District 8 and its Health and Hospitals Subcommittee. Mary continued her support of families by starting the “We Are Family” support group through SDC, which still meets monthly to this day and still serves many of its founding families. She was instrumental in supporting the development of group homes in her community and the entire Bronx when community resistance was at its highest level.

Mary had two sons: Michael and Anthony, and a grandson, Anthony.

Leave a Comment