Contact: Lauren Passalacqua, (908) 217-9621, lpassalacqua@skdknick.com


Julian Niccolini to Receive the Green Shovel Award for Sustainability and Environmental Preservation

Awards to be Presented at Annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 27

(Monticello, NY) – The Center for Discovery today announced that it will present its Thomas P. Morahan Lifetime Achievement Award to New York State Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther during the annual Harvest Festival on October 27. Each year, The Center presents the Morahan award to an individual who has distinguished herself in the area of disability rights advocacy while ensuring the dignity and provision of the highest quality care to individuals with special needs.

In addition, Julian Niccolini, Managing Partner of The Four Seasons Restaurant, has been selected to receive The Center’s Green Shovel award, annually given to individuals who demonstrate their commitment to environmentally sustainable practices, a legacy of preserving the natural beauty of the region and excellence in their field.

“Assemblywoman Gunther has been a steadfast partner, advocating for not only The Center and our work, but for the children and adults with disabilities whom we serve,” said Center for Discovery President and CEO Patrick H. Dollard. “It is our distinct honor to present her with this award in celebration of her efforts and commitment to working for the rights of all New Yorkers.”

”The Center for Discovery is truly one of the crown jewels in the developmental disabilities field.  The work they do distinguishes the Center, not only in New York State, but nationally,” said Assemblywoman Gunther.  “I am proud and humbled to be a small part of the work they do and grateful for this honor.”

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Mental Hygiene, Assemblywoman Gunther has been a voice for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and their families.  In September, she held hearings around the state on the Office of Mental Health’s Regional Centers of Excellence Plan to consolidate state-operated psychiatric hospitals.  She co-sponsored legislation to restore a $90 million cut to non-profit providers of services to the developmentally disabled, passed legislation that would create a task force on adults with autism, and created a fund to fight the stigma of mental illness.

The late Senator Thomas Morahan, was a long time and generous supporter of The Center whose family remains active in the life of the agency. The Lifetime Achievement Award was created in his name to honor an individual who, like the late Senator, sets an example in aggressively fighting for services for individuals with disabilities. Previous recipients include distinguished New York State Senator Roy McDonald, Stony Brook University Professor Dr. Eva Feder Kittay, and former Commissioner of the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Thomas A. Maul.

The recipient of the Green Shovel Award, Julian Niccolini, has demonstrated a commitment to environmentalism, preservation and sustainable agricultural practices to produce high quality nutrition foods that support local producers.  Under his leadership, The Four Seasons Restaurant is a strong supporter of The Center for Discovery’s Thanksgiving Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program which has been providing organic, biodynamically-certified fresh fruits and vegetables to the legendary restaurant that are incorporated into its menu on a seasonable basis.  He is also a member of The Center’s DaVinci Master Chef Program to enhance The Center’s Department of Nourishment Arts and provide high quality training to its culinary staff. Previous recipients include Governor George Pataki; Temple Grandin, American doctor of animal science; John H. Adams, Founding Director of NRDC; Catskill Mountainkeeper Director Ramsay Adams; State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens; Open Space Institute CEO Kim Elliman; and Avi and Gigi Mortimer.

The Harvest Festival is an annual celebration held at The Center for Discovery’s Milligan Hill Equine Assisted Therapy Center. The events will begin at 12 Noon on Sunday, October 27, and include the awards presentation as well as fall activities: hay rides, farm tours and apple cider pressing. The refreshments will feature vegetables grown from The Center’s Thanksgiving Farm.

Headquartered in Harris, The Center for Discovery is a nationally recognized not-for-profit provider of educational, health and residential services for children and adults with severe disabilities and medical frailties, including a growing number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Center serves more than 1,000 people annually and is the largest pediatric care provider for children with significant disabilities in New York State. Drawing from a diverse population of families across New York State and the New York metropolitan area, The Center serves more than 125 school districts including every borough of New York City and Long Island.  According to an independent study, the Center for Discovery has a total economic impact of approximately $184 million each year statewide.


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