2014 Thomas J. Mentzer Award: Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn: Article
2014 Thomas J. Mentzer Award: Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn: Article
Award given to Gregory Hannah and Stephen McWilliams: Article
UCP National Service Award granted to Villanova for Documentary, Coming Off the DL: Article
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Stephen McWilliams and Gregory Hannah of the Office of Disability Services at Villanova University have been honored with the First Financial Group (FFG) Special Needs Awareness Award for their contribution to disability awareness advocacy. The award – which recognizes an individual, company, or organization for their work in promoting awareness and accommodations for individuals with disabilities – was presented on Disability Awareness Night at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday, May 9, prior to the Philadelphia Phillies’ game against the New York Mets.
“We are very fortunate to work with a great population of students at Villanova and we’re happy to see the progress that’s been made in disability awareness on campus and in the community,” said Stephen McWilliams, Director of Disability Services at Villanova University. “I am very honored that we have been selected to receive this award.”
Sponsored by FFG, Disability Awareness Night aims to expand awareness of people with disabilities across America. The event highlights the perseverance and dedication of the healthcare professionals, educators and other caregivers of people with disabilities. FFG has invited 533 schools, organizations, families, and individuals with disabilities to share in this year’s event.
“As a parent of a special needs young adult that would have loved a college experience, and an advisor who dedicates his practice to working with families that have children with special needs, I was deeply touched that Villanova has such an extensive program through its disability services office,” said Bruce H. Sham, CLF, Agency Vice President of Sales, First Financial Group. “I wanted to give this appropriate recognition in a setting that is truly a once in a lifetime experience.”
Villanova’s Office of Disability Services provides support services to students with disabilities and ensures that qualified students with disabilities have access to educational opportunities at the University by eliminating physical and educational barriers. In addition to the support McWilliams and Hannah provide to students with disabilities at Villanova, they have also played a key role in disability awareness advocacy.
“Working alongside Stephen McWilliams to provide our students with physical disabilities the chance to successfully navigate through their college career, grow academically as well as socially change the way people see ability is something we are proud of,” said Gregory Hannah, advisor to students with disabilities at Villanova, as well as the staff advisor for the student organization LEVEL. “To be recognized with the FFG special needs awareness award is a great honor.”
In 2010, students in Villanova’s Center for Social Justice Film produced a documentary about the journey of two students with cerebral palsy, Coming Off the DL, which aims to change the way people see ability. McWilliams was one of the instructors for that social justice film class. Now, two years later, he and others involved in the making of that documentary are working with United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) to take the film to schools and UCP affiliates around the country. To date, Coming Off the DL has been screened and discussed at more than 100 schools, creating important opportunities to talk about disability issues with students.
This past year, an organization called LEVEL was founded by Villanova student Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn, to “LEVEL” the playing field for students of differing abilities. The Office for Disability Services plays an advisory role with the organization and its members. Students involved in the University’s Service Learning Community (SLC) can select LEVEL as part of their SLC experience. Those students who choose LEVEL are partnered with a student challenged with physical, learning or other differences, and assist the students both in achieving their academic potential and becoming involved in the Villanova community and campus life.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.
VILLANOVA, Pa. — The chant started in the student section and spread through the Pavilion before Villanova hosted Pittsburgh in basketball here last month. An ESPN feature had played on the video boards, and as the building shook with a singsong “Nick and Frank-ie!” Wildcats Coach Jay Wright wiped away tears.
Frank Kineavy, the men’s team manager, evaluates game and practice film, looking for things like chemistry and energy.
The women’s team manager Nick Gaynor getting a kiss from Amanda Swiezynski before Villanova’s game last Friday in Hartford.
Nick is Nick Gaynor, 19, a freshman manager for Villanova’s women’s team. Frankie is Frank Kineavy, 20, a sophomore manager for Wright, the men’s coach.
Both perform those jobs in wheelchairs, because both have cerebral palsy, which did not stop either from making the dean’s list last semester, or becoming the subjects of a student-produced documentary, or attaining local celebrity status.
Nick’s father is Michael Gaynor, director of university admissions. Three summers ago, he met a family in his office lobby, and told a boy in a wheelchair about his own sons, twins, also in wheelchairs. By conversation’s end, he realized the boy’s parents had also married in the summer of 1986, at the same hotel as his wedding, one month apart. When he told his wife, she produced a newspaper article she had saved, and lo and behold, it was about the boy he met.
The boy’s name was Frank Kineavy.
“I don’t believe any of this was by accident,” Michael Gaynor said. “We’re supposed to be here. All of us.”
Kineavy grew up in Sea Girt, N.J. He cannot walk, write or speak. He communicates with a computer system built into his wheelchair, its keyboard filled with words, letters and numbers, which he taps, mostly with the thumb on his right hand. He is Villanova basketball’s resident comedian.
The basketball team at his high school, for which he also served as a manager, traveled each summer to Wright’s camp, and the two developed a relationship. Wright said half of New Jersey recommended Kineavy, including the football coach Charlie Weis, a Kineavy family friend.
Gaynor grew up in Malvern, Pa. He cannot walk, but he can speak. He once watched “Pinocchio” and asked his father, “Will I ever be a real boy like that?”
He started attending Villanova women’s basketball games more than 10 years ago, bonded with Coach Harry Perretta and became a fixture. As a high school senior, Gaynor took a trip with the team, which he called “the cutest in the country” in a telephone interview.
Greg Hannah is the link between Gaynor and Kineavy. He worked with Kineavy in high school, then came to Villanova, where he serves as an adviser to students with disabilities. Asked to describe his first impression of Hannah, Kineavy typed “cocky” and “but you meant well.” He noted they have spent six years together — or three more than Hannah has known his wife.
“Those are my guys,” Hannah said. “Coach Wright has his guys on the wall. They’re the face of his program. Frankie and Nick are the face of ours.”
Kineavy lives in a campus dormitory. His is the room with the stereo blasting Huey Lewis, Neil Diamond or Hall and Oates. Villanova players said they often saw him on campus, where as guard Dominic Cheek said, “he’s rolling around, doing donuts, always smiling, surrounded by girls.”
Wright treats Kineavy like any student manager. He watches practice from upstairs, through a glass window, same as the other underclassmen. He banters with the players, and even told Wright recently to “hang it up.”
Kineavy evaluates film of practices and games. He looks for chemistry, energy, all the little things that Wright preaches to his team. Wright said he did not instruct Kineavy to evaluate this way, but Kineavy came to it on his own.
After one rough stretch this season, Wright drilled his team on fundamentals, using basic drills like the three-man weave. Kineavy’s evaluation of that practice echoed Wright’s priorities. “He picked up concepts on what we do quicker than any player, or any person, in our program,” Wright said.
Speaking of perceptive, when asked about the Wildcats’ chances in the Big East tournament this week, Kineavy, aware of Villanova’s four straight losses, typed, “Next question.”
Gaynor lives at home but spends his days on campus. Like Kineavy, he takes classes, works with Hannah, meets with tutors; a mostly typical college life, just as he had hoped.
Perretta said Gaynor is often at the practice facility until it closes. He does his homework in a conference room. He helps chart statistics and breaks down film, but his greatest contribution, Perretta said, “is his ability as a motivator.”
He added: “We draw strength from Nick. Way more than he draws from us.”
Gaynor, who correctly guaranteed a Villanova win last Friday, never set out to inspire anyone. But it happened, and largely because the school’s Center for Social Justice Film produced a documentary on both managers.
The idea came from Stephen McWilliams, another adviser for students with disabilities, who wanted to humanize what they go through. In one scene, Kineavy brushes into a man at last year’s Big East tournament, and the man turns to Hannah in anger and says over Kineavy: “I’m pretty uncomfortable with this situation. Can you move him?”
Mostly, though, the piece shows the managers as normal students. It shows the importance of their respective families. It shows two hilarious cutups.
“It’s not like you feel sorry for them,” McWilliams said. “That’s the last thing we wanted to do. We didn’t want the message to be, well, isn’t this nice. If anything, inclusion isn’t the right word. It’s a message of equality.”
Since the documentary came out, the university, the disability office and both basketball programs have received hundreds of letters and e-mails. Gaynor said a family in Minnesota wrote that they now planned to send their son, who has cerebral palsy, to college. The documentary provided a boost in recognition, although Kineavy insisted it came more from Hannah’s “bald head than the wheelchair.” Next season, Wright sees Kineavy in an expanded role. Forward Laura Sweeney said Gaynor could coach, or teach, or spend his life right there, “with the team where he found a home.”
Hannah is focused on finding them a postcollege career, the same as the rest of his students. He continues to push them toward relationships outside the basketball programs, toward engagement in a larger world. He believes they can help each other, and he was surprised recently when Kineavy instructed Gaynor to go to class.
But all the recent attention added another layer to their story, and its importance.
“We have to help them understand that now, the spotlight is on them, and they have to perform,” Hannah said. “If they do that, who knows how many lives they’ll change.”
Jimmy Medal Presented to Villanova Basketball Managers
Published: Friday, May 06, 2011
AIDS Alive’s SpeakUp! presented the Jimmy Medal May 4 to Nick Gaynor and Frank Kineavy, managers for the Villanova University men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The JIMMY Medal was awarded at the Villanova Connelly Center to Gaynor and Kineavy after the screening of “Coming off the DL” (which stands for the disabled list), a short documentary by Steve McWilliams and Dr John O Leary's Social Justice Documentary Film Class. This documentary represents how Gaynor and Kineavy are overcoming the physical, academic, and social challenges of cerebral palsy and changing the way people see ability.
These two Villanova men follow the path of Jimmy’s spirit - this self-perpetuating program was designed in memory of Jimmy, a son, brother, husband, father and friend who embodied the ideals of resiliency, empathy, humility and loyalty, which Gaynor and Kineavy live every day.
SpeakUp!/AIDS Alive are educational prevention programs that empower youth and parents to speak their minds on tough topics. These programs put participants on a level playing field where listening, sharing points of view and problem solving are the victors over blaming, denying and lecturing. The JIMMY Medal is awarded at all SpeakUp! events. For more information, visit www.speakup.org or www.aidsalive.org
Villanova University basketball managers Frank Kineavy and Nick Gaynor (front row, from left), the recepients of the Jimmy Medal and joined by (back row, from left) Steve McWilliams of the Villanova Center for Peace and Justice; Betty Moran of the Jimmy Medal Committee; George Corrigan of the Jimmy Medal Committee; Martie Gillin, the founder of AIDS Alive/SpeakUp! and the Jimmy Medal); and Greg Hannah, disability advisor.