Susanna O’Brien has spent over 34 years as a Nationally Board Certified Secondary Biology Educator. She is the mother of two young adults with autism. Over the years, she has become a special needs advocate, a social skills group leader and writer. Susanna has written many articles about parenting children with special needs and even is the author of an upcoming book about raising two sons with autism. Susanna has been a speaker at special needs conferences and workshops throughout the Hudson Valley and is an active member in our community. Recently, our Director of Philanthropy Samara Enders had the chance to speak with Susanna about her life and philanthropic work.
How did you get involved with Greystone? We have been with Greystone for over 13 years, when Matty needed Respite services. We recently made the decision to move Matty in to Grants Path, a new Greystone home, which will be his forever home.
Why do you support Greystone Programs? I believe anything we do matters a great deal to our loved ones and staff at Grant’s path. This is our children’s home, and it should feel that way. Because we show we care, everyone working at this new forever home will care more too. We can turn our hope into action and make them feel welcome by making the decision to donate to Greystone. I made the decision to donate with my heart, and then justified it with my head.
My father, Dr. Alan Schwartz, Matt’s grandfather, passed away suddenly two years ago. He was a brilliant man with savant skills. He was a college professor, a working therapist until his death at 86, a war veteran and world recognized triathlete. Most importantly, he was a proud father of 5 children, and an even prouder grandfather. He wanted the best for Matty, and would have helped pay for his college tuition, and so now those funds go to Matty’s forever home, where his gifts can bring about love and thoughtful comfort to many more.
How has having a child with developmental disabilities impacted your life? Having a child with developmental disabilities opens up your mind to navigate through a lot of situations. When you look back on your life, you have really gained an enormous amount and it lifts you up. You have to live in the moment and take each day as it comes. It gives you a window into a world that most people have no idea about. It is truly a gift.
How has this last year and the pandemic impacted you, Matty and your family? This last year has changed my perspective about what is important in life. Family and home is most important. It has changed our lives in that we don’t take things for granted, we try to make time count.