Company: Down Syndrome Foundation, Inc.
Location: Staten Island, NY United States
Teri Russo has devoted most of her adult life to making a change in the lives of those born with Down syndrome because she felt the population was neglected. She wanted to make a difference, so she founded the Down Syndrome Foundation, Inc., in 1972 and established the Down Syndrome Learning Center, which included an infant stimulation program, preschool, kindergarten, and graded elementary classes.
Through her nonprofit, she also started Teri’s House, a group home for adults with Down syndrome. Ms. Russo is a firm believer in the fact that they can live fruitful lives if given the tools to succeed, so that’s what she strove to provide. She adopted four sons with Down syndrome, and helped them become productive, active adults. Teri’s House has an extra bed in case of emergencies, so that they can take in anyone in need. Ms. Russo hopes to open another group home in the future; she is inspired by the progression her children have made.
The biggest challenge Ms. Russo faced was other people believing she wouldn’t be able to get it done. She also struggled with her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, which has limited her abilities somewhat. Ms. Russo is dedicated to her cause, however, and was determined to keep moving forward and not to give in to pressure. As a testament to her success, Ms. Russo was recognized as a N.Y. State Woman Who Made a Difference in 2012 and among the Staten Island Women in History in 1989. She also won the Staten Island Women of Achievement Award for her work with Down syndrome in 1988. Ms. Russo is a coach of a Special Olympics team, and is affiliated with the Staten Island MS Society and the Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an honored member of The International Women’s Leadership Association.
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