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Author Topic: 2011 Benificiary  (Read 3013 times)
Scott Daigle
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« on: May 12, 2011, 07:35:16 PM »

For 2011 In Addition to the NEA we are excited to announce our new Benificiary is Helping Hands- Monkey Helpers For the Disabled.

Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled has grown from an innovative idea into a thriving national non-profit organization that offers independence and hope to individuals with severe disabilities.
Helpful monkey

Helping Hands trained and placed the first monkey as a helper and a companion to a paralyzed individual in 1979. In 1982, Helping Hands became a 501(c)(3) corporation under the IRS code. From the beginning, Helping Hands' mission has been to provide assistance to people with the greatest needs: people who have become quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) as a result of an accident, injury, or disease.

In the early years, Helping Hands received major developmental support from the National Science Foundation, the Veterans Administration, and from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. There was interest in investigating innovative ways to support veterans who had received severe spinal cord injuries while performing military service.

During the research and development stage, Helping Hands investigated and solidified all of the components of the program - from determining which species of monkey was best suited to the kinds of tasks the human recipients would need, to working out a method how to teach them their tasks.

Once these parameters were in places, Helping Hands was able to place monkey helpers at a steady pace. The initial research and development stage of the program officially ended in 1989, when the final review by the Veterans Administration confirmed that monkey helpers could indeed provide substantive and broad-based assistance to the target population of quadriplegic individuals, and that they were indeed cherished companions.

A nation-wide network of foster homes was established, where volunteer families raised monkeys under Helping Hands' supervision and prepared them for the exciting transition to the training center and ultimate placement as a monkey helper. As technology changed, new tasks replaced the old (monkeys had to be taught to turn on and load computers and CD players, while the art of placing a record on a turntable passed out of the repertoire.) Training protocols were improved and solidified.

Knowledge of Helping Hands spread through the network of spinal cord injury care centers and specialty physicians, resulting in a growing backlog of people waiting to be matched with a monkey helper.
A monkey with a toy

In 1994, the final government grant to Helping Hands came to an end. Helping Hands then needed to develop new connections with the public and the philanthropic community in order to continue its work.

In the later 1990s, outreach efforts and coverage in the media helped bring Helping Hands to the attention of the wider public, and donations from individuals began to replace the government funding that had ended. Grants from foundations became a major source of support for Helping Hands. Workplace giving, especially by Federal employees giving through the Combined Federal Campaign, became another avenue of support.

Placements continued, and further improvements in training methods and adaptive equipment allowed the placement of monkey helpers with people who had a wider range of mobility impairments.

Helping Hands also began to develop the informal presentations it had been conducting for school children into a formal educational presentation about the results of spinal cord injuries, and how they could be prevented. SCIPP (the Spinal Cord Injury Prevention Program) became a popular program for use in schools, summer camps, and other venues where young people gather.

In 1995, Helping Hands breeding monkeys were united with the training program in the Boston area, through a move to a new home at Southwick's Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts. Southwick's is the largest zoo in New England and houses over 600 animals representing 120 species. This very special zoo, located in a beautiful country setting, is owned and operated by the Brewer family.

Housed in the Milton & Bernice Stern Building, the indoor/outdoor facility provides both a home for the breeding monkeys and an educational/display area. Visitors to the zoo are able to learn more about capuchins and the unique relationship these monkeys can enjoy with their human partners.
Teasing monkey

In 1999, Helping Hands undertook the search for a permanent and specially modified home for its training center. Ultimately an old building in Boston was selected and rebuilt especially for Helping Hands' needs. The Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation Center (also known as the Monkey College) officially opened in 2004. This purchase represented a significant investment for the program. Fundraising to underwrite the costs of construction and to name the important rooms and floors of the building continues.

Today, Helping Hands places an increasing number of monkey helpers in new homes annually. The training and placement effort are still our primary focus of work and energy, as we strive to enlarge the number of people we help.

At the same time, we continue to provide support to all established placement pairs, some of whom have been together for well over 20 years. The constantly growing number of established placements is a significant activity for the Helping Hands.

Our SCIPP program now reaches several thousand young people each year, teaching them about various high-risk behaviors and how students can make safer choices in their lives. A community service element of the program extends this learning into first-hand knowledge of how personal action can help others. A special task force, funded by the Bernice and Milton Stern Foundation, is considering ways to expand presentation of the SCIPP program nationwide.

As we consider the future for Helping Hands, will direct more resources towards our monkeys' retirement needs.

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