Manlius Family Receives Inspirational Service Award

Each year, the Grossman Family Innovation Award recognizes family members of people with disabilities who inspire others to give freely of their time and talents. This year’s recipient is the Tresness family of Manilus, New York, whose youngest member, Graham, was born with cerebral palsy.

Using an Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC) device, Graham is an inspiration in his own right. But it is his parents’ and brothers’ leadership, compassion, hard work and dedication to advocacy on behalf of the entire disabled community that have softened the hearts and steeled the resolve of others to help, too.

Barb and Greg Tresness both served on the Board of Directors at Jowonio, an inclusive pre-school, while Graham attended. They raised their children Colby, Tysen and Graham to give back to their community, both with time and money. The Tresness Family has donated to many community organizations including Enable, The Rosamond Gifford Zoo, The Boys and Girls Clubs, Jowonio, The FM All Sports Booster Club, just to name a few.

Graham’s mother, Barb Tresness, is the co-founder of FM Parent-to-Parent, a support group for parents of children with disabilities facing challenges with schools and service organizations. She is also a past chairman of the Special Education Advisory Counsel, FM School District and currently serves on the Board of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University.

Barb is also a founding member of the Anything That Rolls event hosted by Access CNY.  Family and friends have all participated in Team Graham securing an award for top fundraiser in2012, and an award for team spirit in 2014.

In 2013, she and her husband, Greg, partnered with BBI to pilot and fund an innovative program for disabled children and their families called CHAT (Communication Hope through Assistive Technology). The program’s mission, which was fulfilled during a weeklong CHAT Camp, was to create a community based on friendship, fun and learning for children who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.

In the spring of 2014 Barb and Greg worked with Access CNY to pilot a CHAT Club to provide a socialization opportunity for AAC users. Greg is CEO of Arcom, a local manufacturing company that employs over 400 people. Barb is a CranioSacral Therapist (CST) and owner of Ultimate Yu in Fayetteville.

Barb is launching a new company, CHAT Collective (now an acronym for Connecting Humans through Awareness and Technique)this March. Her company will offer communication and identification products, tools and techniques to inspire and empower society to engage effectively with those who have communication challenges due to disabilities, stroke, ALS and traumatic brain or other injuries.

Following in his parents’ footsteps, high school senior Tysen Tresness has helped raise awareness among for Camp Good Days and Special Times by personally raising over $7000 for the schools biggest fundraiser, a Dance Marathon, throughout his high school career.


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