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RIT Stories

United Way RIT Campaign 2014

On a Snowy December Day in 2006

On a snowy December day in 2006, a pregnant, drug-addicted prostitute asked a caseworker from Rochester’s Mary Magdalene’s Outreach Center to adopt her child.

Jennifer Wolfley, an RIT adjunct professor of English and criminal justice, said yes, before even consulting her husband, Ted, or their four biological children.

“Everyone was stunned when they received Sergei’s birth announcement,” says Jennifer. “People from RIT were incredibly compassionate that we adopted a bi-racial child with special needs.”

Ted says Sergei is very verbal and high functioning but has delayed reactions and can shut down when he is over-stimulated. “He is nonstop from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and requires constant oversight, so Jen and I trade off taking naps.”

Sergei is now 6 years old and attends Council Rock Primary School in Brighton—but suffers from delays and challenges due to being diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and severe autism. He has received speech, occupational and physical therapy from two United Way designated agencies, CP Rochester and Mary Cariola Children’s Center.

“Physically, emotionally and financially we couldn’t have survived without them,” says Jennifer. “The people who will care for Sergei aren’t born yet, and we will be relying on the kindness of strangers through United Way after Ted and I are gone.

“Adopting Sergei has been a blessing. There’s a saying in the Bible, if you save one life, you’ve saved the world.”

Devon Quinsland is Leaving the Family Nest

Devon Quinsland is leaving the family nest to livewith her best friend, Kerry, in a home purchased by her parents, Anne Van Ginkel and Larry Quinsland.

“The girls met at age 5 and instantly bonded,” says Van Ginkel, recently retired from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. “Children with disabilities often don’t have friends, so for them to reconnect years later and renew their friendship was very special.”

Devon was born in 1982 on her due date, but her parents soon discovered their happy, sweet baby had early signs of physical and mental disabilities—later confirmed by a doctor who said Devon would never be able to live independently.

“Her major disability is expressive; Devon cannot say what she is thinking,” says Quinsland, a professor at NTID. “In the lifetime of a child with special needs, it’s not just one United Way agency that helps. We can thank so many—Lifetime Assistance Inc., Easter Seals, Heritage Christian Services, Cobblestone Arts Center.”

Van Ginkel says Devon enjoys roughhousing with her brother, Colin, a student at RIT, and loves animals, flowers, videos and all kinds of music, from country to opera. 

“Our biggest concern was who will care for her after we are gone,” says Quinsland. “State funding has diminished, so with help from Lifetime Assistance, we’ve established a state certified home for the girls with live-in providers. It’s a groundbreaking plan to assist other parents of disabled adults in designing creative housing options for the future.”