Thirty-eight year old Tricia Chiarelli grew up in Kings Park in Suffolk County. One of five children, her childhood was a page out your average suburban playbook. However, society’s idea of normal was to fade for young Tricia at age seven when a neuromuscular condition rendered her in a chair, you know the kind with wheels.
A spirited child, she was fiercely independent and much like the famed Italian singer Frank Sinatra, preferred to do it her way. At first it seemed a noble venture but when it did not wane, it just became Tricia’s way.
She has accomplished a great deal in her life and was paid homage at the 37th Anniversary Celebration of Life Gala last fall. The celebration benefitted the family of FREE Network and other agencies. FREE is the acronym for Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. Their motto is Reach High, Achieve More. Tricia has lived that motto from the very day fate had her climb into her very first wheelchair. “No thanks, I can do it,” is a common answer one received when they offer her any type of help whatsoever.
Today Floral Design and Creative Writing keep the young talent busy. She designed and made all forty of the Life Gala’s centerpieces. She said she was going for a fall feel to accompany the season when she conceptualized the colors. The name of her floral company is Imagination and her interest in designing and pursuing her own venture began in her late twenties. “I took a class at manor Plains which is akin to a BOCES type program,” said Tricia. She said she has done wedding centerpieces as well and specialized in silk.
Tricia said she enjoyed the shout out given to her at the Gala for her centerpieces by Chris Long the CEO of FREE.
Floral design is not her only passion. Tricia has been an avid reader her entire life and her favorite genre is suspense and psychological thrillers but admits to also enjoying a good love story. So it was of little surprise to her family or friends when she took up the art of writing about a decade back. “The first story I penned was a drama but was also a love story I guess,” she laughed.
Her teen novel, Internet Connection is completely finished, edited and ready to publish. Tricia is currently working with a professional writer through Independent Support Services (ISS) to pursue avenues in which to publish the young adult novel and other works. She recently went out on her first journalistic gig with her ISS Job Coach. She attended a Press Conference at Northport’s Veteran’s Hospital and co-wrote a journalistic piece about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Tricia’s father and mother were thrilled she got that opportunity and enjoyed reading her piece with her bi-line. “I think the ISS program works great for certain people and I think Tricia is one of those people; she has initiative and she wants to grow and it allows her to grow,” said her proud father Andy. He says it’s been a very positive experience for his daughter. “It’s helping her with her vocation and her love of writing and she gets to pick her own people to help her get where she wants to be,” he added.
Tricia says she agrees with her Dad and is very grateful that these services exists. “I am very happy with the ISS program, it gives me a lot of opportunities to fulfill my goals,” said the now published writer.
“However, there is one goal I hope to someday achieve, I hope to have my own apartment,” she added. Tricia has been involved with ISS since May. “ISS give me a choice, it gives me more freedom than other programs,” she explained.
Both Tricia’s parents and Tricia like the component of ISS and Self Determination that allows participants to choose who they work with. Her mother Anne says she has a very positive feeling about it. “It’s working very well for our sons and for Patricia,” she said. Tricia’s twin brother David and her older brother Peter also have the same neuromuscular disease that came about several years after they were born.
Anne talked about her children’s school experience and IEP’s and how they were evaluated and taught because they had special needs. She talked about the terminology. “When Martin Luther King gave his famed speech, he didn’t say I have ‘valued outcomes’ he said, I HAVE A DREAM,” said Anne. She loves that ISS is allowing her children to pursue some of their dreams.
You can view some of Tricia Chiarelli’s work on www.createspace.com (Interference and Cash or Debit?). However; she admits her big dream is to see her work in a book store some day. Those that know her, know she will Reach High – Advance More. Tricia says ISS is helping her to do so!
This blog post was contributed by:
Maureen Ledden Rossi