‘Inspiring’ that’s how Gerald Hartman describes Reena. “The fact that a small grassroots organization founded by concerned family members could eventually develop into an internationally recognized leader in the field of developmental services is, frankly, miraculous.”
Hartman became involved with Reena in 1995 through, then Reena Chair, Ron Hoffman. He says he “took to the organization immediately” and began working with Reena eventually replacing Ron Hoffman as chair. His accomplishments over his time with Reena are many.
One of Hartman’s most cherished memories is co-chairing Reena’s 25thanniversary conference. In 1999, the first Symposium on Aging and Developmental Disabilities was held, “We had speakers and attendees from across north America, from Israel, from a number of other countries and it was an extraordinary opportunity for Reena to demonstrate just how forward thinking and unique some of its approaches and programs were in comparison to what existed out there.”
Hartman says the conference gave an appreciation to, not only the sector, but to government and to all supporters of the organization, just how different Reena was compared to other organizations that were attempting to make a difference and helped solidify the leadership role that Reena provides.
“What was significant about the conference to me is that from a service standpoint the rest of the sector and the government really got a sense that we were not simply following a well-established playbook, we were really willing to look at other avenues of succeeding where there was a need.” Hartman says it was a remarkable time for the organization. “It was a time when Reena demonstrated to the world the vision that was being expressed and carried forward was something that was really revolutionary.”
Another highlight of Hartman’s time was chairing the Spring 1997 Gala Dinner honouring Miles Nadal which helped fund the building of the Toby and Henry Battle Developmental Centre. The event was one of the most successful to date and raised close to $1,00000.
As for where Reena is going, Hartman says Reena has always demonstrated commitment to growth and to innovation. “Over the course of the last decade I know that Bryan Keshen has really continued to do that in a number of different ways. He’s been extraordinarily effective in terms of speaking to government and really getting them to hear the messaging.”
As for Hartman’s feelings about Reena’s future? “I’ve been privileged to be part of the organization for a very long time. I have also had the great privilege of getting to know both Sandy Keshen and Bryan Keshen personally and they are extraordinary individuals. And I know that under Bryans stewardship the organization is in very, very good hands for the future.”