Remembering Scottie | March 15, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - March 15, 2013

Remembering Scottie

by Jeb Bing

Richard Fitzmaurice lost his 7-year-old son Scottie to cerebral palsy in the mid-90s, a tragedy that led him to turn his attention -- and his career -- to helping hundreds in need of special care. Fitzmaurice was a newsman at KCBS for years, married his colleague Linda in 1985, and they had Scottie two years later. It wasn't long before they realized Scottie was not developing as he should, with the diagnosis by Children's Hospital doctors coming in the child's early years. They were referred to First Step, a special care program for preschoolers operated by Arc, a nonprofit agency that works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When Scottie turned 5, he moved into a special program in the school system before his death in 1994.

As their careers moved on, with Richard joining AT&T and Pacific Bell in public relations and Linda following her interests in raising and showing pedigreed dogs, including recently at Westminster, they never forgot the loving care Scottie was offered and the people at Arc who provided it. Eventually, Richard joined Arc's board of directors and, when Pac Bell offered an early retirement package, he accepted an offer to become a development officer for Arc, where he's been for the last five years.

Each day, Arc welcomes 500 developmentally disabled people at its San Leandro headquarters, even more at First Step for younger children at its newer facility in Hayward, and those who are more capable of handling jobs at its Livermore offices. As a parent who remembers the special needs of developmentally disabled children and their parents, Fitzmaurice is the caregiver with unique expertise on serving these needs. These are the same folks you might see at a Special Olympics program in Pleasanton, where he lives, or those with handicaps who are employed in programs at Safeway and by other companies to help the disabled lead better lives.

Wednesday, Fitzmaurice supervised three "clients" (as they are called) who were being paid by the city of Pleasanton to wash vehicles at the city's Operations Services center. That kind of work gives Arc clients a chance to provide services in line with their capabilities while also earning a part of their living costs. At Arc, others train to handle different skills, some learning how to ride public transit on their own for the first time. Most are 22 years old and older, beyond the point where public education provides for their training and special needs.

Recently, an Arc client completed 30 years of service at a Fremont hardware store, a part-time job she was trained to handle that involved sorting bolts, nuts and screws delivered to the store into small bags that consumers would buy. At its Livermore facility, Fitzmaurice pointed to two clients that had learned the skills of packaging medical test kits for a Tri-Valley laboratory and packages of dental supplies for a regional dental group. Each received modest pay for the work, but their smiles showed they were happy to have productive work.

Fitzmaurice remembers the smiles he and Linda always saw on Scottie's face even in the worst of his seizure disorders. It's those similar smiles from those he's able to serve at Arc that keeps his son's happier days in his mind as he works with those in similar circumstances

The Arc, by the way, will hold a fundraiser and golf tournament May 6 with the theme, "Driving towards Independence." Call Fitzmaurice at (510) 366-1416 for more information.


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