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Lakeville Resident Paves the Way for Sidewalk Improvements
Crews recently replaced broken sidewalks leading to Minnehans family fun center on Route 20A in Lakeville – but it was Turtle Rock Road resident Dan O'Leary that paved the way for this improvement for pedestrians.
"I went for a walk with a member of the staff, and I fell out of my wheelchair," says Dan, one of six residents at 3426 Turtle Rock Road, a group home operated The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, a private, not-for profit agency that serves people with disabilities. "A man riding by on a motorcycle stopped and helped me up, which was nice. But that's when I decided to write a letter to the town."
Dan was concerned that uneven and broken sidewalk panels would unfairly limit friends' and neighbors' access to the finer things in life, namely go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages and – most importantly – a good burger.
"Hamburgers are my favorite food, and the burgers at Minnehans are the best," he says "It's my favorite restaurant."
Fueled by goodwill and the desire for a good meal, Dan composed a letter to Livonia Town Supervisor Eric Gott requesting repairs to the 1/3 mile stretch of sidewalk along Turtle Rock Road and Route 20A. Unhindered by his disability, Dan readied his letter on August 3, 2008.
Dan, who is 62 years old, has been overcoming challenges since he was an infant. During his first year of life, he became very ill and was left partially paralyzed with Cerebral Palsy. At age 16, he was institutionalized at Newark Developmental Center in Newark, NY, where he remained for 15 years. In 1977, shortly after he left Newark, Dan enrolled in training at Hilltop Industries, The Arc's vocational rehabilitation division. Today, he attends classes three days a week at CP Rochester, where he receives services and instruction to continue his personal growth.
Dan's physical disability makes it exceedingly difficult for him to write words by hand, but he is proficient at Microsoft Word when aided by an enlarged keyboard and a stylus that he uses to press the keys. Dan completed his letter to the town in just under two hours, and mailed it the same day.
To Dan's delight, the town promptly responded in the affirmative. "They called me and said, we're going to fix it for you," Dan said. "It made me feel good."
Construction on the new walks was completed in November. Minnehans owner Mark Minnehan is appreciative of Dan's efforts, and expects that the enhanced walkways may boost business when the weather warms.
"It's a pleasure to have Dan as customer, but even more so as a neighbor," Mark says. "With his suggestion to improve the sidewalks, Dan made a positive difference for the community."
For Dan, it's an experience that leaves him proud – and just a little bit hungry. "A friend and I went to Minnehans after the sidewalks were fixed. It was a lot easier to get there, and we were able to enjoy great hamburgers," he says, smiling.