Friendship Remains an Integral Part of the Achieva Community

Article by Lisa Razza, Director of Communications, Achieva

A group of friends from ACC-PARC enjoyed a ride on the carousel at Rainbow Gardens in White Oak. c. 1964-1968


Parents of children with disabilities are on a journey they never expected to take. Fortunately, the road is seldom ventured alone. As their journey evolves, other parents who are also raising children with disabilities will cross their path. Along the unanticipated course, they become enriched by each other’s strength, tenacity, and resourcefulness. Together, they celebrate milestones big and small. Side-by-side, they tackle problems and overcome fears and anxieties only others in their shoes would understand.

Seventy years ago, family members who shared this parental bond founded the organization we now know as Achieva. Decades later, those bonds remain the backbone of our organization. Each family’s common goals result in a shared vision and impactful, life-changing results. And the best part? Many of these friendships have withstood the test of time!

During the 1970s, parents at the "Allegheny County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children" (ACC-PARC - now known as Achieva) collaborated to develop a parent-to-parent network. Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh/Achieva, recalls the small groups of families who joined together based on their commonalities. She and other mothers at her daughter Marisa’s pre-school belonged to a parent-to-parent group. As one of the designated leaders, Nancy’s role was to schedule meetings and plan the discussions. Every year, they held picnics, holiday parties, and other engaging activities. The children of the parents in the group were all the same age thus they grew up together. All these years later, many of these parents remain friends too. Nancy confided that one of her oldest friends from the disability community, Dottie, is still a dear companion. They plan to share a bottle of wine now that the senior community Dottie resides in has lifted its COVID-related lockdown!

Today, parents share similar bonds, made easier via modern technology. A lot may change throughout the years, but the support of other families who empathize, share knowledge and give a shoulder to lean on is still a priceless resource.

A core group of parent friends we found years ago when our son was a baby remains a central part of our support system 25 years later. These are friends who understand the day-to-day challenges and emotions. We can 'be ourselves' completely with each other.

Tina Calabro, Disability Issues Writer The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh Trustee