BBI receives $100,000 gift to CHAT program for children with disabilities

April 1, 2013

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Barb and Greg ’91 M.B.A. Tresness have announced a commitment of $100,000 to the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University. The generous donation will fund the creation of Communication Hope through Assistive Technology (CHAT), a program to assist youth with disabilities that affect their verbal communication to open their voices to the world.

The Tresness’s son, Graham, is the inspiration behind the gift. Graham, who has cerebral palsy, uses eye gaze technology to communicate. The couple has worked for more than a decade to find a way for their son to communicate. “It was a challenge to get to where we are today and we still have a long way to go,” said Barb Tresness, a member of BBI’s Board of Advisors. “We traveled far and wide to find resources and hope our journey will make it easier for other families in our community. With CHAT at BBI, the non-verbal community will benefit tremendously.”

Barb and Greg tirelessly advocate for Graham and all children with disabilities. Their vision for CHAT is to positively impact the lives of nonverbal youth and their families by empowering them through in-person and virtual communities as well as nationwide awareness and advocacy.

The CHAT program will kick off with “CHAT Camp” this August, at which augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users will interact with each other. The camp will combine opportunities for peer modeling and interactive fun as CHAT campers explore and bring awareness about how people communicate in different ways. The CHAT team will create CHAT Central, a first-of-its-kind website, to allow AAC users to communicate virtually, as well as with parents, friends, and professionals.

“Barb and Greg’s gift continues their tireless commitment towards their son and that of all children with disabilities to fully and equally participate in the world,” said University Professor Peter Blanck, BBI chairman.

“CHAT will be a resource that gives hope to children like Graham, helping them express their passions and personalities,” added Greg Tresness.

Greg, who received an M.B.A. from SU, is president of Arcom, a worldwide leader in the cable communication industry. Barb is a certified craniosacral therapist and owns Ultimate Yu in the Syracuse area.

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