Board of Directors
I live in Fairhaven and am the proud mother of three grown children. Craig is 28 years old and was born with Down syndrome, Christina is 27 and Kathryn is 21. I have lived in Massachusetts for the past 29 years I am originally from Connecticut. I lived in Marion, MA and my children grew up and attended school in the Old Rochester Regional School District. All my children were fully included in our school system and were able to experience and grow up in a small town that valued and accepted everyone. I have also had the great experience of working for Nemasket Group Inc. located in Fairhaven for the last 23 years. I currently am the Associate Executive Director of Nemasket and am proud to say, the Director of Family Connections, the family support agency in the Greater New Bedford Area. I became involved with MFOFC 20 years ago, first as a parent that attended the Southeastern Family Leadership Series and then around 10 years ago became a Board member with MFOFC. Currently I am a board member and serve on the board development committee on this grass roots family organization.
My parenting journey began 31 years ago. I was a work-at-home wife, and mother of three very unique children. In 2004 I participated in Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC) Family Leadership Series (FLS) and my family was forever changed – we began to imagine a better life. The FLS connected me with families who were supporting children that had various diagnoses, and a network of individuals and organizations that could help each other. I wanted to give back, so for several years, I volunteered to learn from and help mentor other FLS families. With others, I chaired our school district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council while my children were in school. My current position as Prevention Specialist at Y.O.U. Inc.’s Family Support Center in Gardner, allows me to offer bi-weekly support groups, and help families find tools and resources to navigate systems and advocate for their family’s needs. I volunteer on the Board of Directors for MFOFC, the North County Site Advisory Board for the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) North Central Citizen’s Advisory Board, and Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Advocates in Motion Advisory Council. I do all this while supporting my daughter’s DDS Agency with Choice Adult Service Program and her local, regional & statewide self-advocacy efforts. I hope to continue to learn from my children, and the ever growing community of support and inspiration we receive from those we have met along our journey.
Rania Kelly is an architect/designer by day, a mother 24/7, and an advocate all the times in between for children that are neurodivergent, medically complex, and/or disabled. She is an active member in SEPAC, does pro-bono design work for non-profits, runs fundraisers, and enjoys grant writing.
Inspired by the impact picture books have had on her son, she is writing and illustrating picture books for children that require emotional, physical, or medical support to access a world that was not designed for them. She is passionate about inclusion and accessibility for everyone.
Rania is a first generation Arab American and has seen first-hand the struggles immigrant families face with language and cultural barriers. She hopes to use her experience and bi-lingual skills to help families that face similar struggles.
MFOFC has given her and her son valuable support, and she is honored for the opportunity to give back by serving as a board member.
Emily is a founding member of Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change. She was its Chairperson for 13 years and remains active on the board. Emily was instrumental in the development of the SE MA Family Leadership Series and has coordinated and facilitated the Series in the SE for over 25 years.
The foundation for Emily’s work has been a deep love and respect for her daughter and other individuals and families who are on the same journey. Her goal is to create and/or find opportunities for individuals and families within their communities so that individuals and families can, as much as possible, live “ordinary” lives. Emily has had the privilege of traveling in the US and abroad to work with families and has delivered keynote addresses and presentations at conferences throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom. She is the very humble recipient of the 2005 Gunnar Dybwad Award presented by the Department of Developmental Disabilities.
Meri Viano is a parent of three amazing and unique young adults. Her children range in talents and uniqueness’s. Meri came to advocate when she first 20 yrs old when she raised , lived and created a family with a woman whom was institutionalized in one of the worst institutions in the state of Massachusetts. As being a young shared living provider when the nursing homes, group homes were being dismantled Meri worked for Seven Hills during the merger with WAARC at the time to create system creations that looked at individual support and community/family involvement. Ms. Corkum taught her the reasons to advocate, speak up and move policy to help all people. She has worked in the advocacy field for 20years. She has worked with private organizations, school systems, and agencies with multiple disabilities. Her strengths are to find equal treatment and community services for all children prior to being locked up, institutionalized and not being given access to family members. After having children Meri spent over 12 years working with family organizations and is currently working as a Associate Director for the Parent/ Professional Advocacy League. Meri is dedicated to reforming the culture of working with families, youth and young adults. She has trained in the state and nationally on several areas including: Crisis training, Special education rights for children with mental health needs, working with police stations, and peer to peer training. Meri has testified in the state on behalf of families. Her dedication is to make the system work better and allow families to be heard, understood and given the same rights as all other children. Meri has received a Certificate from Boston University in Non for Profit Management in 2017. Her awards received have been 2010 Provider of the year from DDS, Adoptive Family of the year 2012, Unsung Hero award from DYS in 2017.