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PR- 368-09
August 10, 2009


Yankees Honor Commissioner Sapolin for Improving the Lives of Disabled New Yorkers

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Matthew Sapolin and the New York Yankees today celebrated Disability Awareness Night as part of the MOPD's commemoration of the 19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Before the Yankees took on the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Commissioner Sapolin and General Counsel Jason Mischel of MOPD presented a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg to Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN).

"Every year, the Yankees partner with the Mayor's Office to highlight the contributions of organizations that help better the lives of disabled New Yorkers," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This year, not only are we recognizing KEEN, a great organization that gives kids a chance to be kids, the Yankees are also recognizing our own Commissioner, Matt Sapolin, for his decades of work in advancing the issues facing New Yorkers with disabilities."

"I am proud to present a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the Bloomberg Administration to Kids Enjoy Exercise Now, an organization that, by providing one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers, clearly demonstrates a commitment to bettering the lives of people with disabilities," said Commissioner Sapolin.  "We are fortunate to continue our successful partnership with the New York Yankees through their Disability Awareness Night, which continues to provide a platform for our message of inclusiveness and diversity for people with disabilities.  We look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming years."

Since 2002, the Yankees have hosted Disability Awareness Night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, at which the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities is invited to present awards to organizations and individuals who have made a difference in improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities.  The Yankees and MOPD, along with other private and public organizations, worked together to ensure disability accessibility in Yankee Stadium.

KEEN is a national, nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers. Neither income nor the severity of a child's disability is a barrier to joining a KEEN program.  KEEN's mission is to foster the self-esteem, confidence, skills and talents of its athletes through non-competitive activities, allowing young people facing even the most significant challenges to meet their individual goals.  With eight affiliates across the country, including New York City, KEEN is modeled on an innovative program established in Oxford, England by Elliott Portnoy, who brought KEEN to the Washington, DC area in 1992.  KEEN affiliates develop and run their own programs, meeting the needs of athletes and volunteers in their own communities under the direction of their own parents, volunteers and community members.  As KEEN grows into new locations, KEEN USA is committed to providing the guidance and support necessary to bring the same quality of service to all new KEEN programs.  Accepting the Mayor's Certificate of Appreciation is Program Coordinator Nichole Cerimele. 

The Yankees also honored Commissioner Sapolin for his work on behalf of people with disabilities in New York. Commissioner Sapolin was appointed to serve as the Executive Director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities by Mayor Bloomberg in October 2002, and was elevated to Commissioner in August 2006. The office works hand-in-hand with other City agencies to assure that the voice of the disabled community is represented and that City programs and policies address the needs of people with disabilities.  Some of Commissioner Sapolin's accomplishments include:  serving as Local Coordinator for National Disability Mentoring Day, a nationwide initiative pairing disabled students and job-seekers with corporate and employer mentors; launching ShopABLE New York, an initiative that provides grants and works with neighborhood business associations to create barrier-free shopping districts; acting as Chairman of the new NYC Building Code Accessibility Committee; creating a series of publications on Universal Design for use by design professionals and building code officials; and successfully shepherding critical legislation creating rent controls for people with disabilities on fixed incomes. 

Prior to joining the Mayor's Office, Commissioner Sapolin most recently served as Co-Executive Director for the Queens Independent Living Center, overseeing all operations.  He has also served as the Coordinator of the Client Assistance Program for the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York, where he worked as an advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities that were seeking vocational rehabilitation services.  Born in 1970, Commissioner Sapolin became blind at the age of 5 as a result of bilateral retinoblastoma.  Mr. Sapolin received his BA at New York University as well as a Masters of Public Health Administration from Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where he also served as the Co-Captain of the Varsity Wrestling Team.

The Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, established in 1973, serves as a liaison between city government and disabled individuals, as well as organizations dedicated to improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities.  The office will continue its festivities commemorating the 19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with its annual ADA Awards assembly and reception at Gracie Mansion on Wednesday, August 12, 2009.


Stu Loeser/Evelyn Erskine   (212) 788-2958

Yankees Media Relations   (718) 579-4460

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