Richard Humleker has worked for The Center for Discovery based in Harris, NY, for 33 years. Discovery is a nonprofit organization that serves children and adults with severe disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Once a site with 20 employees and 14 disabled and special needs children, today Discovery employs 1,600 people, serves more than 250 children and 160 adults in its 50 residential homes, and reaches hundreds more children and adults on an outpatient basis in its schools and clinics.
"These are people with multiple disabilities and medical frailties," Richard says of those who live in the residential homes. Some are so frail, hospital stays are common. Others face Autism that triggers aggressive behaviors.
"Sad things happen, but the center is a place full of possibilities," Richard says. "We expect the kids and adults to learn and grow. We believe in the dignity of risk."
As recognition of the center's treatment method has grown, so has its funding. Some also credit this increase to Richard's work leading the development team.
"Within one or two years after he became the Vice President of Development, he was raising millions of dollars in donations," says Joe Mullen '64 who toured Discovery this past fall. "Today, the unrestricted revenue raised approaches $10 million each and every year."
Richard prefers the limelight shine on those living at the center; the team of physicians, nurses, therapists, special educators and others who care for the clients 24/7; and the supportive families and donors. However, his colleagues and Discovery supporters would have it otherwise.
Janet Carrus, Discovery board member and major donor, describes Richard as "one of those extraordinary people whose intention is to ensure quality care for all Discovery residents. He works tirelessly to enhance every aspect of their lives."
Jim Cashen, Discovery's Director of Integrated Arts, has worked with Richard for two decades.
"He brought innovative thinking and a passion for adapting activities for those most-challenged kids," Jim says. "We still have parents who come back to our Summer Concert Series that Richard founded over 15 years ago. Their sons and daughters have since passed away, yet they want to be in his presence for comfort, story sharing, hugs, music and yes–love."
An athlete at Minnetonka High School, Richard was offered a number of football and hockey scholarships when he graduated from MHS. After much deliberation, he played for the University of Minnesota for a season before being sidelined by injuries. After college, he started out in Colorado and then moved to New York, where he eventually took a part-time job in the Catskills while waiting for an interview at a big cable company.
"I wasn't one of those kids who knew what I wanted," he says. "My advice: Try a variety of things and eventually you'll know what you are good at."
That job in the Catskills? Caring for severely disabled children and adults at The Center for Discovery.