CDR award recognizes humanitarian efforts

Child Development Resources has named Rita Francavilla the recipient of its second annual Barbara J. Driscoll Humanitarian Award for her ongoing support, volunteer efforts and time served as board chairwoman.

“I’ve just been amazed by their programs and how they help the entire family,” said Francavilla, a former graphic designer who began volunteering for CDR after retiring in 2005. “The parents really learn how best to help the kids reach their full potential.”

CDR launched in 1965 as the Williamsburg Preschool for Special Children, and its mission remains to provide early childhood services for children with special needs, low-income families with and others with circumstances that can affect development. Those services encompass therapy, play groups and numerous in-home initiatives.

The award launched in 2016, named after the late Barbara Driscoll, an avid supporter of CDR alongside her family. Her husband, Charles Driscoll, said Francavilla continues that legacy of devotion to helping children.

“She exemplifies what my wife had done,” Driscoll said, adding that she received overwhelming support from staff as they determined this year’s recipient. “It’s just commitment to helping children grow.”

Francavilla began her tenure volunteering at CDR’s front desk. She also helped with the organization’s play group, a daily program designed to help children socialize and communicate, which she still attends once a week. The organization later capitalized on Francavilla’s graphic design experience, as she designed its cards, brochures and other materials.

“It’s wonderful for me,” she said. “I get to do something I love to do, and I get to do it for such a great organization.”

Francavilla has served on CDR’s board since 2010, helping manage the organization’s marketing efforts and extend its reach.

“It’s really a privilege to be able to tell people about CDR and what they do and what I’ve witnessed over the years,” she said, moved by experiences of seeing children enter CDR programs quiet and withdrawn, only to gain skills and confidence during their education. “It’s really a joy to be there and to be able to see the children. I think that’s why I do it.”

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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