October 10, 2017 | Greenwich Time

GREENWICH — Courtney Baskin said Greenwich-based Abilis “saved my life.”

“I’ve been through a hard life and I didn’t know where I was going to go,” Baskin said. “I had nothing and no employment and it was easy to get into trouble. But once I got here I started meeting new people and making new friends. I never thought I would have a lot of people who cared about me and I so appreciate it.”

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                                                          Photos By Hearst Connecticut Media

Under the help of Abilis’ staff, Baskin was able to enter the world of employment. She started out with an interest in retail, but had no experience. Working through Abilis, she was able to get a job at Stop and Shop in Port Chester. “This young lady is a star,” said Dennis Perry, Abilis’ CEO and president. “She came to us without the equipment to work in the competitive world and we created an opportunity through our café.” Baskin worked alongside staff to open and run the agency’s café. Eventually she could do it on her own. “She became the manager and sadly she did such a good job that we lost her to Stop and Shop,” Perry said. “But that’s the objective. Done properly, this is a stop along the way and we could not be prouder of Courtney.”

Baskin will give back to the agency this week when she serves as a special ambassador at the 12th annual Walk/Run for Abilis Oct. 15 at Greenwich Point.

Abilis supports more than 700 people with special needs and developmental disabilities through its day program, residences and partnerships with local businesses, allowing clients to live as independently as possible. The annual event at Greenwich Point allows staff, clients, families and supporters to walk together to raise awareness and needed funds.

“It’s the thing we enjoy most,” Perry said. “It’s the one thing during the course of the year where we get to present to the town everything about Abilis. We have had a growing number of people taking part every year.”

Given the state’s ongoing budget problems, the fund-raising aspect of events like the walk becomes even more important than it usually is, Perry said. Funding cuts have forced the agency to institute mandatory furlough days, typically the last Wednesday of the month.

“When we first did these walks, we called them ‘friendraisers’ to raise awareness,” Perry said. “Fundamentally that’s what they still are, but because of the budget situation in the state of Connecticut, money is more limited and a fundraising component becomes more of a part of this.”

Abilis has expanded its day program to Stamford, Westport and Wilton to bring in new revenue.


“So far we are in better shape than we would have been if we had not expanded our operation,” Perry said. “But the reality is they are cutting our day program dollars in line with the governor’s resource allocation plan. They’re cutting our programming dollars for residential.”

Space is still available to participate. People can sign up online at where there is also a link for donations. Participants can do a one-mile walk around Greenwich Point or a 5K run, added last year. Perry said there were 100 people taking part in the run last year and he hopes the number will be between 200 and 300 on Oct. 15.

“The run really worked,” Perry said. “What a walk typically does is create a vehicle to generate awareness on behalf of the organization. The run component introduces the organization to a whole new population of people.”

The run will take place at 9 a.m. and the walk at 11 a.m. In between there would be food, entertainment and kids activities.

“The support is what keeps us going,” Perry said. “To have a thousand people coming out and cheering on our staff, how could that not feel good?”