a rich history grounded in vision and generosity of local residents and
community leaders. The organization was established
in 1968 through a generous bequest from prominent Plainville resident Bertha
Wheeler, vital construction and staffing grants from the National Institute of
Mental Health and the support of many local and statewide community and
business leaders, and clinical professionals. Fifty years later, Wheeler has
grown and expanded significantly to respond to the changing needs of individuals,
families and communities and to facilitate continued access to high-quality,
50 Years, 50 Stories
Throughout our anniversary year, we’ll share stories on this site about the many organizations and individuals—from board members and donors, to stakeholders and community partners—who have made a difference in Wheeler’s history, evolution and care. We’ll also share stories about consumers whose health, recovery and growth were made possible through their connection with Wheeler. Check back soon for more information, or share your own stories or ideas below!
50 YEARS, 50 STORIES
Every week in 2018, we'll share a story about Wheeler's history: groundbreaking past events, perspectives on Wheeler's role, and the people, places, and things that have made us Connecticut's leading provider of integrated primary care and behavioral health.
A History of Addiction Services at Wheeler
From the early start-up years to the leading edge of addressing today’s opioid crisis, Wheeler’s addiction programs have consistently approached the disease of addiction with innovative methodologies at the intersection with other health conditions.
50 Years of Visionary Donors
Through our five decades, side-by-side with our funders, donors, community leaders and friends, we’ve transformed from that vision of a center for children, to today delivering an array of integrated primary care and behavioral health services as diverse as everyone we serve.
Caring Community Partners
As we’ve celebrated our 50th anniversary this year, we’ve highlighted partners in our work, including AFCAMP, Saint Francis Healthcare Partners, FAVOR, the Connecticut Health Foundation, the Town of Plainville, and many more.
Two Brothers: One Path – Ron and Rick Bucchi
The following 50th anniversary stories highlight the leadership and contributions of two local residents and brothers, Ron and Rick Bucchi. Both individuals served on the Wheeler Board of Trustees and were instrumental in helping to guide the organization through periods of
A Lifetime of Innovation
Wheeler’s driving vision of innovation has long been supported by similarly visionary donors, and few fit that description better than Mary Fran and Peter Libassi.
Focused on Success - Jane Tedder
Jane Tedder’s role in Wheeler’s success is both subtle and wide-ranging. A former trustee and vice chair, she helped the organization refocus, adapt, and change in important ways that ensured long-term growth. Today, she’s volunteering again, shaping philanthropic approaches during Wheeler’s 50th anniversary.
Supporting Outstanding Care, Staff
Every year in December, a select few Wheeler employees receive the Anna Tedesco Award in recognition of outstanding work. Since the award began in 1983, nearly 120 employees have become recipients, from all areas and levels of Wheeler.
Neighbors and Friends
Nearly two decades ago, Jeff Loureiro was approached by former Plainville State Representative Betty Boukus (D-22) about the potential for an outdoor community project at Wheeler’s Northwest Village School, just across the street from his company at 91 Northwest Drive.
Wheeler Celebrates 50 Years
Nearly 250 donors, friends, and leaders from throughout Wheeler’s history celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 29 and helped raise more than $145,000 for services, a record for fundraising events at the organization.
On Wheeler's 50th, A Thanks To Our Team
"This week, our 50 Years, 50 Stories article is a simple note of thanks to all our past and current employees who devoted and devote so much time, hard work and energy to provide the best care since 1968."
Leading Together: The Boudreaus
About 200 people have served as Wheeler trustees since 1968, but only one couple can claim to both have served, albeit at different times. The dedication of Ken and Judy Boudreau came in pivotal moments for Wheeler and helped position it for future growth.
Building Community Ties - The Lorenson Family
Community-based organizations like Wheeler rely on the knowledge and passion of local citizens who serve as volunteers and leaders, making connections and guiding the institution. One of Wheeler’s longest-serving and dearest volunteers is Ed Lorenson. For more than four decades, he and the entire Lorenson family have been stalwart supporters of the mission, nearly from Wheeler’s very beginning.
Jan Neri, CPA, Former Wheeler Board Chair
Our personal and professional connections often lead us to unexpected, rewarding places. This was the case with former Wheeler board of trustee and board chair, Jan Neri, whose late husband, Ray, was a good friend of community leader and Wheeler trustee, Ray Corsini.
50th Anniversary Spotlight: Wheeler President and Chief Executive Officer, Susan Walkama, LCSW
Wheeler President and Chief Executive Officer, Susan Walkama, LCSW, exudes a quiet, strong confidence—fueled, in part, by experience and the many forms of inspiration in her life. With warmth, grace, humility and a commitment to achieve the very best outcomes for individuals and families—especially the most vulnerable—Susan guides a team of more than 1,000 at Wheeler in achieving its mission to provide equitable access to innovative care that improves health, recovery and growth at all stages of life.
Reflections on David Berkowitz, Ph.D.
Recently, we shared the story of David Berkowitz, Ph.D., former executive director of Wheeler Clinic, as part of our 50th Anniversary series. Below are some reflections on David’s life and role as a leader at Wheeler.
Wheeler’s Golf Classic, a Time-Honored Tradition
The Wheeler Golf Classic was founded by a group of business leaders and top companies in 1986 to raise money for behavioral health and community-based services for children and adolescents. The event, now in its 33rd year, engages members of the business community in a great day of golf to support Wheeler’s mission.
Enter as Volunteers – Leave as Friends
In 2010, Forestville residents Claire Holden and Aline Towne became Wheeler volunteers through a local chapter of RSVP, a national volunteer network for people 55 and over. They didn’t know each other at the time, but became and stayed friends through this assignment and beyond.
Equal Partnerships, Positive Outcomes
For Bill Carbone, MPA, partnering with statewide non-profits has always been an essential part of maintaining youth and adults safely in the community. As former executive director of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division (CSSD), Mr. Carbone worked with Wheeler for many years until his retirement from state government in 2014.
Reflections on Dennis Keenan
Last week, we highlighted the long career of Dennis Keenan, executive director of Wheeler from 1977 to 1998. This week, we're sharing some personal reflections on Dennis himself.
Bertha and Frank Wheeler: A Legacy of Care
Plainville resident Bertha Buell Wheeler and husband Frank shared a passion for community that spanned two World Wars and beyond. Their vision and support bolstered many local non-profit organizations, including the Plainville Library and YMCA, and also led to the establishment of Wheeler Clinic.
Community Catalyst, Adam R. Silverman MD, FACP
Wheeler’s path to its 50th anniversary and as a provider of whole-person, integrated care is heavily influenced by a strong, ongoing relationship with Saint Francis Hospital and Trinity Health Of New England. Adam Silverman, MD, FACP, vice president of population health at Saint Francis Healthcare Partners, has been a stalwart partner and advocate.
Wheeler Community Catalyst, Beresford Wilson, Interim Executive Director, FAVOR
For more than twenty years, Beresford Wilson has tirelessly worked for Connecticut families with children with mental, emotional, behavioral health challenges, and developmental and intellectual disabilities. Like many advocates, he found a calling to social change through his own lived experience. His future in family advocacy became clear shortly after he became a father himself; Wilson’s oldest son weighed fewer than two pounds at birth.
A Friend for All Seasons
There wasn’t a time when the late, former State Representative Betty Boukus (D-Plainville, New Britain) wasn’t advocating for Wheeler and the individuals and families served by the organization. Ms. Boukus—who served for 22 years in the state legislature—supported Wheeler as a corporator and trustee, and was a steadfast champion for the expansion of its programs and services.
Community Catalyst: Bristol Hospital and Wheeler: A Creative Approach to Care
The most pressing community issues often require leaders and organizations to rethink and reimagine. This is how as Kurt A. Barwis, FACHE, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital and Health Care Group, approaches problem-solving. A reinvigorated partnership between Wheeler and Bristol Hospital exemplifies creativity, giving rise to programs that serve the whole-health needs of individuals and families in Bristol and surrounding communities.
A Deep Commitment to the Mission
For former Wheeler board of trustee member, Courtney Bourns, Wheeler’s work and mission were personal. Mr. Bourns’ late wife, Jane, spent nearly 30 years of her professional career with Wheeler, and was a former director of Wheeler Children’s Outpatient Services, serving children and youth in Central Connecticut.
Jane C. Bourns, Statewide Leader and Child Advocate
Some people have jobs, while others have callings. For Jane Bourns, a deeply devoted clinician, administrator, child advocate and Wheeler employee for nearly three decades, the latter was clearly true. Jane, who passed away in 2003, spent most of her career developing mental health services for children at Wheeler, and strengthening statewide systems and communities serving youth and families.
One Family, Many Gifts
Parents are often their child’s most influential role models, providing tools and lessons that last a lifetime and beyond. This was the clearly the case in John Lacey’s life. His mother Marie, and father, the Honorable J. Robert Lacey, exemplified service and generosity, and influenced his path as a lawyer, philanthropist and community leader.
Dottie Hubbard, Wheeler Pioneer
The success of any start-up organization often depends on a community that nurtures it, as well as the talent and driving forces of local leadership. The presence of these elements—coupled with the vision and mobilization efforts of Dorothy K. “Dottie” Hubbard—moved Wheeler from vision to reality.
An Enduring Gift and Commitment to Youth
The examples we set through leadership and service often extend to the next generation and beyond. Herman Papenfoth, a Wheeler board of trustee member in the organization’s earliest years, clearly was a strong role model for his daughter, Doris Nims, who passed away in 2015 at age 89.
Community Catalyst: Ann R. Smith, JD, MBA (AFCAMP)
Even the first time you meet Ann Smith, JD, MBA, the executive director of African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities, Inc. (AFCAMP), you immediately sense her passion for her work and the value she places on interpersonal relationships.