Sharon Marrella is the Regional Coordinator in the Southern Tier for Parent to Parent of NYS, a position she has held since September 2005. She became the Regional Program Manager for the Western NY Region (Western, Finger Lakes, North Central and Southern Tier) as of December 2014. Sharon believes she has a good working understanding of this organization since she worked her way through different facets and positions from her initial request to be matched with another parent to where she is today.
Sharon is the parent-caregiver of two boys with special needs who fostered her innate desire to advocate for them across systems—medically, educationally and community services. Her journey has taught her to nurture positive relationships, deal with what you have in front of you and keep hunting for more information. Along the way she has met some of the most amazing people who are making similar journey as parent-caregivers. Their willingness to encourage, support, teach and share information cultivated the desire in Sharon to pay it forward to other families. Her current position is a culmination of the seeds planted by those first connections; in turn, she hopes to continue that process for others.
Sharon believes that one of the greatest opportunities she can offer a person who calls the chance to have a supportive, reassuring person to connect with when they call the office. Often, parents diminish their efforts before they connect with someone who will listen, be honest and validate their feelings. Sharon insists she inherited her “gift of the gab” genetically from her Irish-born mother; this allows her to converse with pretty much anyone in any situation. Her husband, Phil, says that is why she is qualified for this position—she honestly cares about a family’s situation and wants to try to connect them with support, resources and services.
Sharon graduated from SUNY Geneseo with Bachelor’s degrees in Studio Art and English, earning the double-major on a Three-Year Honors Program. She is a trained Lay Advocate and formerly was a Parent Resource Specialist for The Advocacy Center. Sharon is also a graduate of the Partners in Policymaking program. She is a member of the OPWDD Region 1 Family Support Advisory Council in Region III (Wayne, Ontario, Seneca & Yates Counties). Sharon has also take part in Autism studies as a parent participant, both through Rochester and a national study.
Some notable accomplishments Sharon has enjoyed through her position is co-creating and presenting the Support Parent Webinar and being mentioned (by name and position) in the book When Libby Lost Her Smile, a book written by a parent in her region. She has also mentored new coordinators in different regions through the years. She is looking forward to celebrating her 10th anniversary with Parent to Parent in the fall of 2015.
Sharon, along with her husband Phil, has lived in various parts of New York throughout their marriage. Her children, Cullen and Burke, are the inspiration for her drive and passion in the field of supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and special health care needs. They remain the catalyst in her connections with families because she can identify with their needs, feelings and eagerness to support their loved ones.
Sharon enjoys traveling and has been fortunate enough to visit various states as well as Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Canada and Australia. She enjoys reading, artistic endeavors and attempting to garden.