Why does your nominee deserve recognition as a CNN Hero?
Dr. Gary R. Altheim, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, is the Founder of Growth and Development Services, Inc. (GDS), a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic, recreational and training services which empower individuals to make unprecedented life transformations. For the past 20 years, Dr. Gary (as some call him) has provided individuals with the inspiration and means to discover and sustain purpose,pride,and hope,in themselves,their families and in the community. In 1995, Dr. Altheim founded Camp Excel and Camp Viva, the first summer camp ever in Westchester County for children and families infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS. During 9/11, Dr. Gary was a First Responder on a team of mental health professionals providing comfort and support to families in need. cope. In 1996, Dr. Gary created GDS to to help transform the lives of teens and families in desperate need of services not provided from the other agencies in the toughest neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan.
How have your nominee’s efforts made a difference for the better?
Dr. Gary has touched and improved upon the lives of over one thousand individuals. GDS “Reach Your Potential” model has increased school participation, graduation and college entry rates, improved behavior, and increased family harmony. In 2011. Dr. Gary received an award from the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health for his contribution in developing sound mental health with his Camp Excel Program. In 2012, The Washington Heights Inwood Youth Service Providers Collective Award was presented to Dr. Gary Altheim for GDS’ most needed counseling services.
Is there a specific incident or turning point that motivated your nominee to take action?
In working in the community, Dr. Gary realized that youth were not getting the supportive services they so desperately needed. As a result, Dr. Gary created Camp Excel and GDS to provide therapeutic services that included opening circle, play shops, one on one counselor time, group rap sessions, and family counseling time.
Is there anything else that makes your nominee exceptional or unique?
Dr. Gary is always concerned about the physical and emotional welfare of everyone he works with.
When GDS’ youth are upset, he listens, provides compassion, and lifts the children’s spirits. When GDS’ youth counselors have concerns, Dr. Gary provides wisdom and empathy.