Mary Lou Cicia Cook Memorial Fund
For nearly 50 years, Mary Lou Cicia Cook spent her professional career, as well as much of her personal life, working with children with special needs. Her interest began as a Shelton High School senior meeting with these special young people through a recreational program on Saturdays. Shortly thereafter, George Hegyi, originally from Bridgeport, came to Shelton and got Mary Lou interested in special education. Together with many other dedicated volunteers, Mr. Hegyi organized and founded the Valley Association for Retarded Children and Adults, now known as VARCA.
Mary Lou then attended Southern Connecticut State University, receiving her degree in Special Education in 1963. From serving as a teacher at Ferry School and VARCA, then as Head Teacher and Principal at Ripton School, and later as Shelton's Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services until her retirement in 1998, Mary Lou's life was always about the kids.
"She was outstanding, the best in her field," says husband Victor Cook. "When she passed away, we asked people for donations in lieu of flowers, so that we could establish a scholarship in her honor. Establishing this Fund through the Valley Community Foundation was a perfect fit, because we've lived in the Valley all of our lives. We've seen the good work that VCF has been doing, and wanted Mary Lou's memory to become part of it in a meaningful and enduring way."
Grants from the Mary Lou Cicia Cook Memorial Fund will beneit the exceptional children with special needs to whom Mary Lou dedicated her life. Grants will provide assistance to, or on behalf of, these young people, and a scholarship can be provided to a Shelton High School senior who will be attending college with the intent of entering a career in the special education of children.
"Even after she retired, she wanted to keep giving back," said Mr. Cook. "She became a surrogate parent for approximately 50 kids with special needs throughout New Haven and Fairfield Counties, advocating on their behalf. Mary Lou also had a great sense of humor," he said. "She was loved and respected by those who worked with her. The sense of camaraderie was always there."
Victor Cook wants the Fund to continue to grow over time. "When we attended Southern it was only $400 a year," he said. "We've come a long way since then, and financial needs today are so much greater. We are looking to help these kids as much as we can."
Mary Lou wouldn't have wanted it any other way.