An advocate for herself and others

Leigh Ann Barry

Alumni Profile: Leigh-Ann Barry

It’s been nearly 15 years since Leigh-Ann Barry graduated from Cardinal Cushing Centers, but the organization still holds a special place in her heart. “Cushing was really good for me,” said Barry, who graduated in 2009. “It helped me grow to where I am now.”

Barry is proud to share that she’s accomplishing a number of her goals, succeeding in what she describes as her dream job with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC), and living more independently in Marshfield with a shared living provider. She is supported by the Arc of Plymouth and Upper Cape Cod for both employment and residential services. She still returns weekly to Cushing to participate in its adult recreation programs — playing soccer and basketball and running track.

“My goal is someday to live completely on my own,” Barry said. “Cushing really got me to this point.”

At the DPPC, Barry is working in the Sexual Assault Response Team as a peer support leader. She helps survivors of possible sexual abuse feel comfortable, develop coping skills, and find essential resources. The unit was created in 2017, specifically to help adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities cope with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Barry was brought on board as the peer support services were being rolled out.

“It’s my passion job,” said Barry. “I really want to stay there. It’s actually the longest job I’ve had — six years — and I’m very proud that I can help people, and that they know I’m here. It’s important for survivors to know they aren’t alone and what they are feeling is OK.”

In addition to connecting with peers, Barry helps to educate authorities and medical professionals on how to better work with individuals with disabilities. She also shares her story at special events, conferences, and trainings throughout the state.

Earlier this year, Barry received the Arc’s Advocate of the Year award. In April 2022, the Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance presented her with its Access to Justice Award.

Barry grew up in Pembroke, where her parents, Roger and Rose, still live. The owner of Barry Travel, Roger made a career switch at age 55 and has been working at Cushing for the past 17 years. He started a few years after his daughter enrolled as a student. She spent six years at Cushing – starting out as a day student in 2002 and graduating as a resident.

“It was one of the best things, getting Leigh-Ann in there,” he said. “She really learned how to further her quality of life and it’s admirable how far she’s come.”

The family’s connections to Cushing run deep. Roger’s father set up a golf tournament in 1972 benefiting Cushing, and now his other daughter, Heather Ghilardi, has helped to organize the St. Coletta Golf Classic since she started her career with Rockland Trust in 2008. Ghilardi has been thrilled to give back to an organization that had such an impact on her sister.

“Leigh-Ann absolutely flourished there,” Ghilardi said. “The school did wonders for her.”

Roger, also happy to be giving back, is working as a Direct Support Professional in Cushing’s adult residential home in Pembroke.

“I wanted to get involved in some fashion, working in the special needs community,” he said. “Cushing is the gold standard. I’ve witnessed so much first-hand, and I think they’re the best at giving students a really solid foundation. I’ve seen so many succeed.”

About Cushing Centers

Since 1947, Cushing's caring community has been a place where exceptional individuals of all ages and abilities have found possibility, opportunity, and hope, receiving support to achieve independence and meaningful relationships across home, work, school, and leisure.

Stay in the Know!

Join the Cushing Email Newsletter.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.