The Cromwell Center For Disabilities Awareness

Our Mission, History, Method and Staff

Our Mission and Purpose

The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness is dedicated to the purpose that no person with any kind of disability will ever again experience the profound isolation in life and anonymity at death of Jeremiah Cromwell. (Read more about Jeremiah below.) Our mission is to promote safe, respectful and inclusive schools and communities.

A Unique Method

We don’t focus on specific disabilities or lead“show and tell” or simulations. Instead, we change attitudes. At first, our hands-on activities may seem to have little to do with disabilities. Through questioning, facilitation, and interaction, we help people discover on their own – and from each other – positive attitudes, understanding, and respect of differences.

Unlike other programs that focus primarily on physical challenges, The Cromwell Center’s programs address all disabilities — learning, behavioral, emotional, developmental, and physical.

Who Was Jeremiah Cromwell?

The Cromwell Center was founded by Jamie Kaplan and Irv Shapell and named in honor of Jeremiah Cromwell, a young resident of The Maine School for the Feeble Minded (later called Pineland) who died of appendicitis in 1928 at age 14. No family member claimed his body, and his grave at Pineland was marked only by a small cement cylinder stamped with his patient ID number. In the late 1950s, the cement was replaced with a modest tombstone bearing Jeremiah’s name and the years of his brief life.

Although there are no existing records of what type of disability Jeremiah Cromwell had, we know that his life and death were similar to hundreds of thousands of children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities who lived and died in institutions throughout the United States over a 100-year period.

Our Staff

Susan Greenwood

Susan Greenwood

Executive Director

Board of Trustees

  • Chair: Kate McCrann, MD
  • Vice Chair: Anne Nanovic
  • Secretary: Michael Robinson
  • Treasurer: Deborah Whitworth
  • David Abel
  • Stephen Barton
  • Chris Clegg
  • John Giffune
  • Marnie MacLean
  • Stephanie Perry
  • Rachel Williams-Clifford
  • Chairman Emeritus: Leslie B. Otten

Program Leaders

  • Deb Bergeron
  • Colleen Flynn
  • Melanie Frechette
  • Renee St. Laurent
  • Amy Wallace

“There was the perfect balance of “sitting” and “active” activities. The kiddos are vying for the books. Thank you so much for a rich experience. We look forward to your visit next year.”

3rd Grade Teacher, Cumberland Center

“Now I am going to spread the word about not to bully people, and if a person has no one to sit with or they ask me, I will tell my friends that I am sitting with him or her.”

Your friend, Matthew, student

“The program builds a foundation of tolerance!”

4th grade teacher, South Portland

“Thank you very much! We are often aware that we should be respectful and use the correct language butn not always sure how to do it and how to guide our kids.”

Parent, South Portland

“I used to think that I was way different from those with disabilities, but now I know we’re all different in our own special way.”

3rd grade student

“I always enjoy watching my students struggle with the ideas you present to them. They spend the entire time thinking.  I thank you for consistently doing a great job.”

5th grade teacher, South Portland

“Great presentation. Should be required for ALL parents!”

Parent, South Portland

“The instructor was fabulous!  She was very engaging!  Knew what 3rd graders needed to listen, focus, and be part of a discussion. The lessons were so important and that coupled with the book, Looking After Louis, our class had a wonderful discussion about tolerance & what kids need for their learning.”

3rd Grade Teacher, South Portland

“Thank you to The Cromwell Center for this wonderful parent engagement opportunity. Program leaders Heidi and Dede were a perfect pair for this important work. So valued and appreciated.”

Rick Dedek, Principal, Woodside School, Topsham

“My uncle had mental retardation and my cousin has Down syndrome, so it touched my heart to hear your stories. You have inspired me to stand up for one another and not prejudge people by the way they look and act.”

Allison, student

“You taught me about things that might happen so I’d know what to do if it occurred. Disabilities have nothing to do with the person and who they really are. If somebody ever asked me if we should bully somebody I would say NO!”

Justin, student

“My daughter attended your school training program and was able to express her thoughts about her brother who has autism. This is a big step for children at this age to speak freely about a sibling’s disability.”


“I love this program!  The instructor is very effective, knowledgeable, and kid-friendly. The topic is important yet sensitive and it’s handled beautifully!”

Teacher, West Newfield

“At first I didn’t know what you were doing, but then it hit me. I knew what you were talking about and it made me feel good about my brother and his autism without feeling bad or embarrassed, so it truly made me feel better that I could talk about this.”

Your friend, Kaitlyn, student

“I really got your message… I have a disability which is ADHD. I stand up for people with disabilities like autism.”

-KW, student