LOS ANGELES. CA, July 7, 2009 – Barbara Palilis, executive director of nonprofit Circle of Friends (CoF) in West LA, was selected by fans as the winner representing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the â€œAll-Stars Among Usâ€ campaign sponsored by People Magazine and Major League Baseball. As one of the 30 finalists, Palilis will be honored during the pregame ceremony at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis on July 14 at 8:00pm on FOX, at which President Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch.
Palilis was one of 90 finalists narrowed from the original thousands of nominees who were set to a national vote online, which spotlighted people who have gone above and beyond to serve their communities. Nearly three quarters of a million votes were cast by fans nationally in the All-Stars Among Us campaign to select the 30 winners, one per Major League team out of the 90 finalists.
â€œThis nomination is an honor and a thrill for me and for our organization, but more importantly, it shines a light on the work we are doing to include teens with disabilities into their schools and communities, as well as the tremendously positive impact it is having on the nondisabled student participants and, in fact, entire communities reached by Circle of Friends,â€ said Palilis.
CoF, a nonprofit organization created by Palilis, brings the understanding and acceptance of differences to high school and college campuses through a structured program of inclusion. Students with and without disabilities develop genuine friendships by sharing lunches on a daily basis and practice social skills. Students with special needs learn better conversation skills and nondisabled students learn people are more alike than different. The social gap that typically widens as students with disabilities move from elementary school onto high school is narrowed through this program of inclusion.
In 1999, Palilis piloted the program as a speech pathologist at Santa Monica High School. After seeing the success of CoF in Santa Monica, Barbara has brought this program to 21 more school sites in California. CoF is currently under the fiscal sponsorship of Community Partners of L.A.
Palilis added, â€œMy goal is to have the nation recognize that students with disabilities are an underserved population. Every school needs a program that brings the understanding and acceptance of differences to its campus.â€
â€œWe’re honored to have Barbara represent the Dodgers at the All-Star Game,â€œ said Dr. Charles Steinberg, Executive Vice President, Creative and Communications. â€œShe does amazing work for disabled teens through Circle of Friends and has had a major impact on the people of Los Angeles. We are grateful that she is a fan of the Dodgers, and we are proud that she is a member of our community.â€
â€œThe All-Stars Among Us winners are making a significant impact in their communities with a selfless dedication to very important causes,â€ said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. â€œMajor League Baseball is proud to honor this impressive group of people whose achievements demonstrate the renewed sense of community service that will make our nation an example for the world.â€
Major League Baseball dedicated its 2009 All-Star Game and surrounding events to raising funds and awareness for charitable initiatives and celebrating the importance of community service and will be the most extensive in Major League Baseball All-Star history.
Matt Rosenstein, a high school student from Santa Monica High School and participant in the CoF program, nominated Palilis for the People Magazine and MLB contest. For more information about CoF, please contact Barbara Palilis at (310) 312-6600 or visit the website www.circleofriends.org. All 30 finalists of the All Stars Among Us campaign can be viewed at www.peopleallstars.com.
Contact: Barbara Palilis, 310-312-6600, [email protected]