Inspiring Greatness: Muhammad Ali, Lonnie Ali, and the Muhammad Ali Center

headshot of Muhammad Ali smiling in a suite and tie with right hand under chin

Partners for Youth with Disabilities will be holding its annual Party for PYD on May 18th – but beyond the talented performances, delicious food, and fun activities, the party will be a night to remember because of the event’s incredibly special honorees. PYD’s first honoree, the great Muhammad Ali, is someone who fought hard for inclusion (sometimes literally), and someone whose legacy continues to live on even though he is no longer with us.

Lonnie Ali smiling in a suit with Muhammad Ali museum in backgroundMuhammad Ali, Lonnie Ali, and the Muhammad Ali Center are a few of our unbelievable honorees that will be presented with the PYD Legends Award during this year’s party. As pioneers in societal leadership and mentoring, they’ve embarked on an extraordinary mission to empower people of all ages. They are pillars of leadership in advancing diversity, mentoring, inclusion and strategic advocacy for a better world.

Muhammad Ali, known for his great achievements in his boxing career, didn’t let the fame and money overpower his sense of compassion. Instead, he used his popularity as a platform to influence and educate others on the importance of kindness. Overseas, Ali was dedicated to raising awareness about the struggles of developing nations by fighting in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Kinshasa.  He not only delivered medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, but he also provided more than 22 million meals to the world’s hungry. His philanthropic efforts went around the world to Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Mexico, and many other countries.

At home, he engaged in many renowned charitable organizations, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, and countless hospitals and soup kitchens. Additionally, he made his mark in sports by mobilizing many famous figures such as Mario Lemieux, Andre Agassi, and Lance Armstrong to create the humanitarian network Athletes for Hope. Apart from these groups, Ali put a tremendous amount of effort into generating awareness and research for Parkinson’s disease. In 1997, he established the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Clinic in Phoenix, which brought hope, comfort, and treatment to thousands of patients and families.

Muhammad Ali Center logo in orange, w/black and white letteringMuhammad Ali’s motivation to give back to society was propelled by the saying, “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”  Inspired by such spirit, Ali’s legacy lives on through the Muhammad Ali Center, which features an interactive museum, educational programming, and special events encouraging the public to pursue greatness in their own lives, communities, and countries. This international cultural center promotes the six core principles of Muhammad Ali: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality.  These principles promote both personal and global greatness, and aid the center in providing programming around the focus areas of education, gender equality, and global citizenship.

After being wed in 1986, Muhammad’s wife Lonnie coordinated and managed all of Muhammad’s business affairs. Most notable was her creation of Greatest of All Time, Inc. (GOAT Inc.), where she centralized and licensed her husband’s intellectual properties for commercial purposes.  Lonnie continuously accompanied her husband in his humanitarian efforts all over the world and always supported his charitable organizations at home, including assisting Muhammad in launching the Ali Parkinson Center and the Muhammad Ali Center. Her passion for enhancing educational opportunities for youth lead her to develop the Muhammad Ali: GO THE DISTANCE reading program, which provides teachers with research-based curriculum and practices to motivate learning and improve comprehension. Lonnie is currently on the management board of Muhammad Ali Enterprises and is a Lifetime Director of the Ali Center, where she continues to honor her husband’s legacy.

In his lifetime, Ali was named a Messenger of Peace by United Nations, and awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Amnesty International’s Lifetime Achievement Award. PYD is honored to join the world in recognizing the important work Ali did – in addition to the PYD Legends Award, PYD has been a key leader in establishing a day dedicated to Ali. Regina Snowden, PYD’s Founder & Executive Director, explains, “PYD along with Mentor, Inc. has created a special day of honoring Muhammad Ali (on his birthday) — International Day of Mentoring— January 17th, during National Mentoring Month.”

Although Ali is no longer with us, PYD is proud to carry on Ali’s philosophy that “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” PYD is humbled to honor Muhammad Ali, Lonnie Ali, and the Muhammad Ali Center, and believes that everyone can learn something from their contributions. We hope to see everyone May 18th to pay a small token of tribute to such an influential person.

Also, we’re enthusiastic to share that EverybodyFights FiDi boxing gym and George Foreman III are joining in the celebration of the Ali’s. They are hosting a special Warm Up to Party for PYD boxing circuit workout on April 29th and plan to attend the May 18th party! We hope you join us both dates!

This post was written by Olivia Mannion, Jackie (Xiao) Yan, Juan Zhou, and Mary Grace Alcaro of the BU PRLab. Edited by Nicole Malo.


What does PYD mean to you? #IamPYD

On March 12th, PYD began its #IAMPYD campaign by bringing our traveling canvass to Access To Theatre, PYD’s theater arts program for teens and young adults. Participants added their art to the canvas, expressing why they are involved and what they like most about PYD. The canvas is currently filled with a rocket ship, flowers, and other colorful drawings, including proud declarations of personal identities and why PYD is important to them.

Thanks to Mary Grace, Jackie, Juan, and Olivia of the Boston University PRLab, three peer leaders shared their experiences and how PYD has impacted their lives. The following are excerpts and photos from the interviews and the young artists’ process.

“I like being a peer leader for Access To Theatre and Making Healthy Connections because I enjoy expressing my individuality through theater and having fun! I love it because it is a space where I don’t get judged.” – Lizzie Gray

“My favorite thing about being a peer leader is being with my PYD family and those that I love the most. I also like helping others” – Josh Jones

“Partners for Youth with Disabilities has helped me be a better human being. It helps me be more independent as a man and it teaches me about social skills, and how to be ready for the world. In my personal life, it helps me be prepared for anything, because it unlocks that [treasure box] of opportunities and it helps me express who I am as an individual. It helps me learn more about myself and learn new things about different people. Everyone has a story and you never what they are going through unless you sit with them and learn their story. PYD has helped me with that. I’ve been involved for nine years now. I love PYD and thank them for doing that. If PYD didn’t exist I wouldn’t have learned to be as sharp, strong, independent, and intelligent, and I woudn’t have learned all these acting and theater skills. It is so cool to express being silly, but also being artistic and consistent at the same time. Some words that describe me are fearless, risk taker, ambitious, strive for greatest, loving, loyal, dedicated to family, dedicated to my peers, dedicated to being myself, honest, caring. Anything you need I’m always there for you. That’s what describes me.” – DJ Robinson

Join us at the Party for PYD on May 18th to hear DJ perform an original rap!

We’d like to thank Blick art for the kind donation of the canvas.

PYD Expands Mentoring Opportunities to Community College Students with Disabilities on a National Scale

Cartoon mentor and mentee connected via wifiBOSTON, MA – Over the next three years, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be launching a new online, professional mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities across five states.

According to the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy, people with disabilities continue to have an unemployment rate over two times that of people without disabilities. While higher education often improves employment opportunities, college graduates continue to face barriers when seeking employment, which can lead to unemployment or underemployment. Thanks to a three-year grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities is planning to address this issue by expanding professional mentoring opportunities to community college students with disabilities in five states.

PYD will offer e-mentoring to 330 young adults with the goal of improved employment outcomes through partnerships with Business Leadership Networks in Massachusetts (Work Without Limits), Connecticut (Connecticut Business Leadership Network), Maine (Maine Business Leadership Network in partnership with the Maine Chamber of Commerce), Wyoming (Unita County Business Leadership Network), and Kansas (Greater Kansas City Leadership Network), as well as community colleges in these areas.

Community College students will access professional and peer mentors to increase their networks, receive advice, and gather support about achieving goals. They will also participate in topical webinars related to employment readiness, and engage in live networking and interview fairs hosted by the Business Leadership Networks.

According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “For 31 years, PYD has witnessed the transformative power of mentoring in the lives of youth and young adults with disabilities in their efforts to gain employment and achieve independence. We are thrilled to be expanding our program model beyond Massachusetts through e-Mentoring. We know that this effort between many collaborating partners will result in increased employment opportunities for the participating young adults.”


About Partners for Youth with Disabilities
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. To learn more, visit

About Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The foundation has contributed more than $15 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives. To learn more, visit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s website at

Kiehl’s & LifeRide 7

Last Wednesday, Kiehl’s Since 1851 on Newbury Street rolled out the red carpet for LifeRide 7 in support of the extraordinary work of amfAR to fund top research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Kiehl’s is in PYD’s neighborhood and they’ve generously donated to our Party for PYD’s silent auctions. As our friend and supporter, we were happy to turn out for their star-studded afternoon. It was important to us to show our support of and solidarity with community members living with and impacted by HIV/AIDS.  And feel joyful and grateful for all of the phenomenal positive impact of amfAR and AIDS Action Committee, the latter which is based right here in Boston.

The event started with thumping music on the steps of Kiehl’s. Thunderous motorcycles drove up to the boutique. Photo ops, paparazzi and adoring fans of Gilles Marini and other celebrities in tow. Chris Salgardo, CEO of Kiehl’s, and Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR’s CEO led the way. In addition to giving a gift to amfAR at the event, Kiehl’s made a generous gift to the AIDS Action Committee.

What’s more is that Kiehl’s treated guests to hand massages, mini facials, and for those that worked up an appetite, salads from Alden & Harlow that were very tasty. And the cupcakes! 15% of all store purchases went to amfAR.

Bravo to our friends for this meaningful and successful event! Thank you for allowing us to be a part.

LifeRide7 crew including, Gilles Marini, Kevin Robert Frost (CEO of amfAR), and Carl Sciortino (Executive Director AIDS Action Committee)

Arli Vargas (store manager) and Chris Salgardo (CEO of Kiehl's Since 1851)

Red ribbon cupcake

Evan Gabovitch, PYD's MLK Summer Scholar, posing with Nicole Malo and Regina Snowden

“A Dynamic Journey: My Tribute to Rayleen Lescay” displayed at PYD

Dew Jareanvai has been a visual artist for six years. Using the mediums of acrylic paints, oil pastels and everyday objects he creates abstract works. His art frequently focuses on human potential and the belief that the only limits are self-imposed.

Artist’s statement from Dew: This collection (of paintings) entitled “A Dynamic Journey: A Tribute to Rayleen Lescay” is particularly close to my heart. Rayleen was a young woman that lived freely and without placing unnecessary limits on her life, or her abilities. Unfortunately, Rayleen succumbed to cancer in 2009. As one of her closest friends, I created this collection to honor her spirit and  chronicle the journey together including Rayleen’s courageous battle against cancer.

Dew Jareanvai's four works are now on display at the PYD office through Dec. 2016

This collection is comprised of four acrylic paintings.  The red in each painting represents Rayleen.  The painting titled Limitless Possibilities is about Rayleen’s zest for life and her boundless energy and curiosity.  She loved to be center stage, and enjoyed doing pop wheelies. Her love of movement is represented by the purple and white swirly lines. The second painting titled Rayleen’s Adversary depicts Rayleen’s battle against cancer. The red is Rayleen and the scratches symbolizes Rayleen’s fighting spirit in the face of cancer’s ever strengthen power.  The third painting titled Loss Of Rayleen contains no red because it illustrates my reaction to her death. The orange lightning bolt represents my shock, the blue, my sadness, and blacks my depression at loosing such a wonderful friend.  The fourth painting is titled Rayleen holding court. Rayleen always dreamed of having her own talk show and I think this dream was fulfilled in her afterlife. As host of her own show, the red spreads across the painting because once again Rayleen has claimed center stage.  She has a brown sparkly microphone and audience hanging on her words. Rayleen is definitely in heaven.

I hope you enjoy “A Dynamic Journey:  My Tribute to Rayleen Lescay”.

A Dynamic Journey: My Tribute to Rayleen Lescay is showing at Partners for Youth with Disabilities office at 95 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA July through December 2016. The exhibit will travel to the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama the week of July 25th and be on exposition at PYD’s Mentor Appreciation Night in October, 2016. All are welcome to view the works.

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