Celebrating DSPs | Our 35th Annual Event

On Thursday night, 250+ people gathered to celebrate the people who empower those with disabilities. In total, 23 of Rhode Island’s best Direct Support Professionals were honored; like Irma Barrios from AccessPoint RI pictured below.

The night was kicked off by CPNRI Board President, Liz Wiedenhofer, who reminded us of the impact DSPs have:

“I believe it is the day-to-day actions of our DSPs that has the greatest impact. Monday through Sunday they are there to champion the cause of inclusion, belonging and empowerment. They act as compassionate guides, steadfast companions and are allied advocates.”

Our community then got to honor two men who have made a tremendous impact over the last several years: Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (whose award was accepted by Senator Melissa Murray on his behalf).

Speaker Shekarchi thanked the incredible work advocates have done to help make progress. He also thanked the entire workforce for their important and impactful work.

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos also attended the event and brought customized awards for each DSP of the Year.


23 DSPs of the Year were celebrated for their dedication, compassion and work ethic. See the full list below!

2023 DSPs of the Year

Antonio Augustin, Whitmarsh House

Lois Babcock, Spurwink RI

Irma Barrios, AccessPoint RI

Kevin Baxter, West Bay RI

Catherine Berardone, LIFE

Xavier Caruthers, The Arc of Bristol County

Monica Clifford, Avatar Residential

Georgette DeBurgo, The Arc of Blackstone Valley

Jared Gervais, Project Friend

Mariha Gomes, Justice Resource Institute

Richard Johnson, United Cerebral Palsy of RI

Zean Kwiyarhe, Corliss Institute

James Litvack, Trudeau Memorial Center

Roxanne Lussier, Opportunities Unlimited

Cynthia Mello, James L. Maher Center

Joshua Moore, Cove Center

Cheikh Ndiaye, Seven Hills R

Norma Palmieri, Perspectives Corporation

Lacey Richmond, The Fogarty Center

Donna Swanson, Representing the Olean Center

Valerie Valdez, ReFocus

Melanie Verduchi, Community Residences, Inc

Lorri White, Looking Upwards

DSPs were also honored in our 2nd Annual Thank You DSPs Video! Thank you to every single person who took their time to be in this production:


Every year, CPNRI also awards a handful of special awards to people who have done incredible and important work in this community. Congratulations to this year’s winners:

  • Bally’s Twin River (Nominated by AccessPoint RI, Employer of the year
  • Frank DiRaimo (Perspectives Corporation), Excellence in Service Award
  • Ava Voice (Self Advocacy Group with Avatar Residential), Team Unity Award
  • Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, Governmental Service Award
  • Dominick Ruggerio, Governmental Service Award


The CPNRI Team is already looking ahead to 2024. We are also committed to celebrating the work of DSPs all year long on social media and beyond.

Tricky lighting made pictures difficult, but please enjoy some below! Thank you for being a part of this community. 💚