Subscribe Now


Children with disabilities live in a world that often focuses on their limitations. But The Professional Center for Child Development has a different message for these children and their families.

“They’re told about all the things their child can’t do, and we come in and say, ‘Your child does have abilities,’” says Chris Hunt, the center’s executive director. “Let’s find out what your child can do.”

Since 1973, The Professional Center for Child Development, which has offices in Andover and Lawrence, has been living that credo through its extensive work with children with disabilities and other health challenges and their families.



Toddlers in the 2×2 playgroups take a snack break. Caitlin Hoitt, a developmental specialist in the Early Intervention Program, provides some extra help to a child. Photo by Emily O’Brien Photography.


Its annual Spring Gala, the organization’s largest fundraiser, is being hosted on Friday, April 27, at the Andover Country Club. The gala’s theme, “Passport to Possibilities,” reflects the role that PCCD can play for the people it serves.

“It’s a passport,” Hunt says. “It’s opening up the world to families and children.”

Indeed, PCCD offers a huge range of services for children with disabilities, from a developmental day school, early intervention services, preschool and toddler play groups, regional consultation, and pediatric therapies such as speech, occupational, physical, and nutrition therapy.

Proceeds from the gala will help fund services like the PCCD’s equipment loaner program, which allows families to borrow medical equipment like wheelchairs, modified toys, and high-tech adaptive communications tools for their children to use at home.


Eva, a student the Developmental Day School, enjoys a visit from Sunday and her owner, Jessica Bunting. Sunday visits the Development Day School each Tuesday! Photo Courtesy of PCCD. 


Such equipment is expensive—often prohibitively so—for families, especially since children will outgrow it so quickly. The loaner program bridges that gap.

“That’s not covered by any other funding source,” Hunt says, adding that he also hopes to establish a tuition assistance program within the next year.

The gala’s “Passport to Possibilities” theme reflects not only the PCCD’s mission but also the event itself, says Julie Palmaccio, who serves on PCCD’s board and is chair of its gala committee. It’s also a “passport” to a world of cuisine, featuring food and drink pairings from around the world (think: sushi and sake, sliders and beer, and lots more).

There’ll be live music from the band Red Square and a silent auction with items like a private tour of WCVB with Maria Stephanos; a private site-seeing plane ride for two; tickets to Zac Brown Band at Fenway Park; and a four-pack of tickets to MixFest. There’s also a raffle for a stay at Elite Island Resorts in the Caribbean.

“In the past the gala’s been a little more formal, more of a sit-down meal,” Palmaccio says. “This year we tried to make it a little more fun and a little more social.”

The space will be filled with high-topped tables, dancing, a photo booth, and even a fun “wine pull” raffle. Kendra Petrone, of MAGIC 106.7, will serve as master of ceremonies for the evening.



Preschoolers enjoy some playtime in a motor therapy room. Mary LaFleur and Lucas enjoy sensory play, while Jaxon enjoys time on the indoor swing!
Photo Courtesy of PCCD.


“We want people to look forward to a fun night out,” Palmaccio says. “Something that people enjoy being at and look forward to coming back to for years to come.”

Hunt agrees, adding that the gala is a fun evening for attendees that raises money for great work. “We want them to have a good time and also support a good cause,” he says.