Senator O’Connor nominated Vitelli for the award
BOSTON, MA – Jennifer McCormack Vitelli, of Marshfield, was honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s (MCSW) 2021 class of Unsung Heroines. Senator O’Connor (R-Weymouth) recommended Ms. Vitelli for this recognition because of her strong advocacy for PANDAS/PANS awareness and for her 28 years of public service as the Recreation Director for the Town of Scituate. Ms. Vitelli was honored with 130 other Unsung Heroines for her outstanding contributions to the community in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday.
PANDAS/PANS is a medical condition that can appear in children in as little as 24 hours and is caused by untreated viral or bacterial infections. Seemingly overnight, symptoms such as OCD, extreme anxiety, angry rages, bodily tics, and hallucinations can appear in otherwise healthy children. Oftentimes, children with these conditions are unable to attend school for extended periods of time and their families’ home life is significantly disrupted. The PANDAS Network estimates that PANDAS/PANS affects as many as 1 in 200 children.
“Every day, women across the Commonwealth perform unheralded acts of leadership and kindness that make our neighborhoods and towns better places to live,” said O’Connor. “Jennifer has gone above and beyond in her advocacy work for those with PANDAS/PANS and their families – without her, we would not have been able to pass legislation to guarantee health insurance coverage for PANDAS/PANS treatment. She’s made a real difference through her work.”
"I am incredibly grateful and honored to have been nominated by Senator Patrick O'Connor and chosen as a 2021 Commonwealth Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women,” said Vitelli. “I am humbled to be part of such an exceptional, dynamic, unstoppable group of women from across the Commonwealth. Gandhi said it best, ‘Be the Change You Want to See in the World’. I believe once PANDAS/PANS is common knowledge, then, in my opinion, the world WILL be a whole lot better - and I am not stopping until it is.”
In her role as one of the founding members of the New England PANDAS/PANS Association in 2012, Jennifer not only brought awareness to this disease but supported countless families dealing with PANDAS. She was also a co-leader of the Massachusetts Coalition for PANDAS/PANS Legislation where she dedicated the past two years of her life to advocate and help pass the PANDAS/PANS insurance bill into law in 2020. Included in the bill, she also helped establish a DPH PANDAS/PANS Advisory Council to advise the Director of Public Health on research, diagnosis, treatment, and education relating to the disorder and syndrome of PANDAS/PANS.
In addition to her advocacy work, Jennifer served 28 years in the Town of Scituate as their Recreation Director where she was part of growing the community. She did everything from building new fields; expanding lifeguard services; offering integrative programming to ensure children of all abilities could participate in recreational programs; organizing “The Good Sports Festivals”, Family Fun Days, Annual PJ Golf Tournaments, Outdoor Movie Nights, Music Concerts on the Bandstand, Egg Hunts, Halloween Parties or a Winter Festival; writing CPA grants to improve Recreation Facilities for Scituate; implementing a thriving summer volunteer program; and employing thousands of young adults over the years and instilling the importance of commitment and community so they may pass it on to the next generation.
Additionally, in her Marshfield community, Jennifer was a member of the School Council for Eames Way Elementary School; established the 8th grade D.C. Scholarship Fund; was a member of the Washington D.C. chaperone committee; and a volunteer at the Magical Moon Foundation. Most recently, Jennifer joined the Board of Directors at The JBC PANS & PANDAS Foundation, offering hope, health, and support for children and young adults healing from PANS & PANDAS.
Jennifer and her husband, Michael, have four sons (three of her four children live with PANDAS/PANS) and she is a tireless advocate and always maintains a “never give up” attitude.
The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.
Senator Patrick O’Connor represents the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth. Sen. O’Connor and his staff may be reached at the State House at 617-722-1646 or by email at Patrick.O’[email protected].