Stonington School Paraprofessionals Union Aids Local Student's Effort To Get Service Dog

Stonington, CT – Members of AFSCME Local 1996, the union representing Stonington public school paraprofessionals, are rallying around a local student and her family in their determined fight against a debilitating disease.

The union donated $1,000 to ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a Torrington, CT-based organization whose mission is to enable people with disabilities to gain greater independence and mobility through the use of specially educated dogs.

The donation is earmarked for 17-year-old Elizabeth Cavaliere, a high school junior battling Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a disease that attacks the joints and skin, severely impacting mobility and compromising organs and vessels, among other harmful effects. Elizabeth and her family need to raise $20-$25,000 to secure a service dog this summer.

“Our union members strongly believe in giving back to the community that we help nurture and educate,” said AFSCME Local 1996 President Susan McVeigh, a paraprofessional at West Vine School. “These are the kids we work with every day. We want them to be successful.”

Local 1996 recently presented the donation to Elizabeth and her mother Karen at Stonington High School.

Muggie MacDonald, a paraprofessional at Mystic Middle School who sits on the union’s Executive Board, brought the idea of a contribution to ECAD to her fellow union members.

“I was one of Elizabeth’s paras,” MacDonald said. “Her mom (Karen Cavaliere) worked as a Stonington para. We’ve become friends with the Cavaliere family. We want Elizabeth to be independent.” 

The Cavalieres expressed their gratitude to AFSCME Local 1996 for contributing to ECAD. “A service dog means freedom for me,” Elizabeth said. “I rely on my mom and dad for so much. A service dog will help me live my daily life. That’s important to me, because EDS triggers movement disorder that can flare up any time. I can walk independently with a dog, and know that I’m safe.”

McVeigh and Local 1996 members are encouraging the community to support the Cavalieres. You can contribute by going to the ECAD website at:

Local 1996 is an affiliate of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union representing 30,000 workers in Connecticut.