Hattie Larlham employees with disabilities set to go Over the Edge

This summer, two Hattie Larlham employees with developmental disabilities will participate in Over the Edge in downtown Akron. Melissa and CJ work at Hattie’s Café & Gifts. Over the Edge for Hattie Larlham is a fundraising event. It gives people the opportunity to rappel 22-stories down the PNC Center building on Saturday, August 30.

Two generous donors sponsored Melissa and CJ: Phylliss Ulrich, shareholder/attorney at Carlisle, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich Co., LPA, sponsored Melissa, and Robert Vadas, President, CEO of Arbor Rehabilitation and Healthcare Services, Inc., sponsored CJ.

“This was my chance to give back to Hattie’s, which has given me so much,” said Melissa. “I’m crazy for Hattie’s and am doing this for people with disabilities.”

When Melissa began at Hattie’s Café & Gifts five years ago, she was shy and, by her own admission, would avoid talking to people. In the time since, her self-confidence and social skills have improved dramatically. Now, Melissa’s job coaches describe her as bubbly and enthusiastic.

In her free time, she has a passion for writing, drawing and making jewelry. Melissa often takes broken or discarded jewelry and uses it to create new pieces. She has created jewelry for job coaches, customers and friends. Melissa even made two pieces for her Over the Edge sponsor.

CJ has thrived at Hattie’s Café & Gifts as well. He has worked at the café for four years. When CJ first heard about Over the Edge, he volunteered right away.

“I love Hattie’s,” said CJ. “I like working here with the special kids, and I enjoy doing things for people who can benefit.”

Two years ago, he received a Hattie Larlham employee recognition award. He was honored for a thoughtful gesture he made for two young Hattie’s Café & Gifts customers who were counting their pennies to buy a soda. CJ saw they didn’t have enough money, so he bought each of them a soda using his own money. Their mother was impressed by his kindness and personally thanked him and his job coach.

That act of kindness is reflective of CJ’s overall desire to help others. CJ is especially passionate about working with others who have developmental disabilities. He participates in the Special Olympics playing soccer and coaching bowling, bocce, track, soccer and basketball. CJ’s participation in Over the Edge raises funds to improve the lives of others with developmental disabilities.

According to Dotty Grexa, Hattie Larlham vice president of vocational and enterprise services, taking part in Over the Edge will have personal benefits for CJ as well.

“For CJ, going Over the Edge will continue his mission of helping others with developmental disabilities,” said Grexa. “He enjoys inspiring others to achieve their dreams.” 

Grexa said this experience will also enhance Melissa’s journey of achievement. 

“For Melissa, going Over the Edge is going to be out of her comfort zone, so I think the experience will grow her confidence in her personal ability to conquer a new challenge, and will further build her self-esteem,” she said.

Most of all, going Over the Edge for Hattie Larlham will be an experience that will remain with Melissa and CJ for the rest of their lives. 

Your Over the Edge registration or donation supports people with developmental disabilities like Melissa and CJ.

To register for Over the Edge or donate to a participant visit:

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Tonnie Alliance at (330) 274-2272, ext. 3069 or

About Hattie Larlham
Established in 1961, Hattie Larlham is a Northeast Ohio nonprofit organization that provides services to 1,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Hattie Larlham inspires people with disabilities and their families to dream and achieve through the medical, residential, vocational and recreational services the organization offers. For more information, visit

Related Links:

Hattie Larlham: Facebook

Hattie Larlham: Twitter

Hattie Larlham: YouTube

Hattie Larlham: Pinterest

Hattie Larlham: LinkedIn

Hattie Larlham: Official Website


Jacqueline LoPresti

Communications Coordinator       

Hattie Larlham

(330) 274-2272, ext. 3011


Scott Juba    


Radar Public Relations & Consulting    

(216) 210-3717