QUEENS, NY (July 19, 2011) — Eric Coull, 41, an avid New York Mets fan with cerebral palsy and one of the first people in New York to use a computerized synthetic voice to communicate, threw out the first pitch at a Mets-Marlins game at Citi Field thanks to EmblemHealth, which provides health care coverage through its companies Group Health Incorporated (GHI) and HIP Health Plan of New York (HIP).
Eric Coull (left), cheered on by his Residential Program Specialist Anthony Weston, throws first pitch at Mets-Marlins game, thanks to EmblemHealth. Photo by Marc S. Levine New York Mets
An excited Eric Coull (left) shares the moment with his Residential Program Specialist Anthony Weston and Mets catcher Josh Thole after throwing first pitch at Mets-Marlins game, thanks to EmblemHealth. Photo by Marc S. Levine New York Mets
Mr. Coull, who lives in a United Cerebral Palsy of New York City (UCP of NYC) residence in Staten Island, was accompanied by his roommate Robert Eakman and neighbor Michael Blackman, as well as his Residential Program Specialist, Anthony Weston.
“Eric, Robert and Michael were just wild with excitement when I told them about the Mets and the first pitch,” says Maria Trantino, assistant director of UCP’s Castleton Residence Program, which includes apartments for 17 adults with cerebral palsy in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island. She says the three men watch games in Mr. Coull’s and Mr. Eakman’s apartment, which is painted “Mets blue” and decorated with posters of players. “We are very grateful to EmblemHealth and the Mets for this wonderful opportunity.”
According to Mr. Coull’s mother Linda, her son is adventurous, fun loving and extremely brave. He can walk but cannot speak, and communicates with a palm device with a built in voice. In fact, she says when he received his first device 25 years ago, he was among the first in New York City to have an augmented computerized synthetic voice.
“Eric became a Mets fan because of his legs,” she says. “Between the ages of 12 and 13, he had three operations at the Hospital for Joint Diseases and spent a year and a half between the hospital and rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside, Queens. Thanks to St. Mary’s, he went to many Mets games at nearby Shea Stadium. I remember watching the 1986 World Series when he finally came home after nine months in the hospital. He rooted for the Mets, and I rooted for him.”
This is the 11th consecutive year EmblemHealth has passed along the honor of throwing the first pitch at a Mets game to a deserving New Yorker. It is part of the company’s ongoing commitment to encourage health and fitness, and give back to the communities it serves.
“Eric Coull has not let his disabilities prevent him from living a full, independent life,” says Frank Branchini, President and COO of EmblemHealth. “He is an inspiration and a role model for New Yorkers everywhere, and we are delighted to make a dream come true for this particular Mets fan.”
EmblemHealth, Inc., through its companies Group Health Incorporated (GHI) and HIP Health Plan of New York (HIP), provides quality health care coverage and administrative services to approximately 2.9 million people. Groups and individuals can choose from a variety of PPO, EPO and HMO programs, as well as prescription drug, dental and vision plans. Plans offer a choice of networks, including access to over 103,000 quality doctors and other health care professionals and most of the leading hospitals across the tristate region.
United Cerebral Palsy of New York City:
UCP of NYC is one of America’s most established charities and is the leading nonprofit agency providing direct services, technology, and advocacy to children and adults with disabilities throughout New York City. UCP of NYC currently serves more than 14,000 individuals and families through more than 75 programs. The mission of United Cerebral Palsy of New York City is to create opportunities for people with disabilities to lead independent and fulfilling lives. UCP of NYC operates residential facilities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, and offers a variety of programs and services for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities. UCP of NYC is the leading resource for assistive technology in the New York City region. For more information, visit www.ucpnyc.org.