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How Boston Mayor Tom Menino Changed One Family’s Life Forever

By Christina Hager, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Christina Hager Christina Hager
Award-winning reporter Christina Hager works as a general assignmen...
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BOSTON (CBS) – As political pundits discuss Mayor Tom Menino’s legacy, one Roslindale woman says it’s all summed up in one of her personal photographs. It’s a faded snapshot from the event where she first met the mayor nearly a decade ago.

She was with her son Michael, who has autism, at a youth baseball banquet. He had an episode. “All of a sudden, the table got flipped over, and then Michael went for the trophies, and he knocked all the trophies off the table,” she remembers. “The mayor came over and he said, ‘How can I help you?’ and I looked over and I said, ‘He has autism.’” It made her pause. “You know, often times, you freak out and you get all nervous and anxious, but it was just like, ‘It’s OK. What can I do to help?’”

When Menino asked where her son went to school, she explained he hadn’t been to school for five years, because Boston didn’t have the services he needed. She says Menino changed that, integrating an educational program for autistic children in West Roxbury.

It didn’t end there. Duggan says Menino helped facilitate a summer camp program for Michael and others like him. “For 21 years, my son never ever was accepted at a camp.” Then came his first paycheck. It was from a job his mother says Menino set him up with at a local community center.

When Michael voted for the first time, it made perfect sense to his mother when her son, who rarely utters a word, held up his ballot and pronounced, “Menino!”

“This was a totally different approach,” says Marie Duggan. “This was a man who was a dad. This was a man who truly cared. He cared about me. He cared about my son.”

It’s her story, she says, along with so many others just like it, that will be Tom Menino’s legacy.

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