Carrie Rozelle

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Carrie Rozelle (October 31, 1937 – October 29, 2007) was a Canadian-born American disabilities activist, whose struggles with her own learning disabled son, Jack (died 1990) led her to establish the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Mrs. Rozelle was the widow of Pete Rozelle, a former commissioner of the National Football League, who died in 1996.

Born as Carolyn Dike in Port Dalhousie, Ontario, a daughter of Philip and Ziva Dyke, she was first married to Ralph Kent Cooke (died 1995), the son of Jack Kent Cooke, who was a Canadian businessman and onetime owner of the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Lakers, for 13 years until their divorce in 1972. They had four children, three sons and a daughter. Jack, the more troubled of two learning disabled sons, predeceased his parents, dying in 1990.

Jack Cooke's severe dyslexia and "sense of failure" created what Mrs. Rozelle described as "a hurricane ... [H]e had difficulties with his brothers. He took toys. He broke them. He would steal. His books were torn up." [1] These experiences led her to establish the Foundation for Children With Learning Disabilities in 1977, when she organized a charity ball in Manhattan to raise funds.

In her 12 years as chairwoman, the organization provided grants for public awareness programs in schools, day-care centers, museums and summer camps. It ran parent education workshops, created book collections for children with matching tapes and film strips and held training sessions for librarians.

The foundation became known as the National Center for Learning Disabilities in 1989. It provides support to more than a million families a year and has a budget of $4,000,000 per year. It focuses on early screening programs (about 350,000 children were tested in 2006); informing parents on how to deal with school systems; and promoting public policies connected with the rights of the learning disabled. The center’s Web site is http://www.ld.org.

Carrie Rozelle died of cancer on October 29, 2007, two days before her 70th birthday, in Rancho Santa Fe, California. She was survived by her three children, a stepdaughter, and five grandchildren.

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“I feel sorriest for mothers who have to deal with their hyperactive children, then deal with their children’s teachers if the school does not have a support system ... [B]efore I knew what I was dealing with, the disorder drove me wild.” (C. Rozelle)

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