Thank you, Gary Steinberg

Bruce & Gary in action at Academy MetroWest in 2012.

Bruce & Gary in action at Academy MetroWest in 2012.

There are some big changes coming at Academy MetroWest. The biggest is the impending retirement of our co-director and co-founder, Gary Steinberg. Gary’s career with the Academy started in the late 60’s. His uncle founded the Academy back in the 1950s as a self-defense program for children. It shifted its focus over the years to concentrate on cooperative physical activity and therapeutic services for children. Gary has been a part of the entire story. His talent, passion, and innovativeness have touched the lives of thousands of children, helping them and their families to be happier, more connected and more confident.

When we first started talking to people about Gary’s decision to step back from full-time work, many friends and clients asked how they could honor Gary and his accomplishments. There is no organization we feel more strongly about than the Life is Good Playmakers. We go way back with this wonderful organization and the director, Steve Gross, is a good friend. He’s one of the most talented counselors we’ve ever known and his organization provides vital services to kids all around the globe. He and his staff have set up a special fund to honor Gary’s work and career and we hope you’ll consider supporting it.

A little bit of history

Gary and company at Academy Newton in 1990s

Gary and counselors circa 1990 at one of the earliest Project Joy fundraisers. Admittedly, the shot was snapped in the bathroom at the Academy of Physical and Social Development in Newton. ​Pictured clockwise from left to right are Gary Steinberg, Mark Gofstein, Bruce Sabian, and Steve Gross.

Before Gary and I opened Academy MetroWest back in 1994, we were full-time counselors at the Academy of Physical and Social Development in Newton. Around 1990, we had a client who was actively involved in conducting research and providing services for homeless children and their families. She arranged a grant to start a pilot program at the Academy to see how well  a group-therapy model based upon cooperative physical play would work with a population of homeless preschoolers. The program was a big hit with the kids and parents but, with a one-time grant, it was set up only as a “one and done” proposition. Once the grant expired, the kids would be left with nothing. At that point, Steve, a fellow counselor on the Newton Academy staff who had participated in running the pilot program, decided that it was too good to end. In response, he organized Project Joy, a not-for-profit program that enabled us to carry on and expand the work started in that pilot program. Both Gary and I remained involved. I helped craft the mission statement and ran groups with Project Joy for about 10 years. Gary provided ongoing training and consulting.

Honor Gary Steinberg’s Work


Project Joy grew quickly. They established an office at the Cambridge YWCA and expanded their services to incorporate music and movement therapies. Every group started with games and connection around a colorful parachute. It wasn’t always easy to get adults to feel comfortable singing songs and marching around the parachute but Steve had a way of making people feel comfortable, (He usually told us: “Don’t worry, guys. It’s only emasculating the first few times you do it.”) After that, we’d play a couple of gross motor activities with the kids. Many of these activities had been created at the Academy but were adapted to the needs of our younger participants at Project Joy.

Project Joy went on to expand its focus to include many different forms of trauma, of which homelessness is just one type. Over the years, Project Joy grew tremendously and provided training and support to childcare centers all over the world. As a result of Steve’s connection to the two founders of Life is Good, whom Steve grew up with, that company became Project Joy’s biggest benefactor and eventually Project Joy was folded into the Life is Good Kids Foundation. Life is Good Playmakers continues to provide valuable services to needy populations of children and their caregivers nearby as well as in far off parts of the world.

Honor Gary’s work with a donation to a worthy cause

Please consider donating to the fund we have set up with the Life is Good Kids Foundation to honor Gary’s work with children over the years. It’s a great way to help spread optimism and resilience to some of our neediest kids. It’s also a great way to honor the incredible work that Gary has done with so many kids throughout his long and amazing career.