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Q&A: Community Interactions’ Michael T. McDonnell III

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For Michael T. McDonnell, helping others is a family legacy. Both his father and uncle were staunch advocates for the rights of the disabled—something he’s also chosen to pursue in his career as an attorney. To this day, the Rosemont resident and Villanova University alum continues that commitment with Community Interactions, Inc

About Community Interactions: It’s a residential and resource provider of services to the intellectually handicapped and developmentally disabled. We service Delaware County and a few homes in Chester County. Most of our residents live in three- to four-person community-living arrangements, and we provide 24-hour care in that setting. 

How the rest of us can help: When you see our folks out there, smile at them, approach them, say hello to them, make them feel like they’re part of the community. Don’t turn your back. 

Favorite local restaurant: My wife and I love Azie on Main. 

Go-to spot for date night: We love to go to movies. I’d probably say the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. 

From Left: Azie on Main, Penn Relays

Most anticipated area event: Penn Relays weekend, because I’m part of Villanova’s track-and-field alumni group. Everyone comes in from out of town, and we get to see each other and watch the kids run. 

Favorite way to let off steam: Running with a friend at either Valley Green or the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

From Left: Valley Green, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Favorite place to take the kids: Mine love to go to the beach with their cousins. They also love all those places where they can bounce their heads off. 

Best chance of getting stuck in traffic: The Schuylkill Expressway between City Line and Girard avenues. 

If he had 30 minutes to himself, he would: Nap. And if I was at the beach, I’d go for a swim. 

Most unique thing about the area: How parochial it is. It seems like everybody knows everybody, particularly if you’re from Delaware County. There’s two degrees of separation. And I like the fact that community ties bind people together.

A story that’s stuck with him: I attended our Christmas party with my children, who have development challenges, and it was magnetic. [The experience] touched my children to the point where they just began to ask questions that were so profound. The empathy light went on in my head, and I realized that you could be pretty spooked if you see someone with a disability. They might be grunting or have tics or physical differences—even to the point where you might turn away. But my children didn’t, and it just changed me. For me, this is more than doing someone a favor by sitting on a board and helping out.

If he could own any car, it would be: The new Gullwing Tesla. I think it’s pretty cool. How often do you get a minivan that goes to 60 in 3.8 seconds?

On Villanova basketball’s big season: I went to school from 1981 to 1985, competed in the Villanova cross-country and track program, and had a great experience. Now, 31 years later, to see these young kids accomplish so much, it’s great.