Gala 2015 – Celebrating Every Child: A Successful “Friendraiser and Fundraiser”!
Glittery chandeliers, strings of pearls and other jazzy decorations greeted guests at the Federation’s 1920s jazz-themed annual fundraising gala. Gala 2015 – Celebrating Every Child, was held on Friday, May 15th at the Westin Waterfront Hotel. In keeping with the theme, guests began the evening bidding on some wonderful items during the Jazz, Juice and Jewels Silent Auction preceding dinner and the evening’s program. Reception entertainment was provided by jazz guitarist Jackson Fitzgerald.
Guests entered the ballroom at 7:30pm, where they were welcomed by the Federation’s Executive Director Rich Robison and former WCVB news anchor Susan Wornick. Wornick served as Master of Ceremonies for the second year in a row. She spoke of her love for the work of the Federation and how thrilled she was to be the emcee once again.
Before dinner, guests were treated to a performance by Zachary Bennoui, a jazz pianist and student at Perkins School for the Blind. Zachary started playing piano at the age of 18 months, and began composing his own tunes as a child. The professional quality of music was reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi, the jazz pianist whose music was featured in the “Charlie Brown” TV specials. Zachary provided an additional performance of several more beautiful jazz numbers after dinner, and before the evening’s awards presentation.
Following dinner, Federation Board President Jim Whalen came forward to present the President’s Award to John Hancock. The award was given in recognition of the company’s commitment to supporting the Federation’s Visions of Community Conference over many years. Tom Crohan, Assistant Vice President & Counsel, Corporate Responsibility & Government Relations at John Hancock, accepted the award on behalf of John Hancock reaffirming the organization’s commitment to inclusion of people with disabilities noting that, “Disabled does not mean unable.”
The Martha Ziegler Award was introduced by Federation co-founder Betsy Anderson, who spoke briefly about Ziegler and her career. Anne Howard, a professor at Fitchburg State University, and a Federation Board member, was this year’s Martha Ziegler Founders Award recipient. Anne was honored for her passion for teaching both parents and professionals, providing them with the ability to become active participants in improving the quality of education for all children.
The final honorees were introduced by Gala Committee Chairperson Susan Arndt. The Patricia Blake Advocacy Award is given to honor and recognize the legacy of former Federation Associate Executive Director Pat Blake. Susan noted that this year was the first time that the award was presented to children, as the next generation of advocates. When Tim Keefe found out that his brother Danny, who has childhood apraxia of speech, was being bullied at school, he confided in his friend Tommy Cooney. Together, they decided to do something about it by starting “Danny Appreciation Day” at their school. Their stand against bullying, and their support and advocacy for Danny gained national attention and inspired many people, including all attending this event.