Newsline Volume 33, Number 4

Gala 2013 - Celebrating Every Child

Janet Vohs standing in front of a Gala 2013 sign by the registration area.

On Friday, May 3, 2013, the Federation celebrated their 14th annual gala, "Celebrating Every Child." The evening was a wonderful success, raising over $180,000 to support the Federation's work! Upon arriving at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, guests were treated to the sounds of the Mike Bono Group while enjoying appetizers and cocktails and bidding on silent auction items such as Red Sox tickets, museum passes, gift certificates to restaurants and hotels, and original works of art.

Ron SandersThe guests were then ushered into the ballroom for dinner. There, Rich Robison, the Executive Director of the Federation, thanked everyone for coming. He also reported that over the years, the gala has raised two million dollars. Robison then introduced the evening's MC; veteran journalist Ron Sanders. Sanders told the crowd that nothing is more important than our children; and reminded everyone that while all children are special, there are some who require special attention.

The Boston Chinese Family Support Organization's Lion Dance Troupe then performed. The BCFSO is a nonprofit group in Chinatown that supports children with disabilities and their families. Their Lion Dance Troupe was formed two years ago, in response to the need for programs that provided physical activity geared towards children with special needs. The instructors teach young children to perform the Chinese dance known as the Lion Dance. Six young children wearing traditional Chinese outfits made of red satin with gold sparkles took the stage. With the help of their instructors, they demonstrated a Lion Dance, which is familiar to anyone who has attended a Chinese New Year celebration or Boston's First Night Parade.

After the children received enthusiastic applause for their demonstration, the instructors performed a Lion Dance. The crowd laughed and clapped as the "lion" came out on the floor of the ballroom, wound his way through the tables, and then went back on the stage where one by one, the children "fed" him oranges and lettuce.

Appropriately enough, dinner was then served (to the humans, that is!) and Jim Whalen, the President of the Federation's Board of Directors, came forward to announce the recipients of this year's awards. The first award of the evening was the President's Award, which was given to Angela Peri. Peri is the owner and founder of Boston Casting, which has cast many productions including the Federation's PSA, which was then played on the large screen.

Founder of Boston Casting Angela PeriPeri came to the stage to accept her award, but humbly said that the award really "belongs to those who fight for our kids." Despite Peri's assertion that she isn't among those to whom the award belongs, Peri has indeed fought hard over the years for the rights of her son with autism. He is now in public school and is an actor and an avid skier.

Janet VohsThe next award was the Patricia Blake Advocacy Award, given in honor of former Associate Executive Director Pat Blake. This year, the award was given to Janet Vohs, a highly dedicated and much appreciated long-time member of the Federation family. Vohs, who was a Federation staff member for 34 years, is the mother of Jessica Vohs, an artist who was born with cerebral palsy. A slide show of pictures of Jessica over the years was played on the big screens, accompanied by a recording of Mariah Carey's song "Hero." The message was clear to all in attendance: Jessica considers her mother to be her hero, just as all of us at the Federation appreciate the heroic efforts that Janet Vohs has done over the years to help improve the lives and education of countless children.

Vohs explained that thanks to Chapter 766 and the Federation, Jessica attended public school, graduated from high school, and became the first person with severe disabilities to complete a year of service with City Year. In doing so, Jessica and the Federation paved the way for other people with disabilities. Today, Jessica is a successful artist, painter, poet, and designer. Her work ranges from oil paintings to wall hangings to her popular hand-dyed scarves and T-shirts.

State Rep Tom SannicandroThe final award of the evening was the Founders Award, presented by Martha Ziegler, founder and former Executive Director of the Federation. This year's Founders Award went to State Representative Tom Sannicandro of Ashland. He is currently the Chair of the Joint Committee of Education, and has previously served as the Chair of the Committee of Higher Education and the Vice Chair of the Committee for Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. He is also the chief sponsor of several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the lives and opportunities for people with disabilities. Representative Sannicandro has a son who was the first student with severe disabilities to attend Ashland Public School. When his son was in kindergarten, the principal wanted to put him in the special education classroom. However, Sannicandro and his wife convinced the principal that their son belonged in a mainstream classroom. His son is now a successful car dealer at the age of 28. As Representative Sannicandro accepted his award, he acknowledged the importance of people with intellectual disabilities testifying before the Massachusetts Legislature, and how the number of individuals to do so has grown over the years.

After the awards were presented, Sanders welcomed Amy Robison to the stage. She thanked her dad, Rich Robison, and told Sanders that she had a great time and particularly enjoyed the Chinese dancers. She then introduced the entertainment, Tavares 3G, who she declared to be "the greatest band since the Jonas Brothers!"

One of the members of Tavares 3G belts at a noteThe four part vocal group, who are third generation family members of the Grammy-award winning group Tavares, had the crowd clapping and tapping their feet to their harmonic renditions of classics such as "Ain't Nobody," "Never Had A Love Like This Before," "Rock With You," and "Sailing." As the lively performance continued, many guests were up out of their seats and dancing in the aisles - making it an unforgettable evening!

Gala 2013, "Celebrating Every Child" proved to be a great night that reminded us once again of the importance of supporting the needs, challenges, and successes of all children and families.

Special thanks to all who helped make this year's Gala a rousing success, including our Honorary Co-Chairs, Ed and Allyson DeNoble; our many wonderful sponsors; our volunteers; and all who attended!

Did You Miss Gala 2013 - Celebrating Every Child?

If you missed Gala 2013 or would like a recap of the evenings events, photos and videos visit Watch video clips from the Gala on the our YouTube channel

Event photography courtesy of Allyson Joyce