“Joy and Gratitude” Annual Dinner- a evening of fellowship and celebration

The evening was beautiful as the crowd gathered under the tent at Fairfield University to celebrate a joyful year at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. Dinner guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers while they surveyed the silent and live auctions items that included sports memorabilia, variety of spirits, event tickets and a Las Vegas package that had plane tickets, hotel, dinner certificates and event passes. The evening sponsors included the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, GoldPoint Partners, CrossBay Capital Partners, LLC, AEA Investors, Neuberger Berman, St. Rose of Lima Parish, the Valerie Luff Foundation, and TD Bank, NA.

DSC_2905“This is my favorite event. I love being with all these people who share my passion for Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs,” expressed Charles Chiusano, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center. Charles welcomed the dinner guests with special recognition to Christine Herman, who has chaired the dinner for the past 12 years and has actively served on Advisory Board and now Board of Directors. “We are so grateful to Chris for her years of service and dedication to the mission of Saint Catherine Academy and the Center. We will miss her dearly and wish Michael and Chris the best of luck as they relocate to South Carolina.”

Monsignor Weiss, Pastor at St. Rose of Lima and member of the Board of Directors, offered the invocation before dinner and gave a special ‘shout out’ to James Barry, graduating student from Saint Catherine Academy who was in attendance. Bishop Caggiano addressed the guests via video as his schedule prevented him from attending in person. He thanked the benefactors of the Center with special recognition for the members of the Board of Directors.

DSC_2893Following dinner, Helen Burland, Executive Director of the Center addressed the dinner guests. “This has been a remarkable year for us,” she commented. “We chose tonight’s theme, joy and gratitude, because these words capture how we feel as our first year as Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs comes to a close. Your support, through volunteering, prayer as well as financial, has made the expansion of our programs possible. We are so grateful. And our joy is boundless – we are blessed with dedicated and talented staff, and children and young people who bring joy to the Center everyday,” she continued. “But the real reason we are here tonight is to celebrate James Barry, our newest graduate, who is with us tonight.” The audience was then treated to a brief photo montage that showed James as a young 6 year old to the young man of 21 – with many poignant moments depicted. Mrs. Burland then invited James to the podium as the audience rose to their feet applauding loudly.DSC_2946“Thank you so much,” James began. “Thank you. Saint Catherine Academy has been my family. My friends are all there,” he continued. “You are all in my heart.” As James left the stage, the audience was again on their feet. He was met with an endless line of ‘high fives’ as he headed back to his seat.

“As you can see, we have much to be proud of and grateful for,” Mrs. Burland continued. Next up was Al Barber, member of the Board of Directors and auctioneer extraordinaire. He coaxed the audience along as he worked to raise money with the live auction items that include dinner with Bishop Caggiano. The highlight of the live auction was the presentation of the collage of ‘Starry, Starry Night’ that had been created by the students under the watchful eye and creative genius of Gina Barber with her assistant, Mary Claus. The collage was auctioned off in honor of Gina and donated back to the Center by Britta and Denis Nayden and the Valerie Luff Foundation. It will be hung in the main hall of the Center.

DSC_2982The evening ended as it began under the tent as guests lingered and enjoyed the dessert and coffee bar. It was a beautiful evening that raised money for programs at the Center and allowed people to spend time together. Thank you to all who helped plan and all who attended.