Ability Partners Foundation recently raised over $100,000 at its Winter Gala and Auction in the Finger Lakes at Belhurst Castle in Geneva.
Joe Lomonaco, co-host of the NewsRadio WHAM-1180 5 O’Clock News Hour, served as host and auctioneer. All proceeds support programs and services through CP Rochester, Happiness House and Rochester Rehabilitation.
The event recognized individuals who volunteered their time and service to make the agencies thrive. The “Happiness is Helping” Humanitarian Award recognizes those who dedicate their time to advocate for people with disabilities and disadvantages, and whose accomplishments are consistent with the mission and vision of Happiness House, CP Rochester and Rochester Rehabilitation. This year’s award went to Roy, Nancy, and Ross Beecher, who have been part of the APF family for over 30 years.
The Volunteer of the Year Award goes to individuals who provide extraordinary service over a significant period of time to Happiness House and the Finger Lakes community. Sandy Landuyt, owner of Sandy’s Floral Gallery, received this year’s award.
Years of Service awards went to John Horvath, 50 years; Roy Beecher, 10 and 30 years; James King and Kevin Reeder, 15 years; David Case, Michael Coppola, Amy Cram, Charles Graham, Richard Hawks Jr., Sean Ossont and Robert Schick, 10 years; and Andrea Bonafiglia, five years. APF celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The gala featured remarks from keynote speakers Michele Cleaves and Stephen Ryan.
Cleaves remembers the day her traumatic brain injury experience started. She was 47, the mother of two girls, engaged to be married, an educator in the community and an involved member of the Catholic Church. A normal morning changed when she found herself fighting to stay awake and alive.
After three months in the intensive care unit and six months in St. Mary’s TBI Unit, Cleaves learned about Happiness House. There, she would experience a different kind of family and community.
Cleaves has regained many abilities, but still requires the use of a wheelchair for ambulation and has left-side weakness and neglect. She said the structure and programming at the structured-day program helps her build endurance and strength.
“At Happiness House, I know they have my back,” Cleaves said.
Ryan also shared his story. He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at an early age. He graduated with high honors from Geneva High School and studied information technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he graduated summa cum laude.