Kiwi faces several complex challenges and requires intense 24-hour care. But with his family’s commitment to valuing his gifts and preferences, he enjoys a fulfilling life, where his beautiful spirit, infectious smile, and sense of humor shine through to all who meet him. After Kiwi’s mother passed away, his sister Amie, brother Malik, and their Uncle Clarence took over her responsibilities, and have been there for Kiwi every moment since.
It was the love and dedication this family shares that earned them a Family Recognition Award at Vinfen’s 9th Annual Celebration of Family Partnerships. Each year, Vinfen celebrates families, advocates, self-advocates, and staff who have supported the people we serve. This year’s event was held on October 26 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, MA.
Master of Ceremonies Susan Wornick, former WCVB-TV anchorwoman entertained the audience throughout the evening. Department of Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula and Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Elin Howe welcomed attendees. Honored guests at this year’s celebration included Massachusetts State Representative Liz Malia, who received the Public Official of the Year award; Marie Saldi, who received the Craig Smith Self-Advocate award; and Joel Trinque, who received the Helen Fantasia-Arraj Staff Recognition award.
The keynote address was delivered by Educator of the Year awardee Michael Plansky. He is the Founder and President of You’re With Us!, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for individuals with disabilities with college clubs, groups, and teams. It was founded due to the positive experience Michael’s son Max has had with the Northeastern Men’s Basketball Team. He told the powerful story of his organization’s beginnings, starting with Max’s premature birth. Plansky described his devastation when Max was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and the hurdles he encountered in his quest to help his son forge meaningful connections with kids his age. To his great joy, Max has found those meaningful relationships, that sense of camaraderie and community, with the Northeastern Men’s Basketball Team.
Over 20 Vinfen staff also received Merit Awards for their commitment to family partnerships, leadership, advocacy, and education. Staff members were selected based on nominations from the families that they work closely with every day.
The evening would not have been possible without our sponsors. Thank you to HUB International, the Rae and Aaron Alberts Foundation, and the Tiffany Ballroom at the Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, MA.