For 70 years, Easter Seals Southwest Florida has worked tirelessly – though largely under the radar – for disabled children and adults on the Suncoast. At its 70th Anniversary Gala, held at the Ritz-Carlton, nearly 400 guests came out to celebrate the organization’s 70 years of service.
Seen at the gala were CEO Tom Waters, Randy Rutta, president of Easter Seals National, Jannon Pierce, Kameron and Bart Hodgens, Nick and Danielle Gladding, Melissa and Ian Howard, Sophia LaRusso, Veronica Brandon Miller, Bob Rosinsky, Bill Sadlo, Sherry and Tom Koski, Fran and John LaCivita, Dean Eisner, Cody Bowman and Daniela Koci, among others.
Board Chair Dave Herbert welcomed guests, saying, “After seven decades of serving our clients, I think a party is in order.” He was followed by Tom Waters, who introduced a color guard from Sarasota Military Academy and the event’s two co-chairs: Barbara Najmy and Johanna Gustafsson. Waters was joined by Mark Pritchett and Veronica Brady of Gulf Coast Community Foundation who led a paddle raise, which, led by a $10,000 donation by honorary co-chairs Vern and Sandy Buchanan, raised more than $100,000. Following dinner, Waters paid tribute to Ginger Judge, who, for 44 years has served Easter Seals in a variety of capacities, as chairman and president of Easter Seal’s local affiliate, representing our region at the state level and on the National Easter Seals board of directors. In a drawing for a two-year lease on a Mustang convertible, donated by Sarasota Ford, Elaine Gustafson drove home the happy winner.
Happiness House Easter Seals began in response to the polio epidemic in 1946. With the eradication of that disease, its mission has expanded to include programming for children and adults with disabilities, including its groundbreaking work with autism spectrum disorder – helping abilities to shine.