On Sunday, November 13, a crowd of over 400 gathered atGargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island for the fall luncheon andgift auction to benefit the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC), anonprofit organization providing schooling and other services forthe developmentally disabled.
Although the GEC typically has six fundraisers a year, this isthe first time the luncheon has ever taken place. According to thegroup’s executive director and CEO Paul Cassone, what separatedthis event from the others was that it was organized and evenconceptualized by the parents of the program’s participants:Margaret De Vincenzo, Mary Dory and Celeste Sena.
We provided some assistance, Cassone said. We provided someguidance. But they ran the show and they got a terrificturnout.
The three women who co-chaired the event were also honored withcertificates naming them GEC Gold Star Angel Group Members — anaward Cessone says symbolizes individuals who make a contributionfor the health and welfare of people with mental disabilities.
Although the exact amount of money raised at the luncheon isstill being tallied, Cassone says the more than 200 prizes raffledoff were a big hit. Proceeds from the event will go to the GEC’sbuilding fund, which will be used to build an additional facilityin Marine Park and a wellness center for older residents here inBay Ridge.
But for GEC Associate Director of Development CarolineMansuetto, the highlight of the day was the new faces she noticedin the crowd.
People came who never had an affiliation with the guild,because of a neighbor or something like that, Mansuetto said. Wewere thankful to make some new friends that day.
And considering the roughly one million dollars of governmentfunding that has been cut from the Guild’s endowment over the lastthree years, Cassone says he hopes the event will lead to anexpansion of the group’s support base. He says the Guild remainsmore committed than ever to the one thousand people a day hereports use their services.
Our mission and our dedication is stronger than ever, Cassonesaid. We intend to weather these cuts we’ve been given. People arebeing born every year with developmental disabilities and we have acommitment to new generations of parents as we did to parents inthe past.