The Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC) held its annual gala to raise funds and awareness for the organization that helps children and adults living with developmental disabilities lead satisfying lives at Gargiulo’s, 2911 West 15th Street, on Friday, October 20.
The event, which gave out awards to significant contributors, was highly attended by individuals that helped celebrate GEC’s 59 years of achievement including elected officials and reporter Geraldo Rivera.
“I think the event was terrific,” said GEC Executive Director and CEO Paul Cassone. “We had about 340 people there. The honorees were all people who have helped the Guild and the community in a variety of ways and they seemed to have a good time as well as their families. I think that we raised a lot of money. It was very successful.”
Cassone expressed his gratitude to awardees. “They help with the GEC and offer community support in general,” he said. “They have contributed in a lot of ways. They’re all active in the community. We can’t do much without the assistance of people really willing to step up and help us out some way.”
The honorees included Arthur Aidala, Ann Falutico, Vincent Nativo, John Abi-Habib, Brian Chin, and Frank and Celeste Sena.
“This is a beautiful thing about the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights community,” he said. “You have people with different backgrounds who work together for the greater good, who go above and beyond to help support people in the community. They’re good people and it was our pleasure to recognize them.”
Rivera, who as Cassone noted, “was instrumental in exposing the conditions at Willowbrook in the 1970s and in a lot of ways, forced New York State to change its practices,” was among the presenters. “It was nice to have him present to give Arthur [Aidala] his award,” Cassone said.
State Senator Martin Golden, Assemblymember Pamela Harris and Councilmember Vincent Gentile also gave out awards.
The gala serves a dual purpose. The money raised, said Cassone, “Is going towards our building fund as we have major renovation projects underway.” In addition, the event helps, “Get the word out more about who we are, what we do and the nature of the people in our care. This event was a success from all aspects.”