CONEY ISLAND — It was the families’ turn to shine as the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC) held its 61st annual autumn gala on Friday, Nov. 9 at Gargiulo’s restaurant in Coney Island.
GEC, a nonprofit agency that assists developmentally disabled children and adults, this year honored the siblings and other family members of GEC residents. WABC-TV/“Eyewitness News” anchor Ken Rosato served as master of ceremonies and called it an honor to be asked back this year.
Frank Sena, president of the GEC Board of Directors, welcomed guests to the packed house event. “Tonight, there is a method to our madness,” said Sena. “We have filled this house in honoring those people who have given themselves to their families. We have filled this house in a way we have never filled this house before by honoring those siblings and those family members closest to our people.”
GEC Executive Director and CEO Joe Riley said, “GEC has been teaching, supporting, encouraging and caring for children and adults with developmental disabilities for over 61 years now and we would not be able to do the good work that we do without the help we get from people like you.”
The GEC was founded in 1958 by parents who wanted to provide better lives for their children with special needs. Thanks to the help of then-State Sen. William Conklin and founding parents Pauline Argo and Olga DeFelippo, the guild became a nurturing environment for people with developmental disabilities.
Riley called the siblings the “unsung heroes of the GEC story. They too have made sacrifices, often deferring to their brothers or their sisters,” he continued, “and in the long run taking over responsibilities of caring for and advocating for their family member when their parents get old. We are lucky here at the guild to have a number of siblings who are very involved in the lives of the people that we serve.”
Riley also made a special presentation to Rosato, whom he said, “volunteers his time out of his busy schedule year after year to help make this event a success.
“He is truly a great man,” added Riley.
Also attending the event were former State Sen. Marty Golden; former New York State Conservative Party Chair Mike Long; New York State Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar; Brooklyn Conservative Party Chair Fran Vella-Marrone; attorney and host of the radio show “Ask the Lawyer” Mike Connors; Northfield Bank Vice President and Branch Manager Brian Chin; Ray Aalbue, chairperson of the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade; and former GEC Executive Director and CEO Paul Cassone.
“It’s great to be here,” said Golden. “I know so many within the Guild for Exceptional Children, not only the clients but the parents as well. It’s just an honor to be here.”
Long echoed Golden’s sentiments, “Amen for a great cause, a great charity and a great group of people,” added Long.