2023 Annual Spirit Awards
We are excited to present our Annual Spirit Awards to very special honorees:
The Andrea Karl Amazing Grace Award
2023 Honoree: Audra Paganelli
This award is presented in honor and memory of Andrea Karl, a Peer Counselor at Support Connection for 16 years. This award is presented to the person dealing with cancer who has faced challenges and through support, uncovered strength and hope along their cancer journey.
The Maria Rubino Jennings Spirit of Caring Award
2023 Honoree: David Tartaglia
This award is presented in honor and memory of Maria who helped create Support Connection’s Peer Counseling program and other services. Like Maria, the recipients have made a positive difference in many lives through the power of caring.
The Dolly and Mike Acocella Spirit of Giving Award
2023 Honoree: Christine Rowley
This award is presented to those who are an inspiration to others and clearly demonstrate what it means to give of oneself. They are people who help Support Connection help others by giving wholeheartedly through volunteering and promoting our mission, as Dolly and Mike always did.
The Julie Haney Spirit of Hope Awards
2023 Honorees: Joann DeGregorio and Christina Rae
This award is presented in honor and memory of Julie, who found the support she needed from our Peer Counselors. Julie exuded hope and was a bright light to all who knew her. This award is given to individuals who appreciate that, with support, they can face their challenges and move forward with hope in their heart. Their positive and caring attitude encourages and inspires others.
Learn more about our 2023 honorees:
I was involved with Support Connection years before my ovarian cancer diagnosis. I participated in the walks, secured grants from my company, and I donated personally each year. From the date I was diagnosed, May 16, 2022, my mind went into the mode of not allowing myself to consider any other outcome than a positive one. Through my past knowledge and experience with Support Connection, specifically Andrea Karl’s explanation of their Peer Counseling program, I knew I could reach out to someone who understood exactly what I was feeling. From that first phone call, Support Connection enabled me to find my inner strength. Just knowing Support Connection was there really helped me to stay positive, look ahead and believe I was going to come out of this okay. Having a resource like Support Connection has been a critical asset to my overall well-being. It is my privilege to be associated with Andrea Karl and the critical role she played in so many women’s lives by receiving the Amazing Grace Award in her honor.
Volunteering and helping others have always come naturally to me. As a facilitator for Support Connection’s Men’s Support Group, I am not only supporting other men whose wives are affected by breast and gynecological cancers, but I am also utilizing the group as a source of support and learning for myself. Coming together as a group helps us all, including myself, feel a little less alone and helpless as caregivers for our wives.
Christine was born and raised in New York City. After a 20+ year career in the legal field, during which time she obtained a master’s degree from Fordham University and her Associate Broker’s license, she chose to focus full-time on creating what is now an exceptionally successful real estate business. We are blessed to have received incredible support from Christine for many years now. Christine explains, “my entire mission is to help others and that doesn’t just mean to buy and sell real estate. It’s not about transactions but about building relationships that last a lifetime. God has blessed me with certain gifts, and it’s important to me to use them to the best of my abilities. I’ve seen so many people go through health battles, including my own children, and it can be extremely lonely and scary. Having the support that Support Connection brings to the lives of others is immeasurable. I’m honored to be a part of this beautiful cause.”
In December 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Family and friends were very supportive, but what they couldn’t tell me was how it felt to hear those words, “you have cancer.” It took all my strength to pick up the phone to call Support Connection, but when I spoke to a counselor, a weight lifted off my shoulders. That was the beginning of many conversations, and there was always a word or phrase that clicked with the situation I was going through. The good Lord has put wonderful people in my life. Without the Lord, faith, and God in my life, I cannot imagine where I would be. When Support Connection called me and asked if I’d accept this award, I was stunned. Me, what did I do to be considered for this award. I leaned on SC for years. Support Connection saw something in me I didn’t. I’m truly blessed, knowing I added something to this community.
Christina Rae is a busy mother of three active kids, ages 7-17, a wife of almost 20 years, and an entrepreneur/small business owner of the PR & Marketing firm, Buzz Creators, Inc. Christina first met the Support Connection team through her PR work. In July 2021, Christina was diagnosed with breast cancer and knew just who to call for support, noting that “the fact that [the Peer Counselors] have all ‘been there themselves’ is so important. No one should fight cancer alone and I am so grateful an organization like Support Connection exists. It truly helped me, and it helps so many other people get through one of the toughest times of their life.”