Annual Spirit Awards 2018

Our Spirit Awards are given each year to honor those who demonstrate dedication to our mission by providing inspiration, time, talent and other resources. The awards will be presented at our Annual Spring Benefit on April 20, 2018.

We are proud to introduce you to the recipients of our 2018 Spirit Awards!

Maria Rubino Jennings Spirit of Caring Award

Presented in honor and memory of Maria who helped create Support Connection’s Peer Counseling program and other services. Like Maria, the recipient has made a positive difference in many lives through the power of caring.

Marge O’Brien, Cortlandt Manor, NY

Marge’s first experience with Support Connection was in 2013 when her sister Eileen and a group of her friends (known as The Carmel Cardinals) decided to hold a fundraiser to benefit Support Connection. Marge donated a raffle prize and attended the event as well as another one the following year. The more she learned about Support Connection, the more involved she wanted to be. She began volunteering at the office and special events whenever she could, including important annual fundraisers like the Spring Benefit and Golf Outing. She joined the Golf Committee in 2015 and has held an active role ever since. Marge has also served as a Support Connection Community Ambassador, enthusiastically spreading the word to others and encouraging them to join the cause. For example, when Support Connection was invited to be part of a charity softball tournament, Marge enlisted family members to participate and fill the team roster.

Marge’s dedication to Support Connection’s mission is clear: “Volunteering for Support Connection has become one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I feel fortunate to be involved with this wonderful organization that has had such a positive impact on so many lives.”

Spirit of Giving Award

Presented to those who give of themselves in extraordinary ways to further Support Connection’s mission.

Sarah Chaparro and Family, Tarrytown, NY

Each year Sarah and her family raise funds for Support Connection by forming a Team for the Support-A-Walk. Together they have raised more than $25,000 over the past 14 years. The Team pays special tribute to Sarah’s mom, Elizabeth Chaparro, who died 15 years ago from breast cancer. Sarah got the idea to start the Team after her grandmother read a story about the Walk. Sarah and her family felt inspired by Support Connection’s free support services for women and families. Many family members are involved including Sarah’s siblings Bethany, RJ, Mary, and Joseph Chaparro; their father Roberto Chaparro; and Sarah’s fiancé Matthew Pace. Her mom’s family and her dad’s family have also been supportive. In recent years, the team has had 40-50 members.

Sarah explains what motivates them: “Support Connection has always meant hope for me and peace, a strong sense of community and coming together. It is a way to do something good with the most painful experience of my life. It is a way to make my mom live on and be remembered in such a beautiful and positive way. It has been very cathartic and healing to be a part of Support Connection.”

Spirit of Leadership Award

Presented to someone whose example and leadership helps and inspires others to make the world a better place, while empowering them to be the best that they can be.

Charlene Marie Nigro, Carmel, NY.

Since 2006, Charlene has been coordinator for the Career Exploration Internship Program at Lakeland High School and faculty advisor for the school’s FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America.) Prior to that she led the FBLA at Walter Panas HS for 2 years. Charlene’s first contact with Support Connection was 12 years ago when she brought her FBLA students to the Support-A-Walk for a day of volunteering. She has been at the Walk every year since, leading and inspiring many students along the way. Through the Internship program, Charlene has placed 10 students at Support Connection as volunteers where they’ve assisted with special events, community outreach and other tasks while learning valuable skills. Many continue giving to Support Connection long after their internships end.

Charlene is a wonderful leader whose guidance makes a real difference for her students and Support Connection. She says: “I enjoy working with students and helping them be the best versions of themselves. It’s always amazing when students recognize their own growth as a result of these programs. The students and I feel Support Connection’s mission and its far-reaching impact, not only to our community members but all those in surrounding areas as well, deserves full community support and we truly enjoy supporting this amazing organization.”

Spirit of Volunteerism Award

Presented to those who give their time and talents to Support Connection in extraordinary ways.

Phyllis Nadelhaft, Yorktown Heights, NY

Phyllis began volunteering for Support Connection in 2008. Since then she has been a regular presence at the office volunteering at least once a week to help any way she can. Phyllis also volunteers at special events and has served as a co-chair of the Support-A-Walk. Each year she gives 100+ hours of her time. An IBM retiree, Phyllis’s volunteer hours have qualified Support Connection for an annual grant from the company for the past 10 years. On top of all that, Phyllis makes beautiful handmade jewelry which she donates whenever a prize is needed and also sells to benefit Support Connection.

Phyllis’s personal experiences as a breast cancer survivor (diagnosed in 2005) motivate her: “Because I have been through breast cancer myself and have lost members of my immediate family to the disease as well, I find that this cause best represents what I want to be part of. I have spoken with people I know personally who have used the services of our counselors, and the feelings they expressed are so positive. The Support Connection staff truly cares about everyone that comes through their doors.”

Spirit of Hope Awards

Presented to individuals who offer inspiration to fellow cancer survivors. They have taken their own experiences and translated them into an opportunity to raise awareness about Support Connection’s mission. This year there are two recipients:

Julie P. Haney, Lake Carmel, NY

Julie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2012 and reached out to Support Connection almost right away. She has participated in support groups, attended educational programs, and maintains a close relationship with her Peer Counselors. But even while dealing with her own health issues, Julie has always thought of other women and their needs, looking for ways to help. She has willingly shared her story and experiences so other women can understand that support is available to them. She has created lovely gift bags filled with comforting items that are given to other women going through treatment. And she has created gifts to give to other survivors attending  Support Connection’s annual Celebrate Life Day event.

Julie says: “Anyone who knows me knows that Support Connection is my lifeline and has been since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 5 years ago. Everyone is so caring, considerate and thoughtful. Their support groups, programs and information sessions are excellent. But most of all, a Peer Counselor is only a phone call away to provide incredible empathy and inspiration because they’ve walked in my shoes. And if I falter, they are there to pick me up and give me the strength to continue to hope.”

Rebecca Phillippo, Sleepy Hollow, NY

Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 when she was only 36 years old. She contacted Support Connection soon after: “I will never forget the day I decided to call Support Connection. It was that first conversation with my Peer Counselor that showed me I did not have to go through any of this alone.” Rebecca joined the Young Women’s Support Group and continues to participate whenever she can; she appreciates the help it gave her and wants to be there for other young women also facing cancer. Having discovered the healing benefits of Pilates while dealing with her own recovery, Rebecca made a career change. She trained to be a Pilates instructor, then opened her own studio in 2015 and named it Forward Movement Lifestyle, inspired by her experiences. Through her work there, she helps others find ways to heal and move forward. A longtime competitive mountain bike racer, Rebecca has made it her mission to not allow cancer to stop her from living life to the fullest and takes every opportunity to share this philosophy to inspire others. She willingly shares her personal story whenever she’s asked and was the keynote speaker at Support Connection’s 2016 Celebrate Life Day.

Rebecca says: “Support Connection was and continues to be a great resource. Knowing that there is always someone there for me offering true compassion and support during and after a cancer diagnosis is truly invaluable.”

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