Each year at our Annual Benefit, we present awards to honor those who demonstrate dedication to our mission by providing inspiration, time, talent and other resources.
We are proud to introduce you to the recipients of our 2020 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 recipients have made a positive difference in many lives through the power of caring.
Somers Women’s Club
The Somers Women’s Club began in 1972 as the Somers Junior Women’s Club, then reincorporated in 2000 as the Somers Women’s Club. There are currently 50 members: all residents of Somers, or neighboring towns without a Women’s Club. The Club engages in a number of service activities throughout the year that make a real difference in the lives of those in our communities. For example, they: hold an annual blood drive; provide holiday gifts to families in need; offer college scholarships, and scholarships for Somers Town summer camp; donate needed supplies, gifts and other items to the Putnam Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center, Community Center of Northern Westchester and A-Home.
The Club first became aware of Support Connection a number of years ago when our Executive Director Katherine Quinn spoke about our services at a meeting. Since then, a number of Club members or their families or friends have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer and utilized our services. As a result, the Club has supported our mission in various ways.
For many years they’ve had a team at our Annual Support-A-Walk. They support our Spring Benefit with a Journal ad, and for the past 3 years have attended the fashion show for our upscale resale shop Fantastic Finds. About five years ago, the Club began making and donating beautiful baskets filled with comforting items to give to women going through cancer. Twenty-five women benefit from this wonderful gift each year, helping them during a very difficult time.
The Club’s focus is always on making a real and personal impact on people who need help. Club President Jodi Hu says “We feel great when we can support local organizations where we can see the results of our service, and know we are helping people.”
Jodi adds: “We are thrilled and honored to receive the Maria Rubino Jennings Spirit of Caring Award. Although we don’t do what we do for any sort of public recognition, it is rewarding to receive it. We are also happy because this will help raise awareness among Club members and the community about the work Support Connection does.”
Spirit of Giving Award
Presented to those who are an inspiration to others and clearly demonstrate what it means to give of oneself.
Nancy’s involvement with Support Connection goes back many years. It began in 1996 when she worked at Lakeland High School and met Katherine Quinn through the school’s PTA. That was the year Support Connection was established, with Katherine as founding Executive Director. From the start, Nancy was a donor and supporter of our mission; her commitment to Support Connection has grown and continued ever since.
In addition to her own personal support, Nancy contributes through her business: Unique Design Creations creates beautiful custom and unique gift baskets for all special occasions and events, such as corporate gift baskets, sympathy baskets, and baskets for holidays, birthdays and other celebrations. Through the company’s “Donate While You Shop” program, customers can choose a charity like Support Connection to receive a portion of the purchase price as a donation. Nancy is also Executive Director of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce. In this role, she encourages the Chamber and local businesses to lend further support to our organization.
Nancy also has a personal connection to our mission. Her sister Louise Zayas passed away in 2015 of ovarian cancer. Nancy says: “She was the strongest woman I know and fought the good fight till the end. She is now our Angel.”
Nancy encourages and inspires others to give to Support Connection. She says: “Everyone knows someone who is affected by breast and ovarian cancer. This organization offers emotional support and services that you can tell your friends and family to reach out to, when you feel all hope is lost and you don’t know where to turn. You do not have to feel alone.”
Receiving the Spirit of Giving Award means a great deal to Nancy: “I am honored and so very grateful to be receiving this award. I feel extremely grateful that I have contributed in my personal and professional way to this amazing organization that is always so supportive to our community, friends and family.”
Spirit of Community Award
Presented to those who give of themselves in extraordinary ways to further Support Connection’s mission.
Diane Buschel and the Golden Apple Chorus
Diane Buschel and The Golden Apple Chorus have a long history with Support Connection, a history that is interconnected. Diane has been a dedicated Support Connection volunteer for 23 years. Among other things, she helps out at most of our special events. She also does outreach, such as representing the organization at community events to share information about our services.
Diane joined the chorus in 1977 because she always loved to sing. The award-winning Golden Apple Chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International, is an all-female a cappella chorus that sings four-part harmony. Under the leadership of their musical director Dr. Anastasio “Stash” Rossi, they an extraordinary group of women who gather together in celebration of the art form known as barbershop music.
About 20 years ago, Diane connected the chorus to Support Connection and they’ve been involved ever since. Each year at our Support-A-Walk they sing at the starting ribbon. They’ve also sung at other Support Connection events such as Celebrate Life Day. And they’ve performed at local businesses to raise funds for us. In 2019, to celebrate the Walk’s 25th Anniversary, Diane and fellow chorus member Barbara DeFerrari wrote a tribute song about Support Connection’s work.
The chorus makes a difference to many people throughout the community by sharing the gift of music. They have brightened the lives of people in senior residences, veteran’s homes, nursing homes, children’s hospitals and more.
On behalf of her fellow chorus members, Diane says: “We are truly honored to receive the Spirit of Community Award. All of us have a friend or family member, if not ourselves, who are have been affected by cancer. Several of our chorus members have had cancer diagnoses and were greatly helped by Support Connection programs. The work that Support Connection does and the way they touch so many peoples’ lives is extraordinary. We are honored to support your organization.”
Julie Haney Spirit of Hope Awards
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. It is given to individuals who offer inspiration to fellow cancer survivors, as Julie did. By sharing their personal stories, they empower others to reach out to us for help and encourage people to support our free services.
Barbara is a breast cancer survivor who was first diagnosed in 1996. Her involvement with Support Connection began not long after her initial diagnosis. She had known Myra Adamski (the wife of our late co-founder Richard Adamski) for years before Myra passed away. Barbara says: “Myra was the only person I’d ever known who had breast cancer. So when I was diagnosed, I knew to reach out to Support Connection.” She was grateful to be able to attend a support group, and also did some volunteering at the office when she could.
In 2017, Barbara had been retired for a couple of years and wanted to do some volunteer work. That same year she learned that her cancer had recurred. So volunteering for Support Connection seemed like a perfect fit. She decided to volunteer one day a week at our store, Fantastic Finds (which had just opened that year) and has continued to do so ever since.
In January of 2018, Barbara’s commitment to Support Connection grew further when she began working part time as our Administrative Coordinator. She spends three days a week answering the phone, connecting callers with our counselors, greeting visitors, and handling many tasks that keep our office running smoothly.
Barbara is honored to receive the Spirit of Hope award: “To be honest, I was a bit surprised. I never looked at myself as someone who might be inspiring to others. It feels great to be recognized in this way.” She says her family is also proud: “I have three sons. I’m not sure if they thought of me as strong or inspiring, but when I told them about the award, they were very happy about it.”
Sharing Support Connection’s mission is important to Barbara: “Before I was diagnosed, the only person in my life who’d had cancer was my father who died of lung cancer 6 weeks after being diagnosed. Years ago, no one talked about cancer or knew where to go. Support Connection is an amazing organization. Working there day after day, I see firsthand the difference it makes when women and families can speak with our Peer Counselors. I am honored to be a part of that.”
Debra was diagnosed with both uterine and cervical cancer on the same day in 2006, the day after her birthday: “It was such a shock. I was scared.” She learned about Support Connection while she was in treatment, and reached out for support right away: “I was fortunate to have the Peer Counselors to speak to during such a traumatic time in my life. They helped me through the process, and since they’re cancer survivors themselves, they totally understood my fears, hopes, and dreams.”
Debra has relied on Support Connection’s programs ever since. She began attending our weekly yoga class in 2007. She says it has made her body stronger and more flexible, and the instructor and participants are inspiring. Debra is also a regular at Tai Chi, Canasta and Mah Jong, and has attended other educational and wellness programs. Her favorite event each year is Celebrate Life Day: “It gives me the opportunity to sit with old and new friends I’ve met during my journey. It’s so exhilarating to see the large number of women who attend each year. Many are reaching 15, 20, 35 years cancer free.”
Because she is so grateful for what Support Connection has given her, she finds ways to give back every chance she gets. She’s been a frequent volunteer at our office and community outreach events, and shares information about our services at medical offices, hospitals and local businesses. She carries brochures wherever she goes. Debra also attends our fundraising events, including our Annual Support-A-Walk, which she’s attended since 2006. Her Walk teams have raised more than $12,000.
Debra is happy to help: “I am involved with Support Connection because they assisted in helping me get through a very difficult time in my life. They are just one phone call away, which is so helpful. Anyone can call from any part of the country.”
Receiving the Spirit of Hope Award means a lot to Debra: “I feel humbled and delighted to accept this award. Every day Support Connection changes someone’s life for the better. When I first entered the Support Connection office, I could feel the love and hope. Fourteen years later, I truly feel the same way. My mission is to spread the word: When in need, it is Support Connection IN DEED!