Paladin’s 51st Annual Gala on Saturday invited clients, their family and friends, and Paladin employees and volunteers to celebrate another year of growth and inspiration in the Stardust Ballroom at Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa.
Depending on who you talked to, the best part of the night was up for debate. Clients Raymond Ballard and Matthew Kier, both of La Porte, argued strongly for the food. The dinner, to their credit, was fantastic with delicious options for all diets.
On the other hand, a lot of folks voted for the dancing, which followed dinner. The awards presentation was also certainly the keystone of the event.
“People say ‘dance like no one’s watching,’” said President and CEO Bill Trowbridge. “We really put that wisdom into action. Every one of our clients gets on the dance floor and has the time of their lives.”
But the entire gala was an excellent example of synergy and of putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak.
“We are a family. We’re not just a company,” said Care Coordinator Amanda Jost. “We see our clients strive to the best of their ability and we love to support that.”
Client involvement was an integral part of the event. Before dinner, the audience was graced with a piano duet by client Brittany Schilla of La Porte and her music teacher Gemma.
Schilla was nervous and excited before the performance, as it was her very first, but calmed a bit as she practiced during the sound check.
“Gemma told me if I mess up, just keep going and nobody will know the difference,” Schilla said. “This is going to be really amazing. I think it will be awesome.”
Awesome it was. After all, she had only been playing piano for a few months, practicing at her teacher’s house twice a week to prepare, and it showed. If any mistakes were made, nobody noticed as their duet was truly beautiful.
Client Matthew Kier of La Porte was excited to give the speech he had worked on with his teacher, Kelly.
“I’m looking forward to good food and dancing,” Kier said, “But I worked hard on my speech so that I can tell everyone they did a good job.”
Kier’s speech announced the Volunteer of the Year Award, which went to MVP Andie Wolfinsohn. In his speech, Kier noted that Wolfinsohn, “goes above and beyond. She’s always happy to jump in and give whatever help is needed. We are blessed to have her as a part of our family.”
A member of Wolfinsohn’s own family, her daughter Stacy, presented the Employer of the Year award to her own employer, Al’s Supermarkets. In her speech, she thanked Al’s for, “giving me the opportunity to do something I love, working in the community with coworkers and customers who are extremely thoughtful and gracious.”
“The clients love handing out the awards,” said Finance Officer Terri Yahrmatter. “They love helping Bill!”
The clients themselves win Surber Awards, named after Michiana Resources founder Richard F. Surber, for going above and beyond their daily goals.
“It’s about recognizing what our volunteers do,” said Trowbridge, “but it’s really important that we recognize our clients for all that they do.”
“This population is so inspiring,” Development & Marketing Officer Erin Mooneyhan said, “It’s a great night to celebrate everyone’s growth.”
“We love being with our clients in a different atmosphere,” Volunteer of the Year Wolfinsohn said. “Seeing them blossom when they’re with their friends and their staff. We love being a part of the Paladin family.”
The night was filled with strong appreciation and support for all in attendance, and it successfully celebrated an incredible year of growth for Paladin.
If you are interested in contributing to, or learning more about, the Paladin family of services that serve to empower persons with disabilities across La Porte and Lake Counties, visit their website here!