Ability Partners Foundation recently held its 14th annual Gala Dinner and Auction Event at Belhurst Castle in Geneva.
Several community members were honored with awards in recognition of their volunteer time and service.
Richard Hawks and his daughter, Jackie Hawks Lyttle, received this year’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. Hawks serves as an APF board member, founding member of Happiness House and retired senior vice president and senior fiduciary officer for Canandaigua National Bank and Trust. Hawks Lyttle serves as first vice chairman of the board of directors for Ability Partners Inc., CP Rochester and Rochester Rehabilitation. She is also vice president of product and contract management at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Hobart College senior J. Patrick O’Connell III received the Volunteer of the Year Award. O’Connell started working with APF through the football team’s Tackles and Touchdowns fundraiser. O’Connell has led this event with the athletics department to raise more than $41,000 in three years. He and some of his teammates visited Happiness House and spent time with preschool children.
James King, vice president and commercial banking officer for Lyons National Bank, received the Outstanding Board Member of the Year Award. King serves as chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee and works on the Long Range Planning Committee at Ability Partners Inc. He actively supports its mission and recruits new members for the board along with donations for its agencies. King serves on the boards of the Geneva Revolving Loan Fund and Geneva Lakefront Childcare Center.
Four community members received Years of Service awards for serving the agencies for more than 10 years: Ann Kurz, 25 years; Mary Herlihy Gearan, 15 years; Michael Coppola, 15 years; and Hawks Lyttle, 10 years.
Keynote speakers Mike Bentley, Nanci Bentley, Kim Cromwell and Nozomi Williams addressed attendees to the sold-out gala. Journalist Patrice Walsh served as the master of ceremonies.
Mike and Nanci Bentley shared their support of Happiness House and the progress their son, MJ, has made over the past four years after he was diagnosed at 6 months old with Pallister-Killian syndrome. The Bentleys said their son has defied all odds thanks to Happiness House’s support.
“We have become better parents and advocates with the continued support of Happiness House,” they said.
Williams, a longtime supporter of Happiness House and APF, discussed her personal journey and commitment to making opportunities available that will help those with disabilities to thrive. She was recently honored with the Women of Distinction Award by the New York State Senate.
All proceeds supported programs and services of CP Rochester, Happiness House and Rochester Rehabilitation.