Nearly 400 breakfast diners gathered at the Waterview in Monroe, Wednesday, June 12, for the 24th Annual Newtown Chapter Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut Summer Breakfast fundraiser, a number that pleased Co-chairman Marg Studley. “It’s a good turnout,” said Ms Studley, as she greeted guests and, along with Marie Sturdevant, finalized details of the hourlong program that began at 8 am.
The annual breakfast fundraiser supports the missions of the Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, and serves as a means of thanking the many volunteers who make the programs successful.
Through the sponsorship of tables by individuals, organizations, and businesses, and “tips” that breakfast guests place in envelopes on each table, as well as a raffle of items donated by local merchants and individuals, the Summer Breakfast is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Newtown Chapter. Corporate sponsors this year were TR Paul, Newtown Lions Club Foundation, Newtown Savings Bank, and Union Savings Bank.
As diners settled in, Ms Studley and Ms Sturdevant thanked the local volunteers and supporters, then turned the podium over to the Reverend Mel Kawakami of Newtown United Methodist Church for the blessing.
Saying he had just spent a day with a Hospice patient “who sang the praises of the program,” Rev Kawakami gave thanks “to those who lead us through the life we know,” and asked continued blessings on “the work of their hands and hearts.”
Each year, a guest speaker is invited to share his or her Hospice experience, but this year Regional Hospice President and CEO Cynthia Roy Squitieri addressed the group, introducing a special guest.
Newtown Middle School seventh grader Ryan Patrick “did something extraordinary,” Ms Squitieri said. On December 15, the day following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ryan told his mother that he needed to do something to help the children of Newtown. Researching on his own, Ryan came up with the idea of selling wristbands.
Ryan designed the blue and yellow wristbands reading “We R One,” and sold them for $3 a piece.
“He inspired people,” said Ms Squitieri, and because of his efforts, Ryan raised $24,000 that he donated to the Healing Hearts Center For Grieving Children & Families, a Regional Hospice program.
Since 1995, Healing Hearts has served more than 1,000 children a year. It is the largest bereavement center in the state, and all services are provided free of cost, Ms Squitieri said.
Healing Hearts, currently located at 73 Stadley Rough Road in Danbury, offers support to children who have lost a parent or sibling, to parents who have lost a child to suicide, and to families who have lost a spouse or child. The facility will be integrated into the new Regional Hospice and Home Care Residential Facility, said Ms Squitieri, which is slated to open in 2014.
“I’m inspired by Ryan Patrick,” said Ms Squitieri, and calling Ryan forward, she awarded him with a glass Youth Leadership Award plaque. “I’m honored to give you this award,” she said, and noted that Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut has never before, in 30 years, given out a Youth Leadership Award.
“I’m very honored to get this award,” Ryan said, following the ceremony. “I never knew this would happen, that it would go this far. I just wanted to help as much as I could,” he said.
Ryan ordered 8,000 of the bracelets, not expecting to sell all of them. While many 12/14 commemorative bracelets are the Sandy Hook School colors of green and white, Ryan chose yellow and blue, colors associated with the Newtown High School and town. “I picked those colors, because this wasn’t just about the Sandy Hook area. It was about the whole community coming together,” Ryan said. All 8,000 of the bracelets sold.
“We couldn’t do this if it were not for your help,” Ms Squitieri told those in attendance. “We are unbelievably blessed,” she said, thanking all who attend the fundraising breakfasts and the more than 500 volunteers who assist Regional Hospice at all levels.
To find out more about Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, to donate, or to learn how to volunteer, visit www.regionalhospicect.org or call 203-702-7400.