WALTHAM, MA (April 11, 2022): On April 7, 2022, The Arc of Massachusetts held its Building Brighter Futures Gala and Auction at the Westin Waltham Boston. The event was a true success, raising $220,000 to support The Arc’s crucial work of enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and autism. Chris McKinnon returned to emcee the Gala for a fourth time.
The program featured music, a film, and panel discussion. Self-advocate Stefano Micali, a young man with autism, provided musical entertainment during the cocktail reception. Parent Michael Biales performed a song about fearing for who will care for his son with disabilities after he and his wife are no longer around to do so. This song led into the screening of the short film “What Was It Like?” in which eight young adults with IDD and autism ask their parents about what it was like when they learned their children were born with disabilities, how society responded to them, and how they have surpassed expectations ever since.
Following the film, emcee Chris McKinnon led a thoughtful conversation among three panelists from The Arc’s community: Gyasi Burks-Abbott, a self-advocate with autism; Cindy Haddad, who has a sibling with IDD; and Julie Heffernan, mother of a young adult with Down syndrome. Jonathan Gardner, a young man with autism and a cancer survivor, shared stories of his experiences in the world of healthcare and how he has faced bias in care due to medical professionals not looking past his diagnosis of autism in order to address his urgent needs.
The Arc of Massachusetts also honored Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretary Marylou Sudders, recognizing her for her leadership and support of this community, especially during the last two years. Executive Director Leo Sarkissian and Board President Scott Borchardt presented Secretary Sudders with a painting in recognition of her service.
“We are so grateful for everyone who made this incredible evening possible,” said Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc of Massachusetts. “Our sponsors, chapters, donors, Board of Directors, and community truly came together to show their support of work and our efforts to build brighter futures for the individuals with IDD and autism in Massachusetts. The Building Brighter Futures Gala showed just how important it is to address the needs of this community, who are subject to bias in so many fields, from healthcare to education.
Sarkissian continued, “The last two years have shown us time and again just how strong our community is, and how eager they are to come together to ensure that tomorrow is brighter, better, more inclusive, and more equitable for their loved ones. Things might be difficult for this community right now, with the ongoing pandemic, the workforce shortage crisis, and more, but when we come together for reasons like this, it’s a strong reminder just how much of a difference we can make to effect positive change for all people with IDD and autism.”
Top sponsors of the Building Brighter Futures Gala and Auction include Tracy and John Atkinson; People’s United Bank; PwC; Raytheon; Scott and Julie Borchardt; Affinia Financial Group; EY; Beaverbrook STEP, Inc; KPMG; Tito’s Handmade Vodka; Vinfen; Deborah Norton and John Moynihan; and Janet and Art Rico.
A virtual Part 2 of the Gala will be held on Thursday, April 14. Additional details will be posted at www.arcmass.org/Brighter.
About The Arc of Massachusetts
For 67 years, The Arc of Massachusetts has been working to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, and their families. We fulfill this through advocacy for community supports and services that foster social inclusion, self-determination, and equity across all aspects of society. To learn more, visit www.arcmass.org, follow @TheArcofMass on Twitter, or join our Facebook community.