BRISTOL - The Bristol Boys & Girls Club honored those whose efforts have led to the betterment of their community Thursday at the 34th Annual Humanitarian Dinner.
Each year, the club honors people for their dedication, sacrifices and accomplishments. That way, their actions can inspire others to “be a humanitarian.”
Mark DiVenere, chief volunteer officer of the Bristol Boys & Girls Club welcomed the guests.
“We’re all proud and humbled to be here as we continue to recognize individuals and area businesses that make Bristol great,” he said.
He also noted that the event was a “sold out crowd” with more than 330 people in attendance.
Daneirys Rivera, 2018 Youth of the Year, praised the club for having a positive impact on her life and those of others. She also offered an invocation.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu offered greetings on behalf of the city. “The Boys & Girls Club is embedded in our community,” she said. “We have enough award-worthy people in Bristol to keep this going forever. This is what it means to be an interconnected community. No matter what role you play, small or large, you have an opportunity to affect someone’s life.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Wallace “Wally” Barnes. Michael Suchopar, president and CEO of the club, praised Barnes for his achievements. He said it is one of the highest honors a Boys & Girls Club can bestow.
“It is great to give this award to one of my favorite people on the face of the Earth,” said Suchopar. “Your actions are embedded in the roots of this community. I feel honored to be in your presence and you make me feel motivated to accomplish even a small bit of what you have done. I am humbled and honored to consider you a friend.”
Barnes was a practicing lawyer for 10 years before joining Associated Spring, becoming vice president and then president. It was later re-named The Barnes Group and he served as its chair and CEO until he retired in 1994. He ran for Congress in 1985 and served 12 years in the state Senate, where he was Minority Leader in 1969.
“I’m very honored to receive this award,” said Barnes. “I think this is the most important award I have ever received. This is one of my favorite organizations in the city; they do very important work. I have done all I’ve done because I really care about this community. It’s a special place and my family has lived here for generations. It is one of the most interesting cities in Connecticut, with a lot of diversity. I’m very enthusiastic about Bristol and I always have been. Bristol has continued to reinvent itself over the years as the times have changed. I’m confident that this organization will help prepare young people to reinvent Bristol again as circumstances continue to change in the future.”
Scott Fournier and Tim and Mary Walsh were the recipients of this year’s Humanitarian Awards. The recipients of this award are chosen for making the community a better place to live.
Fournier, who along with Frank Johnson founded Shannon’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in 1975, has supported many community organizations over the past 50 years. He was a former director of the Bristol Boys & Girls Club Family Center and is now a director of the Main Street Community Foundation.
“The Bristol Boys & Girls Club is a gem in our community,” he said. “I’m proud to support it.”
Tim and Mary Walsh have been supporting humanitarian efforts behind the scenes in Bristol for 25 years.
The Special Service Award was presented to CompuMail Corp. and was accepted by Dana and Kathy Rickard. This award is given to an organization that provides significant resources to enhance the lives of people in the Greater Bristol community.
The Rickards founded CompuMail in 1990 as a direct mail company and it evolved into a full service marketing company.
The PLUS Awards were given to Carmelita Valerio and Lovey Pitaro. The award is given to a woman, family or civic organization that “unselfishly gives their time and heartfelt devotion” to people living in the Greater Bristol area.
Valerio was honored for 40 years of volunteering with community organizations and St. Anthony’s Church.
Pitaro was a math teacher in the Bristol School System for 35 years. She has spent 12 years with the Bristol Garden Club. She notably helped to transform the grounds at the Carousel Museum.
The Oliver Guadeau Award went to Carlos Soto. Award recipients embody the characteristics of Gaudeau, a 70-year member of the Older Members Association who volunteered with the club until he died at 93.
Soto joined the Forestville Boys Club as a child and participated in many activities. He later started volunteering to guide youths on hiking, camping and rafting trips and to teach kids how to cook. He volunteered for many years at St. Joseph’s Church and was a leader with the Boy Scouts for 25 years. He has mentored more than a dozen Eagle Scout candidates.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.