Club presents its Humanitarian Awards

By TAYLOR

MURCHISON-

GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Boys and Girls Club of Bristol Family Center celebrated its 34th annual Humanitarian Awards and Dinner, presenting five awards to seven individuals and one company, including the first ever presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Wallace “Wally” Barnes.

Michael Suchopar, president and CEO of BBGC, presented the award to Barnes, saying Barnes is one of his “favorite people.”

Barnes said he was “deeply grateful” to be presented with the Lifetime Achievement award, and that it was one of “the most important awards” he had ever received. Barnes said the City of Bristol has been able to reinvent itself many times throughout history, and has high hopes for today’s young people in helping the city to reinvent itself once again.

Daneirys Rivera, the 2018 Youth of the Year, also spoke, describing her time growing up in the Cambridge Park Clubhouse, where she now volunteers. Rivera is currently a senior at Goodwin Technical High School, and hopes to attend college in order to pursue her dreams of being a successful businesswoman.

John Smith, who sits as the vice chair on the Board of Finance, presented The Humanitarian Service Award to Scott Fournier. Fournier said his club experience began in 1957, when he received his first club card. Around 2005, Fournier was asked to serve on the club’s board of directors. He described the newest club building, 255 West St., as a “gem that Bristol should be proud of.”

“It’s not just a building, it’s what goes on inside that building – it’s the dedicated staff, the programs that they have,” said Fournier. “And so, when you’re thinking about donating to the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, you have to think about the good things they do, and how they have adapted their program to make it critical to these young people today.”

President and CPO of the United Way of West Central Connecticut, Donna Osuch, presented the Humanitarian Service Award to Tim and Mary Walsh. Due to their background with the Bristol Community Organization, the Walshes felt it was important for today’s young people to gain work experience before heading into the workforce. The United Way now hosts their program, the Walsh Summer Work Experience Program, which helps foster work experience, and career and skill development.

The PLUS Award was awarded to Carmelita Valerio and Lovey Pitaro. The PLUS Award recognizes a woman, family, of civic organization that volunteers their “time, energy, and heartfelt devotion” to people in the community.

Valerio was born and raised in Bristol, and spent the better part of the past 40 years volunteering for local organizations and her church. She spent over 15 years on the Bristol Hospital Auxiliary board, and has been a member of the Bristol Garden Club for the past 19 years.

Pitaro was a math teacher in the Bristol Public School system for 35 years. After retiring, she joined the Bristol Garden Club, where she has been a member for over 12 years. She has volunteered many hours to create award-winning garden displays across the city, such as the New England Carousel Museum. She has also volunteered in the fundraising efforts of Amy’s Angels, a organization that assists families throughout Connecticut who are facing medical financial obligations.

Don Coombs, president of the Older Members Association, presented the 2018 Oliver Gaudreau Award to Carlos “Charlie” Soto, who has been with the club for 17 years.

The award is given to someone who embodies the characteristics of Gaudreau, who was a volunteer at the club until his death at the age of 90. He was also a longtime member of the Older Members Association.

“The OMs and this award are rich in tradition, so this award is not taken lightly,” said Soto. “All we do is for the kids.”

The Special Service Award was presented to Dana and Kathy Rickard, founders of CompuMail. The award recognizes an organization which “provides significant resources intended to enhance the lives of others in the Greater Bristol Community.”

“The way we run our company is like a baseball team – and we have a great team. The things that we look for on our team are honesty, work ethic, and attitude,” said Kathy Rickard. “Job skills can be taught, but those three things you learn during your formative years, by your family or by the guiding forces in your life, which is why it’s so important to all of us to support the Bristol Boys and Girls Club.”