School Champions Recognized at Gala
League School parent, Michelle Lagana, captured the spirit of the League School’s purpose at this year’s Night of Champions Gala. “The League School delivers hope when hope is thought to be too big a thing to wish for,” she said. “We lost hope for our autistic son and then the League School opened its doors to our family, and we began to feel hope again. The school changes the course of countless family lives for the positive.”
Through the committed work of League School staff, Anthony Lagana developed self-awareness, confidence, and coping skills. He switched from the day to the residential program to get the extra time he needed to improve his regulation skills. In 2020, he knew he was ready to return to the day program. “With the school’s support, I was able to learn how to be flexible and gain independence,” said Anthony. “I am very successful thanks to the outstanding efforts of this school.”
“The Lagana family message is inspiring,” said League School Director of Development, Tim McCabe. “Through the dedication of the school’s teachers and staff, Anthony has made tremendous strides.” Anthony is now a part-time employee at Amazon. Emcee Jon Meterparel presented Anthony with a certificate of achievement for his ambassador work for the evening soliciting local business donations with his job coach and several peers in support of the evening.
Supporters Make a Difference for Students and School
Thanks to the generous support of many individuals and business sponsors, including at the 2019 gala, the completed Outdoor Learning Space will be a reality in 2022. More than a playground, the area extends the school’s educational approach. The first phase allows for outdoor learning in a safe, socially distanced environment. New features will advance social skills and physical activity.
Putting together this year’s Night of Champions wasn’t easy. The planning committee made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 event and then to postpone it twice in 2021 due to COVID concerns. Through the support of the committee, staff, and business community, the event finally came together on November 11 at Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood. “There was great energy during the evening, and it was nice to see each other in person,” said Tim. “The evening gave us an opportunity to celebrate the hard work of our teachers and staff during these unprecedented times.”
Supporters attended and raised over $115,000 for the school. The funds will help give students the resources they need to succeed. “During the pandemic, the needs of the school didn’t go away, and costly technology tools became more critical for our students,” said Tim. “
Contributing to the success of this year’s event were business community supporters including Lead Sponsors:
· JBK Management
· The Christopher Catanese Children’s Foundation
This year’s auction included limited-edition Mickey Mantle baseball cards, airplane tickets to Nantucket, and a three-night escape to Narragansett. This year’s $50 mystery boxes including raffle drawing for a necklace and earring set were also popular.
Honoring Our Champions
Dr. Arnold Vetstein, with his late wife, Leona, set out in 1966 to create an educational environment where their son, and other autistic children, could thrive. Along with other founders, their vision and efforts live on. Dr. Vetstein was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and it was fitting that on Veteran’s Day the League School bestowed the Vetstein Award for a commitment to helping children live to their fullest potential.
Former Patriots player Duron Harmon, and his wife Christine, received this year’s Vetstein Award. Two years ago, they visited the school, and enthralled students and teachers alike. Their 2019 donation to the school funded 40 new iPads, and their foundation, Harmon’s Heroes, supports the autism community. Duron Harmon was preparing for a game against the Dallas Cowboys and was unable to attend the gala but sent along a video. He pledged another $5,000 to keep up the great work of the school.
Community Leadership Award
The Community Leadership Award honors local businesses that have a passion for supporting people with autism and support the school’s mission. Direct Federal Credit Union, which has supported the school since 2017 and offers League employees financial wellness programs, was this year’s recipient. Direct Federal employees volunteer at many school events, and the credit union is an annual sponsor of the school’s 5K Walk/Run for Autism. The company also supports the communities where they’re located through several philanthropic, volunteer, and financial education initiatives.
Board of Director’s Award
Due to COVID concerns, Dr. Frank Gagliardi did not attend this year’s Gala, but we look forward to celebrating him and his contributions to the school in the spring. “When we gather for that occasion, we will talk about the many accomplishments Frank achieved during his 12 years of leadership at the League School,” said Board Chair, Roger Lockwood. “He doubled the schools’ footprint; created space for a gymnasium, classrooms, and administrative offices; envisioned state-of-the-art residences on campus; and brought about a unique approach to educating students with autism with the SCERTS program.”
Roger noted that Frank left the school in the best financial shape of its history, elevated League to a place of honor and respect in the autism community, and created an environment of excellence where the mission is always clear: it’s all about the kids. He invited everyone to join in the spring celebration for Frank – hopefully in person.
Teamwork Instrumental for League School’s Pandemic Success
The League School team pulled together during a stressful and unpredictable time to provide residential care when the state was on pandemic lockdown. Teachers and staff quickly pivoted to a remote learning environment – something they had never done, determined safety protocols and equipment needs for reopening, and reallocated space for social distancing.
“The common theme tonight is how important a strong support system is in helping children with autism find a path to success… to overcome or to surpass their challenges and become a Champion,” said CEO Larry Sauer. “I am extraordinarily lucky to have an outstanding staff who have kept their focus on our students throughout a very difficult time. First, on keeping them healthy and safe, but second, making sure they continue to get an education and make progress. Despite never having provided remote education before, every staff person participated in this work, kept the students and families connected to the school, and made the best of an unprecedented experience. Thank you to our team for getting the job done with amazing skill, professionalism, and care for our students.”