There was lots to celebrate at this year’s League School Night of Champions Gala: a lively auction, honorees who have devoted time and resources to the School, delicious food, sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible, and a packed house. But the loudest and most sustained applause was for former League Student, Connor Ellis, who appeared by video to welcome everyone and to describe his 10-year experience as a League School student. He said he liked all of his friends and teachers at the school. Through the League Transition Program, he gained valuable work experience at the Vanderbilt Club and Meals on Wheels that gave him skills that he uses at his job with Lifeworks Employment Services. With a terrific sense of humor, Connor talked about his favorite free time activities and spending time with family. Connor’s parents, Patricia and Geoff Ellis, were the among the evening’s honorees for their commitment to the school. They and Connor chaired the successful Gala event.
Over 235 people attended this year’s Night of Champions, held on May 2nd at the Four Points by Sheraton Norwood, more than the previous year. The event raised close to $125K. These funds will help pay for a new state-of-the-art playground behind the school. Attendees were invited to purchase an engraved brick for the School’s walkway to help complete this important project.
In his opening remarks, Roger Lockwood, the Board Chair, said, “Tonight’s event helps secure the future growth of a school that has a unique advantage: the program is customized to the way each student learns, which allows students to flourish.” He noted that everyone present had their own reason for being there. He shared that his own commitment came about after finding out that his grandson, Will, had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. His grandson has prospered as the result of an excellent educational foundation. “We need more outcomes like Will’s, and all of you tonight are helping to make that a reality,” he stated.
The Olen family received the Vetstein Award, in recognition of O’Lyn Roofing’s efforts to support families dealing with unexpected challenges, and their support of the School. League Founder Dr. Arnold Vetstein, for whom along with his wife the award is named, said, “The League School is where my heart is, and I appreciate the many supporters who make our vision a reality.”
Other honorees included Middlesex Savings Bank, for their grants supporting assistive technology programs and school-related events, and staff member Michael Sullivan. Dana Neshe, Chief Operating Officer of Middlesex Savings Bank, spoke about the Bank’s commitment to the communities where they serve and noted how proud she was to work for an organization that supports students with autism spectrum disorder. League School Facility Manager, Michael Sullivan, received the Director’s Award. “I’ve walked the hallways of the League School for over 6,000 days,” he said. “Over that time, I’ve appreciated your generosity that has helped so many students grow and learn.”
Guy Trudel was a pro at shepherding the live auction. A week stay in Aruba garnered the highest bidding of the night. Bidders also raised their paddles for a Walpole Fire Station Tour and Pizza Party, Sam Adams Brewery Tour, two-night stay in Newport with Wine & Food Festival tickets, and a two-night stay at a houseboat at Constitution Marina. The Silent Auction included a wide array of items, such as an autographed football, basketball, album, and electric guitar; event tickets; golf outings; and student artwork.
This successful event would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of League School Executive Director, Frank Gagliardi; Director of Development, Tim McCabe; Special Events Coordinator, Michelle Melanson; and parent volunteers. Many sponsors made the event possible – Leadership Sponsors Christopher Catanese Children’s Foundation, JBK Management LLC, Siemens Healthineers, and UnReal Candy Unjunked – and Patron Sponsors O’Lyn Roofing, Middlesex Savings Bank, and Amplified Insurance. Friend and Auction Sponsors, attendees, and auction bidders were also critical.
At the end of his remarks, Roger Lockwood noted some sobering statistics about the rise in autism spectrum disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism’s prevalence increased by 15% from 2014 to 2018 to one in 59 children. With more students requiring excellence in autism education, the Night of Champions Gala and other fundraising events help the League School fulfill its mission. “Thank you for all of your help for making it possible for students like Connor Ellis to learn and thrive,” he concluded.
TO VIEW MORE IMAGES FROM OUR NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS VISIT: