IGHL (Independent Group Home Living) once again held its Annual Spring Gala at the stunning Flowerfield catering facility in St. James, this year honoring Southampton Businessman John Tortorella of J.Tortorella Custom Gunite Swimming Pools and Sun Stream USA.
IGHL is nationally recognized as the standard by which all service providers to people with developmental disabilities are measured. Founded shortly after the 1972 Geraldo Rivera exposé that revealed the horrific conditions and mistreatment of developmentally disabled children at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, IGHL was founded by a group of concerned Long Islanders with Walter Stockton as its Executive Director and Conrad Kuhn as its Chairman of the Board. To this day Stockton remains at the helm of this vital organization and under his guidance IGHL has grown to include 75 facilities serving hundreds of men, women and children with a staff of over 1,500 dedicated caregivers..”
Stockton explained the importance of the annual gala, particularly during a time of cutbacks in governmental support, “This is our foremost event of the year, it is our flagship event. Events like these help us close the gap due to the state and federal support cutbacks that are having a severe effect on our operations.”
Once again, Hamptons.com columnist and WFAN sports commentator Ann Liguori served as Master of Ceremonies and did a fabulous job not only introducing the evening’s honorees and Stockton, but also in explaining the work and importance of the mission of IGHL and her long time support for the organization. Also returning this year were Country Music artists Dillon Dixon and Grammy nominated songwriter Billy Austin who provided the evening’s entertainment that thrilled the guests and had many of them on their feet dancing to both classic country and rock standards and the artists’ original compositions.
New to this year’s event was not the always emotionally moving video sharing the experiences of IGHL consumers, their families and caregivers, but this year’s moderator of the video. Long time IGHL supporter Jim McCann of 1-800-FLOWERS, who has a family member participating in the IGHL program, lent his familiar face and voice to the 2013 video presentation which was broadcast on large screen TVs throughout the Flowerfield facility. McCann described his and his company’s support for the work of IGHL, “If I am going to take my hat off to anybody, it is the IGHL caregivers that take extraordinary care of the people that are so important to us.”
Along with Gala Honoree John Tortorella, Edward Wesche of Wesche Funeral Home was recognized for his support of IGHL and was named the 2013 Business Leadership Award recipient. Tortorella told us, “I am so proud and humbled to part of this great organization and to be this year’s honoree. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of the great work they do. It is truly amazing.”
Wesche explained his support for IGHL, “As businessmen we can do and must do what we can to help this fine organization in keeping costs down. I am absolutely honored, it is the thrill of a lifetime to be here.”
A very special aspect of the evening were the tables displaying the artwork of IGHL clients involved in the monthly workshops entitled Painting in Southampton. The artwork was stunning and for sale in support of the IGHL Artist Exhibition Center that is located at 286 West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays. The center is open to the public and they have a web gallery at www.ighlartist.org.
Joining the IGHL supporters were many IGHL caregivers and the consumers they take care of with kindness, patience and heartfelt concern. For all connected with IGHL, both caregivers and clients, it was truly a magical night in the absolutely stunning setting that is Flowerfield.
Bravo to all who attended in support of IGHL, an organization that provides care and dignity to individuals who too often in the past were ignored and abused. IGHL is a voice demanding respect for those among us who may not be able to demand it for themselves.