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News Nov 18, 2013 - 4:57:01 AM

12th Annual STAR Gala Receives Tremendous Community Support, Raising a Record-breaking $310,000 for Individuals with Disabilities

By STAR, Inc.

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Auctioneer June Delair with Congressman Jim Himes, Katrina O’Connor of Darien and STAR Executive Director Katie Banzhaf. (contributed photo)
On Saturday, November 9th, 264 guests enjoyed Under The Tuscan STARS, a fundraising gala and auction to benefit STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way… a not-for-profit organization that has served infants, children and adults with developmental disabilities, and their families since 1952. The gala held at Woodway Country Club in Darien, Connecticut attracted guest visits from Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes, and State Representative Gail Lavielle and raised over $310,000 for programs helping people in Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton, and Weston. The chairpersons of the gala committee were Rob and Meghan Cioffi of New Canaan, Mary Ferrara and John Masanotti of Darien, and Joseph and Nella Viesta of Stamford. STAR’s Executive Director, Katie Banzhaf, who celebrated her 30th Anniversary at STAR this year remarked, “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our local communities in addressing the needs and improving the lives of people with disabilities. For our event to have grown to this level of success is a testament to our volunteers, families, sponsors and staff whose dedication to our mission is impassioned and unwavering.”

Guests enjoyed elegant hors d’oevres and drinks, and bid on almost 100 silent auction items that included skiing, camping, yoga, Cape Cod and local hotel getaways, gourmet delicacies provided by local Italian eateries such as Romanacci Café, LaRocca’s Country Market, Quattro Pazzi, Pane e Bene, Osteria Romana, and Pasquale’s Osteria. Lovely home and gift items were available for auction from local businesses such as Helen Ainson, Good Directions, Maclaren N.A., Cook’s Nook, West Elm, Design Within Reach, Oriental Furnishings, Juliska and Simon Pearce, as were passes or tickets to sporting events such as the NY Yankees, US Open, NY Giants, Greenwich Polo Club, Bridgeport Bluefish and NJ Devils. Some of the more unusual selections included: 3 days of home carpentry work by Weglarz Construction, two men for a day of professional tree service from Bartlett Tree Experts, a day of plumbing by Kaiser-Battistone, flag flown over U.S. Capitol and tour by Congressman Jim Himes, hands-on pasta-making for four at Romanacci, cooking class for six at Aitoro’s Appliance showroom, and 12 months of mini cupcakes from Palmers Market in Darien.

Guests were greeted at the dining room by an accordion player and warm, Tuscan-themed decorations, including tiled pottery and plenty of sunflowers, grapes, and mini olive and cypress trees. Guests then listened to personal and heartwarming testimonials about the impact of STAR’s work in the community from Rosemary Lovello of Greenwich, Caroline Cioffi and Susan Weber of New Canaan, Caroline Hoffman, Claudette Nash and Denise Sapione of Norwalk, and Andrew Stefanou of Andrew Stefanou Salon and Spa of Darien. Dinner and dancing followed.

STAR President Edward Piorkowski hosted the presentation, along with Executive Director Katie Banzhaf. Auctioneer June DeLair led the live auction that included a Broadway Lights and Posh Overnight for Four with a choice of tickets to Broadway Shows, VIP Sports Packages to see NY Knicks vs. LA Lakers and NY Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox, a Tuscany vacation for four and California Sonoma Wine Country Spa Getaway for two, a Tauck Family Tour, and African Safari. One of the highlights was a Romance Package of delectable desserts courtesy of Michael Joseph’s Catering in Darien, floral arrangements, and champagne for six occasions that were created and delivered with the assistance of STAR participants.

Sponsors for the event were: David and Phyllis Komansky, Prospect Hill Foundation, Ted and Karen Walsh, Joan F. Dionne Foundation, Kesten-Brown Insurance, Sandy Hill Foundation, Callari Auto Group, John and Mary Lee Danaher, Mickey and Candace Herbst, Doug and Ali Milne, Mikael and Lynne Andren, Elaine Banzhaf, CohnReznick, Fairfield County Bank, Jason and Janie Konidaris, Pullman and Comley LLC, Ring’s End, Honda of Westport, Annie Konidaris, National Legacy Group, Tom and Trish O’Connor, Omnicare, Pepperidge Farm, and W.B. Mason. In-kind sponsors were Bishop Group, Inc., Classic Graphics, Doubletree Hotel of Norwalk, Hearst Media Services, Michael Joseph’s Catering, Miggs B Design, Moffly Media, PCI Creative Group, LLC

Committee members included Darien residents Lynne and Mikael Andren, Sandy Nielsen Baumann, Flavia Callari, Hilary and Carol Donegan, Peter and Katherine Gogolak, Obie and Beth Harrington-Howes, Doug and Ali Milne, Patrick and Katrina O’Connor, Jane Pelletier, Ed and Catherine Piorkowski and Llew Smith. Wilton residents include Doublas and Elizabeth Bayer, Barry and Judy Bosworth, John and Mary Lee Danaher, Jack and Deborah McFadden. Westport residents included Miggs Burroughs, Mickey and Candace Herbst, Robert and Doree Levy, Bill and Ann Scheff(l)er. Weston residents included Ken and Mary Kennedy, Mary McGee and Richard Batten, Joseph and Cathleen Piscitell. Norwalk residents included Assaf and Rebecca Ben-Atar, Denny and Sally D’Amato, Annie Konidaris and David and Sarah Taylor. New Canaan residents included Joan Dionne, Jason and Janie Konidaris, John and Polly Lowman and Mark Swimm. Committee members also included Rowayton resident Mark Carta, Ridgefield residents Rob and Pam Kesten and Stratford residents Terry and Russ Geibel.

Proceeds will be used to support STAR’s programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities, and their families. The Gala also celebrates the community of individuals with developmental disabilities leading full, productive and rewarding lives filled with friendships, loving family relationships, productive employment or volunteer work and community activities.
STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way is a not–for-profit organization located at 182 Wolfpit Avenue in Norwalk that serves infants, children and adults who have developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families. STAR creates opportunities for people to live full lives with independence, freedom of choice and personal growth by providing support, services and advocacy while informing and encouraging the community to recognize and appreciate the value of all individuals. For more information about STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way…please visit or call (203)846-9581 x302.

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