ECHO’s first annual Gratitude Dinner to celebrate the community was graciously hosted by Tanya and Joe Matthews of Trillium Farm Gathering Place in Lincoln, VA on October 26th. The venue was perfect, providing event space and a theater in an idyllic setting.
Drinks and hors d’ouevres were followed by a performance by A Place To Be. Kim Tapper, Associate Director of A Place To Be, led the evening performance. A Place To Be provides music and expressive arts therapy to help people face, navigate and overcome life’s challenges. ECHO is partnering with A Place To Be and the evening’s performers primarily included ECHO participants.
A delicious dinner catered by Sophiann Nunaley followed after which Ellen Crosby gave a moving keynote about her son’s path to finding ECHO. Ellen is the best-selling author of the Virginia wine country mystery series beginning with The Merlot Murders and most recently boasting Vineyard Victims, which will be available to the public on November 7th. Ellen’s talk about ECHO’s impact on her family resonated with a number of the attendees.
ECHO CEO Paul Donohue, Jr. thanked everyone in attendance, “Gratitude is one of the most important human emotions and it is appropriate for ECHO to express our thanks to all of you. That is why we put together tonight͛’s dinner event. Without you, ECHO could not fulfill its mission. Since 1975, ECHO has strived to empower adults with disabilities so that they can live a full and inclusive life within our great Northern Virginia community. Whether you are a government official, a business leader, a fellow citizen or a dedicated ECHO Board member, please know how much we appreciate your efforts on behalf of the people we serve.”
Community partners including the Dulles Greenway, GEICO, Blossom and Bloom Thrift Shop, the Rotary Club of Dulles International Airport and the German Armed Forces Command, K2M and Play To Win were then recognized.
Next organizations were noted for their commitment to including individuals with disabilities at their places of business, beginning with the Federal Aviation Administration for which ECHO has worked since 1976. Other longstanding business partners include Loudoun County Government, Loudoun County Public Schools, REHAU Americas, TTM Technologies, Prototype Productions, Inc., the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration under the Department of Transportation, Good Shepherd Alliance Thrift Stores, INOVA Loudoun Hospital and INOVA Cornwall Hospital, CIS Secure Computing, K2M, Aramark at the AOL/Oath campus, Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Closet of Herndon, and Reston Limousine
Community Leaders were next celebrated, notably the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (of which Chairwoman Phyllis Randall and Supervisor Tony Buffington were in attendance), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burke, and Tony Howard and the entire Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.
The ECHO Board of Directors was also recognized as were Volunteers, including Ambassador of the Year Ruth Jacoby for raising money to tune a piano and consistently playing the piano for ECHO program participants.
The evening concluded with a silent auction including a historic villa in Montenegro, a two night stay at a bed-and-breakfast and items donated by Fortessa. The Matthews’ hospitality and sponsors’ generosity ensured that the evening was a resounding success, raising nearly $4,000 for ECHO to further its mission to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their optimal level of personal, social and economic success.
ECHO plans to greatly expand its Gratitude Dinner next year to include and showcase a greater number of individuals and organizations who have supported its staff and programs over the years. ECHO is committed to making a difference in the lives of men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities and appreciates the importance of celebrating our community’s contributions to those who face challenges in their lives.