Kennedy Center recognizes community outreach

“It Takes A Community” was the theme of The Kennedy Center’s 63rd annual awards dinner on April 3. The event, hosted by the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, honored nine award recipients.

John Tartaglio of Milford, an inspirational speaker and author of From Tragedy to Triumph, keynoted the event. He was also this year’s winner of the Center’s Vision Award, given to an individual who is determined to have “the vision to elevate the human consciousness to believe in the potential of all people.”

Tartaglio’s journey started on Aug. 22, 2004, when he awoke with unbearable pain in his legs. He later lost his legs to a bacterial infection at age 17 and contracted a disease so rare it has been documented only 35 times.

He went on to graduate from Fairfield University with honors and became the first person to run in the NY Marathon without legs. Tartaglio still lives in Milford with his wife and daughter.

The Kennedy Center also recognized area employers who have hired clients and celebrated the achievements of people with disabilities who have accomplished much in the community and workplace. Co-chairs Rachelle Mitchell and Mary Brown organized the event.

Other award winners announced that evening included Christina Jansen, Supported Employee of the Year; John Maher, Competitive Employee of the Year; CVS/Caremark, Competitive Employer of the Year; Daniel DeLucia, Emily Kirsch of Fairfield and Sarah Capodagli, Youth Volunteers of the Year; Richmond Wilson, the James Rebeta Client Achievement Award; and David Kmetz, Silver Bowl Award.

For the past three years, Emily Kirsch has been volunteering weekly for the Autism Project. She began volunteering with children ages 5 to 7 with autism spectrum disorders, and although she had no exper.

In the fall of 2011, she was assigned to Kennedy’s Teens. Kirsch shows her support by participating in activities such as baking and playing basketball and board games with group members.

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