August 13, 2018 | Greenwich Patch

From GJrUW: On Saturday, June 9, the Greenwich Junior United Way (GJrUW) produced Together We Shine in collaboration with Abilis and YWCA of Greenwich. The event was a three-hour dinner and dance, beginning at 5:30 p.m., that was held to strengthen connections within the community and promote respect for all people — their differences, needs, abilities, and dreams. Other groups that participated in making the event a success were the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich Keystone Club, and various clubs at Greenwich High School including: Hand in Hand, Picking Up the Pieces, Outreach Club, Former Attire.

Together We Shine 2018

"It was such a special evening and I am very happy that we were able to be a part of it," said Michelle Pennino, Director of Member Services at YWCA of Greenwich in a post-event email to Greenwich Junior United Way Program Coordinator, Amanda Finn. She continued "Congratulations to Greenwich Junior United Way on an amazing event, you did a wonderful job!" Teen members of the the GJrUW also provided Greenwich United Way with feedback following the event.

"This event was a very rewarding experience for me. After putting in the hard work to prepare for everything, I loved seeing the Abilis clients' faces light up as they walked down the red carpet. It was also awesome to see how excited they were as they danced and sang alongside volunteers and other members of the community." said Nick Glass, a GJrUW member and Greenwich High School graduate.


"What our event, Together We Shine, accomplished was providing a way for Abilis clients to connect with other teens and young adults in town. Everyone on the dance floor was having a great time, their faces lit up with excitement. It was a chance they had to mingle and make new friends. The satisfaction of knowing that my volunteer group had the power to bring the community together felt amazing, We hope to make this an annual event." said Greenwich Junior United Way member, Kaltrin Ugrinaj, Greenwich High School class of 2019.

The event was sponsored by many local businesses in the Greenwich community. Abilis Gardens & Gifts made all of the corsage and boutonnieres for the Abilis participants. "Together We Shine really sums up the spirit of this event," said Greenwich United Way CEO, David Rabin, during his remarks to attendees at the event. He continued, "So many have joined together to celebrate what we all have in common and that is ability. Ability to be productive citizens of this world. Greenwich United Way is very proud to have helped start Abilis back in 1951 and we have supported this organization to this day". He went on to list all of the people and businesses that donated time, services and product to make the event possible; Barbara Finn, Joanne Costanzo, and Janus Sanchez of Mane Event in Byram donated hairstyling services; Makeup was provided by Aliza Miklos, Peter J. Bruno, Essie Cohen and Meredith Hayman Hanson.


Other sponsors included: Sam Bridge Nursery; DJ Elle Katsaros; Café Oo La La; Fuzari's Pizza; Garden Catering; Corbo's Corner Deli; Famous Greek Kitchen; Burgers, Shakes & Fries; Mill Street Bar and Table; The Capitol Theatre; Founders Entertainment; Kari McMinn; Elliptica of Old Greenwich; Granola Bar; Benefit Cosmetics; Nail Boutique; Pinkberry; Simply Beauty by Sonia; Chipotle; Gofer Ice Cream; Bruce Park Sports; Chicken Joe's; Equinox; Acting & Voice Studios of Greenwich & NYC; Maison D'Alexandre Salon; CTNY Limo; and WRBC Support Services (A Berkley Company).

Amy Montimurro, Abilis, Director of Life Services, mentioned to Robert Moore, Director of Community Impact, "This memorable event was hopefully the first of many where a community can share an evening of fun and making new friends. This is an opportunity for the next generation to embrace all differences, challenges and abilities. Events like these continues to build strong and supportive communities. Thank you to the Greenwich Junior United Way, YWCA of Greenwich, and all of the volunteers involved in hosting such a special evening for Abilis. Last night was the kind of evening from which lasting memories are made."

The Greenwich United Way also received an email from Carmela Calorossi, a relative of an Abilis client that attended the event. "This note is to thank the Greenwich United Way, Greenwich Junior United Way and ALL the volunteers, staff, hairdressers, limo companies, makeup artists, florist and everyone else involved for making the 1st Annual "Together We Shine" event for Abilis on June 9, 2018, a night to remember. My sister Dawn Carlucci has been with Abilis for over 28 years. When the staff at the group home informed us of the event we had no idea it would be as fabulous as it turned out to be. It was like preparing Dawn for a prom. I took her shopping for her formal attire. Dawn loves clothes and loves getting dressed up. The staff at the group home helped provide her with hair styling, make-up application, flowers, manicure, limo ride. I have attached two videos and a photo of Dawn. You can see by the smile on her face on the "red carpet" that she felt very special and she looked beautiful. Although I was unable to be there for her walk on the "red carpet" my sister-in-law and her entire family were there taking videos and snapping photos. The group cheering them on down the red carpet just added another level of excitement to the night. I applaud the group effort for making not just Dawn but ALL the Abilis clients feel very special that night. We have never seen such a wonderful effort put forth for a group of individuals so deserving. Thank you and everyone involved who made this a night to remember for all. What a wonderful memory. God bless you all".