Town Shows Its Support for Abilis During Annual Walk/Run

Abilis President and CEO Amy Montimurro and Ambassador Joe Lupinacci take to the stage to say a few words
during the Abilis Walk/Run event at Greenwich Point. (photo courtesy of Cara Gilbride, Callalily Studios)

The Greenwich community laced up its running shoes, stretched its legs and joined Abilis for its 13th annual walk/run event. To President and CEO Amy Montimurro, it was music to her ears. “I am so proud of the people that support the families that join us and support us,” Montimurro said. “I live in Greenwich and I am proud to live in this community where you can reach out and ask for help and everybody just jumps. They want to support us. Our state legislators were at the event. It’s just an opportunity for people with all abilities to get together and celebrate a good cause.”

The Walk/Run for Abilis featured over 700 participants who hit the pavement at Greenwich Point Park. Whether it was a three-mile run or a one-mile family-friendly walk, the streets of Old Greenwich were filled with people supporting Abilis. For the walk/run event, Abilis raised over $140,000 that will go toward programs and services.

Montimurro said the amount raised was thrilling and will help enrich the lives of many of Abilis’ clients. However, there is always more work to be done.

“We always need to keep fundraising,” Montimurro said. “Abilis has always, and will continue to do more than what we are funded for, like job development, job coaching and all the extra supports that people need in residential services. Our activities program, for example, is not funded. Making sure that people have opportunities for friendships and fun is not something that the State funds us to do. Each fundraiser we do allows us to provide supports and services that gives people the quality of life that they could be proud of.”

With the help from Carnival for a Cause, Abilis added an expanded aspect of the event. In addition to the race or walk, families and friends had the ability to spend quality time playing carnival games, make some works of art, play in a bouncy castle, get their faces painted and experience the Bubble Bus.

Members of Team Fancy Nancy pose for a photo during the 13th annual Walk/Run for Abilis event at Greenwich Point.
(photo courtesy of Cara Gilbride, Callalily Studios)

“It was amazing,” Montimurro said. “We had people there that have been with Abilis for many years. And, as we have expanded, we had so many new friends in Abilis that joined us. It was just full of smiles and laughter and so much love. Everything went smoothly, and there were no issues. Everybody had their jobs to do, and with all the volunteers that we had, it was just amazing. I couldn’t be happier and more proud.”

And, this isn’t an event that just comes together overnight. It’s a huge undertaking. Whether it was getting permits, finding vendors, making sure everything is where it should be, making sure the path was safe and accessible, or making sure that enough volunteers were on the routes so that way it was secure for all participants, it’s safe to say that Montimurro, her staff and her volunteers were taking on a huge project. It was obvious that it was a labor of love for Montimurro and all the volunteers who came out and pitched in.

“We changed the path this year, so that way it was all on asphalt and that way everybody could take to the path,” Montimurro said. “Everybody could walk and everybody could run and everybody could roll if they needed to. The goal was to make sure everybody had a good time and the volunteers that made sure all participants were safe were absolutely amazing. We also had enough volunteers where we were able to hand out water on the path, play games and have face painting. From the moment we set up the balloons and the tents, it was nonstop. The need for the volunteers was great and thankfully we had a huge amount. They made sure that the event was successful.”

And making sure that the entire route of the walk/run was on pavement was crucial for Montimurro and her theme of inclusion and community. “We wanted to make sure everybody had the ability to participate,” Montimurro said.

While the event went off without a hitch, having a familiar face from Abilis as its Ambassador was just icing on the cake. At just four weeks old, Joe Lupinacci started in the Birth-to-Three program at Abilis. As he continued to grow, Abilis was still a part of Lupinacci’s life. Now, at 21-years-old, Lupinacci is hard at work at the New Canaan YMCA as a pool deck attendant. Both Lupinacci and Montimurro couldn’t be happier about the partnership.

“When we talk about being a lifespan provider, Joe is a perfect example. We watched him grow and supported his family through the year. We brought him back when was ready to start his adult life. We helped him find a house, find a housemate, find a job and making sure that he has a wonderful life. It’s a perfect example of who we are and how we are with you throughout your life.” And Abilis, which has its Abilis Gardens & Gifts, isn’t finished once the last participant crossed the finish line. They are currently gearing up to once again sell holiday items. A Sip & Shop event will be held on Dec. 5, at 6 p.m., when attendees are invited to cocktails and can shop at the Abilis Gardens & Gifts for the holidays.

“We would love to have the community come out and support us,” Montimurro said. “It’s a great way to shop for the holidays and to support a good cause at the same time. It’s also an opportunity to bring our community together. The people that work at the gift shop love to see new faces and people taking interest in their work. They are so proud of the products that they made and to develop their skills and show someone that they can operate a cash register, greet people, wrap presents, and so much more. They are getting the opportunity to develop skills and be an active part of this community.” In addition, the annual Abilis Gala will take place at Woodway Country Club, in Darien, on April 27.

But first thing’s first. Every Thanksgiving, Montimurro and her staff host a Thanksgiving dinner at Abilis. The feast is served at 12 p.m. and community members are invited to donate their favorite Turkey Day dish or a special dessert. The feast is designed for Abilis members who don’t have family members to celebrate the holiday with, and Montimurro said around 40 people take advantage of the Thanksgiving dinner each year.

Please check out Abilis Gardens & Gifts, located at 50 Glenville Street. Anything from bath soaps, strip scarves, candles, kitchen products, gardening supplies and much more, are on sale, with countless products made by Abilis clients. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.