Almost one full year ago, after the Red Sox completed their historic championship run and my pumpkins were seeing their last days, I was asked by my dear friend, Laurie Gershkowitz, to join the CHAI Champions Event Committee to support a fundraiser that she and her husband, Paul, were chairing. Laurie gets involved in myriad wonderful causes and when she calls, I enthusiastically help in whatever way I can.

Suzanne Centerpiece Reflection
Suzanne Kaitz (Courtesy photo)

Almost all charitable events are put together to raise funds and awareness, but equally important is to give people a sense of community and connectedness with all those that participate in its success. My husband, Steven, and I are privileged that we are able to give to philanthropies that have special meaning to us. JF&CS and its mission to promote independence for people of all abilities touches what has been important to me throughout my life.

As a teacher at Perkins School for the Blind, one of my roles was to teach high school kids vocational skills to help give them an opportunity to work in their respective outside communities. The enthusiasm that each of these young adults showed in equipping themselves with the tools that give them a good shot at meaningful employment was incredible. I know it was a job for me, but the respect, love and appreciation I received was what happily brought me back for over 20 years.

Part of my commitment to being on the CHAI Champions Event Committee was to work with the JF&CS clients on making the centerpieces for our upcoming event. Every time I get involved with a project where I will work with people with different abilities, I wonder if my skills will, once again, help in connecting with my partners in the project. Whether it be my work at The Massachusetts Association for the Blind, helping residents pick out art and then hanging the masterpieces in their respective group homes or working with students with brain injuries choreographing their dance routines for their annual gala, my experiences almost always turn out the same—smiles, hugs and tears of joy. Who could ask for anything more?

Each time, though, I always wonder, will I connect, will the outcome be successful? Driving to the JF&CS Waltham office, I once again was a bit nervous. When I met the clients and began our project to design the centerpieces for the event, I immediately embraced the opportunity of collaborating on a collective project with a real purpose and goal. The staff at JF&CS was well prepared and organized in setting up all of my fellow volunteers, as well as the dozens of clients, who all participated individually and collaboratively. Every person had a job to do and took their responsibility seriously. The buzz in the room was palpable with stories, laughter and pride in their accomplishments. The outcome, after two different sessions, is collaborative art that will give hundreds of event-goers something to talk about and enjoy. For me, the clients’ curiosity in finding out who I was, the opportunity for each to express themselves in their own creative way and the feeling that I helped in this project truly made it a good day.

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