2016 NEPVA Annual Banquet
On a rainy and cool evening, approximately 145 guests assembled at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA for the NEPVA Annual Banquet on Friday, September 30, 2016. Upon their arrival, members, friends and family, along with VA staff gathered and mingled in the cocktail lounge while meatballs, scallops wrapped in bacon and stuffed mushrooms were being passed around. This year’s banquet again featured a four course dinner with a choice of entrée (filet mignon, stuffed chicken breast, grilled salmon or a vegetarian meal), and awards. Music was provided for the evening by DJ Scott Arrington of Murray Hill Talent.
As in the past, the lounge area and banquet hall were beautifully decorated with balloons, and colorful centerpieces in an array of fall colors. Decorations, as always, were provided by Balloons over Boston. Keeping with tradition, ladies were again presented with a long stem red rose as they approached the banquet hall.
Upon entering the banquet hall, everyone was seated and enjoyed their fresh fruit cup followed by salad. After salads were served, NEPVA President Wayne Ross came forward to the microphone to welcome everyone and introduce himself and some honored guests. As in past years, NEPVA was honored to have several officials from the VA Healthcare System in attendance as well as PVA Service Office staff. These included:
- Joe Badzmierowski- Eastern Region Director-PVA Veterans Benefits Department
- Heather Cherniack- PVA Veterans Health & Benefits Specialist III-East-North Area Manager
- John Stansbury-recently retired PVA Service Officer for Northern New England
- Vincent Ng- Director, VA Boston Healthcare System
- Dr. Susan MacKenzie- Director, Providence VA Medical Center
- Dr. Sunil Sabharwal- Chief of SCI and SCI Care Line VISN 1
- Cecilia McVey- Chief of Nursing Service
- Jason Gray-Chief of Voluntary Services
- Sandra Souza-Assistant Director VABHS, Brockton Campus
- Karen Acerra-Williams-Deputy Medical Center Director, VABHS, Brockton Campus
- Annmarie Fredericks-Assistant Chief Nurse for Clinical Services
- Rick Leeman-Assistant Chief of Voluntary Services
- Chuck Ritter-Assistant Director, VABHS, Jamaica Plain
- Pat McCallum-Administrative Officer, SCI, VABHS
Following the welcome remarks and introductions, everyone was served dinner.
After guests finished their entrees, the awards portion of the evening began and President Wayne Ross returned to the microphone. The annual Pierik Awards were then presented to two nurses. The Pierik Award was founded many years ago by retiring Chief of Nursing Madeline Pierik, who donated a sum of money to be used for recognition of outstanding SCI nurses from the West Roxbury VA SCI unit and the Brockton VA Long Term Care unit. This year’s winners were Glen Williams from the VABHS West Roxbury Campus, and Karen Garcia HT from the VABHS Brockton Campus. In presenting the Pierik Awards, Wayne recounted his personal experience as a patient at the West Roxbury and Brockton VA hospitals recently, and expressed his personal gratitude to Glen Williams for the excellent care he received, as well as his appreciation to Karen Garcia. Both recipients were awarded a clock plaque with the engraving, “For Outstanding Care and Devotion to SCI Patients.”
The final award of the evening, The President’s Award, was presented to VA staff member Eileen Craffey for her many years of service to NEPVA members and other disabled veterans at the VA Boston Healthcare System. For many years, Eileen was the Coach of the “NEPVA Coasters,” our team of wheelchair athletes who attend the yearly National Veterans Wheelchair Games. As Eileen approaches retirement, NEPVA President Wayne Ross again took the opportunity to express his personal gratitude to Eileen. After Wayne’s spinal cord injury, Eileen provided regular Aquatic Therapy at the VA, and even celebrated Wayne’s milestone of 1,000 swims. A framed photo of this celebration (which included a cake) was presented to Eileen along with a clock plaque with the inscription, “In appreciation for your devoted service to the Veterans Administration, all the years as an outstanding Aquatic Therapist and Exceptional Coach.”
After all the award presentations, chocolate cake was served. As the dance music picked up, NEPVA members, VA staff and others came to the dance floor, while the early birds departed as usual. With a respectable turnout, the banquet was another successful event and a good time was had by all.