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COVID-19 Warriors Honorees Revealed, 7th Annual American Dream Awards Gala on Sept. 17

The New American Dream Foundation Inc. (TNADF), a 501(c)(3) organization, will host its 7th Annual American Dream Awards Gala on Friday, September 17, 2021, at 5:30 PM at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury. This event is presented by Ingersoll Auto of Danbury and is held in partnership with the City of Danbury. The theme, inspired by TNADF's COVID-19 Hot Meal Program, is "Six Feet Apart – Closer Than Ever: Honoring our COVID-19 Warriors." 

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the program has served children, families, and seniors in Danbury with over 23,000 meals purchased at cost from The Amber Room Colonnade, the official venue for its annual gala.

"We believe that there is no picking up where we have left off when the pandemic has completely reshaped our foundation and changed all our lives. So, the American Dream Awards this year will provide a much-deserved celebration of some of the 'COVID-19 Warriors' that really stepped up during this time in our community" said Celia Bacelar-Palmares, TNADF president.

The event features a three-course dinner, dancing, live entertainment, and the inspirational American Dream Awards ceremony, all with social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Ticket sales will benefit The New American Dream Foundation programs and Mission Health Day – a day of free health screenings and other community services for the uninsured and the income challenged, hosted by Nuvance Health.

The award ceremony will feature six categories selected by The New American Dream Foundation in partnership with the City of Danbury.

"We are proud to partner with The New American Dream Foundation for this momentous event. This year's gala will celebrate our community and its heroes, who all came together for the greater good during a tough time. I thank Celia and her team for not only being a major part of the COVID-19 efforts in our community by delivering meals to our seniors but also using this opportunity at the annual gala to reflect and give thanks where it is due," said Danbury Mayor Joseph Cavo.

The 2021 American Dream Gala award categories and honorees are:

COVID WARRIOR – awarded to an individual that has led the fight against COVID-19 in our community.

Honoree: Former Mayor Mark D. Boughton 

Mark Boughton brought hope to our community throughout the pandemic. By initiating his Live @ 5 Facebook show, he offered transparency with coronavirus information so residents could feel at ease and provided some much-needed levity where appropriate. Mark raised money for local food pantries with epic karaoke videos and an unforgettable race downtown in a chicken costume to benefit the Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge. Altogether, over $50,000 was collected for local pantries through Mark Boughton's initiatives. But fundraising was not all! Thanks to Mark Boughton's coordination, the Mayor's Office ran the collection of PPE from the community, collecting thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers at the start of the pandemic.

COMMUNITY WARRIOR – an institution that has invested in the battle against the virus.

Honoree: Union Savings Bank and Union Savings Bank Foundation

USB and the USB Foundation contributed more than $450,000 to local organizations whose resources showed signs of strain due to the pandemic. Their support enabled them to purchase personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, acquire ventilators for patients, stock the shelves at food pantries, and help fund several other programs that serve our community. Additionally, they launched the Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge, which raised over $117,000 in support of the Danbury Food Collaborative and its 14 food pantries.

HEALTH CARE WARRIOR – an individual and/or an institution on the front lines in the battle against the virus.

Honoree: Nuvance Health and Dr. John Murphy

Nuvance Health convened Infectious Disease and Emergency Management specialists in January 2020 to begin planning for the pandemic emerging globally. In doing so, they were prepared to receive the first CT COVID-19 patient and mitigation efforts have been underway since that time. Their clinical and administrative teams have shown great courage and resilience throughout, and we are so grateful for their ongoing commitment to care and safety. As the CEO of Nuvance Health, Dr. John Murphy was one of three healthcare leaders tapped by Governor Lamont to help co-lead the state's planning and response and set statewide policy for COVID-19.

EDUCATION WARRIOR – an individual and/or an institution that has gone above and beyond to support students. 

Honoree: Park Avenue Elementary School & Principal David Krafick

In honor of all Danbury Public School staff who tirelessly assisted families educationally and emotionally, socially, and physically during this unprecedented time in our learning community, Park Avenue Elementary School and its Principal David Krafick were selected to represent them. Over half of its 635-student body qualifies for free- or reduced-price lunch at Park Avenue school and two-thirds are English-language learners. The Park Avenue Elementary School Staff proudly provided countless hours partnering with The American Dream Foundation and Danbury Public Schools food distribution initiative. It has also provided families with assistance through its in-school food pantry for approximately 15 years, funded and supported by Park Avenue staff, families, and community members. The initiative supports students and families in need throughout the year and during the pandemic. 

SENIOR'S WARRIOR – an individual that has gone above and beyond to support seniors. 

Honoree: Anne Roby and Larry Dodd

The 2021 American Dream Awards SENIOR'S WARRIOR recognition will be presented to both Anne Roby and Larry Dodd. They have gone above and beyond with their time, talents, and resources to serve thousands of meals to Danbury's seniors during the pandemic.

 From April 2020 through April 2021, the RobyDodd Family Charitable Foundation, Inc., donated $26,000 to The New American Dream Foundation Senior Hot Meal Program, subsidizing over 5,000 meals to seniors living in affordable housing in Danbury. In addition, the couple has volunteered their time by hand-delivering meals to the 130 residents at Danbury Commons since last October; in addition, they are the "building leaders" responsible for training new volunteers.

YOUNG WARRIOR – an individual under 16 years old that sprang into action. 

Honoree: Frankie DeMunda 

Frankie DeMunda will be entering eighth grade. He creates and sells woodworking items with some pieces and proceeds going toward various causes. At four years old, he began learning woodworking from his grandfather, who had been taught by his father. Frankie sold 35 wooden Easter bunnies, using $250 of what he earned to purchase 50 lunches from a local restaurant for Danbury Hospital workers at the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year and a half, he has donated approximately $15,000 to different charities and organizations, including our local nurses and doctors, police, fire department, group homes, food pantries, and teachers. He also helped provide groceries for many for local families in need and created 15 to 20 wooden Christmas trees to decorate the cancer unit at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. His most recent donation went to the Dover Air Force Base and to the families of fallen soldiers. Frankie also loves to donate his work to various people in our community.  

2021 American Dream Award Scholarship

The American Dream Award Scholarship of $2,000 will be awarded to an individual 16 years or older, who is an immigrant or a child of immigrants, living in the Fairfield County area, who faced many challenges along their journey to achieve their American Dream. The winner, Samuel Goes Justo is an aspiring biomedical engineer. He was selected by TNADF president and the scholarship is furnished by the event's presenting sponsor: Ingersoll Auto of Danbury."Getting this scholarship was especially important to me because this year, my family had lost a lot of money due to the pandemic. Because of COVID-19, my mom and I had to leave our jobs for a while, and my dad could only work part-time. Fortunately, The New American Dream Foundation is helping me get past my struggles," said Justo.

Tickets to the Gala

Tickets are $125.00 per person and include a cocktail hour, followed by a three-course dinner, cash bar throughout the night, dancing, and the American Dream Awards ceremony, filled with inspiring stories about our community and its resilience despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ticket sales will benefit The New American Dream Foundation programs and Mission Health Day – a day of free health screenings and other community services for the uninsured and the income challenged, hosted by Nuvance Health.

The event will be an in-person gathering following CDC Guidelines. A virtual experience will be available if an in-person gathering is not possible

To buy tickets, tables, and ads in the event booklet, visit: www.americandreamgala.com

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