The New England Center for Children® (NECC®), a global leader in education and research for children with autism, announced today that its 2021 Children of Promise Gala achieved unprecedented fundraising results, raising more than $1.1million dollars.
The event, held on November 12 at Boston’s InterContinental Hotel, was NECC’s first in-person fundraising event in two years due to the pandemic. More than 300 business leaders, philanthropists, and NECC families and friends gathered to enjoy an evening of heartwarming stories of hope and inspiration, a lively auction hosted by NESN’s Jenny Johnson, and a special recognition of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders for their tremendous support of Massachusetts approved, private, special education schools during the pandemic.
“From the first day a public health emergency was declared, Governor Baker and Secretary Sudders provided NECC and all the other Chapter 766 schools with access to testing, protective equipment, and additional funds to fight the virus,” shared Vinnie Strully, Jr., founder, and CEO of NECC. “Over the last 46 years, there has never been an administration more supportive of children with autism and other special needs than the Baker administration.”
“Marylou and I had a chance to visit NECC and the thing I took away from it was the sense of being present that I saw among the teachers and the kids,” said Gov. Baker. “Despite all the rules and all the guidelines and all the requirements put in place to keep people safe, they were still present and that’s really where progress and possibility come from. When you go through what we just went through and you work in an environment where a physical presence and close contact is how you succeed, to get through it the way this organization has, to basically say to COVID, ‘yeah, you’re for real, but we’re playing through it, because that’s what we have to do on behalf of the people we take care of and look after,’ I can’t tell you how special that is.”
Gov. Baker expressed his and Sec. Sudders’ appreciation for being recognized, “but mostly tonight what I want to say is how much we appreciate who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’ve been through,” he shared.
Throughout the night, the audience was reminded of the selfless dedication of the staff and teachers who provided care for their students during the pandemic. They continue to do so during an unprecedented national labor shortage, which is being felt by special education programs across the country, especially residential programs like those at NECC.
For more than two decades, NECC has been working on a pipeline for direct-care staff through its internship program, providing a steady stream of smart, hard-working, college students with a passion for special education and a desire to grow in the field. A large portion of the funds raised from the Gala will be invested in the Center’s internship program, in which NECC will train and inspire college students as a solution to the staffing shortage.
Nicole Gardenier started her career at NECC as an intern 25 years ago and has held numerous positions leading up to her current role as executive director of NECC’s Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia (ACE®) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Software System. “That summer internship at NECC was the springboard to my career,” she said, adding that she was afforded opportunities to earn her master’s degree, BCBA certification and licensure, start her doctoral work, engage in research, and expand her experience beyond behavior analysis as an administrator. “NECC’s internship program can help improve our staffing while also introducing a new generation of professionals to the field of behavior analysis, to NECC as a place to work and learn, and most importantly, to our wonderful students and their families.”
“Raising more than $1.1million at our annual Gala is truly a tremendous accomplishment and a blessing for our hard-working teachers and the children we serve,” said Strully. “We are so grateful for the support of our donors, families, and friends who support NECC not just at the Gala, but throughout the year as we endeavor to strengthen the Center’s world-class education, research, and teacher training to impact the lives of children with autism.”