Bishop Grady Villas residents share gifts at Harvest Ball

ORLANDO | Leaves may not be turning yellow and red in Florida, but Bishop Grady Villas 16th Annual Harvest Ball made colorful changes this autumn.

While guests enjoyed the familiar “Buzzcatz” band, they also got to hear from several residents benefitting from Bishop Grady Villas’ programs and enjoy the BGV choir, including a song written by them. The mood was festive and fun, especially when resident Caitlin and board chairwoman, Maureen Kane showered Bishop John Noonan with pieces of the Villas’ loan document, now paid off and providing expansion opportunities for the future.

The evening kicked off with founder Sister Elizabeth Marie Stoup, Bishop Noonan and resident Sarah invoking a prayer written for the community by Bishop Thomas Grady. Then four individuals expounded how Bishop Grady Villas’ programs helped them share their gifts of confidence, music, dancing, and kindness.

“Bishop Grady Villas’ Project SEARCH helps me share my gift of making other people smile,” said Abigail, one of the speakers. “I love sharing my gifts at the hospital because when I’m on the floor it’s like I’m on stage. When I brighten someone’s day or make a good impression, it makes me feel good.”

Her description reflects the transformative effect Bishop Grady Villas has and this year’s ball focused on how enabling one another to share their unique gifts makes all the difference.

Silent and live auctions from baskets chock full of unique items to vacation packages and a monthly flower arrangement created by Bishop Grady Program participants were all a big hit.

Most years a parent speaks on behalf of their family member at the gala, but this year was different. In a moving testimony, Anastasia, who uses a wheelchair, explained why she wanted a job after high school. She began, “…not so long ago someone told me that I would never be able to get a job because I have a disability, so I wanted to show them that it is possible for people like me to get a job. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people and kind of push yourself to even do things you didn’t even know were possible.”

Overcome with emotion, Anastasia paused, while the crowd encouraged her. “I know the power of prayer really works—you just need to believe in what you’re going after,” she said. Thanks to Project SEARCH, Anastasia was trained in banquet and administrative duties and now works at the Hilton Hotel.

With great insight, the brave young woman added, “I think life is a struggle for everyone on some level. It’s also at times how you take life. Life can be something beautiful for so many of us yes, yet, I know easier said than done because we all go through things, but never let the bad things determine your life. My life has been a struggle for me pretty much since the day I was born…,” she said tearfully.

“A lot of people have no clue or idea of what it is like to be me. It’s hard for them to understand that some everyday tasks are hard to do, but then again, I am truly blessed because I am able to do some of the everyday tasks versus not being able to do any at all.”

Anastasia’s positive and courageous attitude was contagious. As the lights dimmed, Project SEARCH interns appeared from all over the ballroom with small tea lights. Father Miguel Gonzalez read from St. Matthew’s Gospel at the Sermon on the Mount. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” With that, each table was asked to light their candle, representing the impact each person can make in transforming lives.

Bishop Grady Villas hopes to expand its Project SEARCH to three additional sites within the Diocese of Orlando and with the payoff of their construction loan, they look forward to expanding their housing capacity.

The evening closed naming Buckey Wright and Leida Haddock as Lifetime Legacy Award honorees. Both were inspired to make a major investment through their dedicated volunteerism, sustaining financial commitment, and active promotion of Bishop Grady Villas’ ministry.

Bishop Grady Villas supports persons with disabilities to use their God-given gifts to achieve greater independence, physical and emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. To learn more go to

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic October 23, 2019