Celebrating life at the Harvest Ball

by Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff – October 25, 2017

On Oct. 14, Bishop Grady Villas celebrated their 14th Annual Harvest Ball at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, Orlando. Five-hundred fifty residents, families and supporters of the residence for adults with disabilities joined Bishop John Noonan to raise money for its Residents’ Scholarship Fund and give thanks for the past year.

Father Miguel Gonzalez, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Orlando was honored for his commitment to Bishop Grady Villas over the past decade and was presented with the Lifetime Legacy and Community Service Award. Father Gonzalez, who was also the live auctioneer for the Harvest Ball, accepted the plaque and gave thanks to his parents for the values they instilled in him.

“Tonight, you are that rich soil which produces blessing a hundredfold for the Bishop Grady Villas community,” said Kevin Johnson, executive director of Bishop Grady Villas, as he addressed the attendees. “The individuals we serve reflect God’s love in their welcoming spirit, which touches the hearts of their coworkers, friends, fellow church members, our staff and volunteers, and the organizations for which they volunteer or frequent.”

The silent and live auctions together with table sponsorships, ticket sales and donations raised over $260,000 while guests moved to the beat of tunes from various eras, including Frank Sinatra and Earth, Wind and Fire, played by the Buzzcatz band. The most coveted live auction item was a dinner for eight with Bishop Noonan, who will also be the chef. The bidding war led to the bishop offering to cook two separate dinners, doubling the fun in support of the scholarship that assists individuals who need help covering the cost of services at Bishop Grady Villas.

Residents at Bishop Grady Villas receive employment skills training and lessons in self-care. Employment specialist Kevin LaJeuness, who assists residents with job training, explained that each training plan is unique to each individual with their own set of goals. LaJeuness works on improved and confident communications with the residents and basic living skills that translate to jobs at Bahama Breeze, Waffle House, SeaWorld and Columbia Harbor House.

Connie shared the story of her daughter Caitlin’s journey to independent living at Bishop Grady Villas. Connie said she was “worried about her (Caitlin’s) ‘forever’ knowing that I won’t be on this earth forever to care for and love her.” Caitlin has been a resident at Bishop Grady Villas since 2006. The skills she learned there led to her job at Bahama Breeze wrapping silverware. She aspires to be a hostess one day. The Harvest Ball is one of her favorite events and Caitlin celebrated by dancing with her friends and guests, thankful for those who came to support her and her Bishop Grady Villas family. “I heard about BGV when it was still just a vision. I knew in my heart way back then that this was the place for Caitlin.”