When Tony-award winning actor James Naughton presented opening remarks at our Light a Fire awards ceremony last year, he said, “I promise that when you leave this theater tonight, you’re going to feel very, very good.” Naughton was playing host to a packed Westport Playhouse, where the audience had gathered to honor local heroes who had given selflessly and generously of their time and talent so others could lead better lives. It was an incredible evening filled with fascinating stories about real people who, through perseverance and pure spirit, brought others comfort, hope and dignity. By the end of the night, Naughton had made good on his feel-good guarantee.
Now it’s that time of year again, the season for us to acknowledge and pay tribute to a few extraordinary volunteers and philanthropists in our community who can teach many of us a lesson about what it really means to give. In this issue, we introduce the Light a Fire honorees for 2012 (see page 59). We call them the devoted dozen because these twelve citizens give all year long from their heads, hearts and bank accounts to people they know and to countless strangers.
You may recognize some of the faces on the pages of our feature because four of them live in our towns. Doris McKee of Norwalk got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association when her husband was diagnosed with the disease many years ago. Jack Kelley of New Canaan is the driving force behind U.S. operations for a Canadian-based agency with global reach, Free the Children. And Joseph and Susan Garofoli of Darien have been steadfast supporters of AmeriCares for almost two decades. “They go above and beyond to help people in need, whether they are halfway around the world or just around the corner,” says Andrea Vakos of AmeriCares. Anyone who has done nonprofit work knows that it requires true grit and creativity, yet our Light a Fire recipients speak exclusively of the joy they derive from helping others. That’s a strong message to pay forward as we start the holiday season.
We’ll celebrate our 2012 Light a Fire winners with an awards presentation to be hosted by Naughton once again, this time at Greenwich Academy on November 8. This year, our charming host won’t have to capture the attention of the audience with the promise of a spirit-lifting experience. That much is guaranteed.