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Good Times Gala Celebrates accomplishments of American Training’s Guests, Leaves Lots of Smiles on Attendees

merican Training Guest Mike James of Andover and his parents enjoy the second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala at the Andover Country Club on May 16. Photo by Felix Khut.

American Training Guest Mike James of Andover and his parents enjoy the second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala at the Andover Country Club on May 16. Photo by Felix Khut.

 Ask anyone who attended American Training’s Celebrate Good Times Gala what their favorite part of the formal evening was and you’ll get the same answer every time – the ear-to-ear smiles on the beaming Guests. 

“It was really a feel good night, seeing everyone dancing and just the pure happiness. It was just a room filled with happy people,” said Carole Giordano, Licensing Coordinator for LARE Institute, another branch of American Training. “It was nice to see a night dedicated to our Guests.”

With eyes wide with excitement and faces expressing joy and contentment, American Training’s Guests, or adults with disabilities, soaked up every moment of the gala, a celebration of their efforts, successes, and their lives, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club.

American Training Guests (L to R) Gregory Trepanier, Margaret “Megahn” Johnston, Miguel Colome, Gualberto “Tito” Rodriguez, and Fransuas Gonzalez enjoy the photo booth props at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala at the Andover Country Club on May 16. Photo by Felix Khut.

American Training Guests (L to R) Gregory Trepanier, Margaret “Megahn” Johnston, Miguel Colome, Gualberto “Tito” Rodriguez, and Fransuas Gonzalez enjoy the photo booth props at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala at the Andover Country Club on May 16. Photo by Felix Khut.

“It was so nice to see so many Guests who don’t attend American Training come to celebrate with their friends,” said Gail Roberts, Vice President and Director of Day Services. “And a lot of family members were thrilled to see their loved ones interacting in such a positive way.

“They had a great time.”

The second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala was London-themed featuring decorations including a Union Jack balloon wall, the Tower of Yumdon, a 3-foot tower of cupcakes to rival the Tower of London, and a London Bridge.

Visits from favorite British celebrities and characters like Elton John, Harry Potter, Austin Powers, James Bond and his Bond Girls, the Queen, and the Spice Girls added to the evening filled with music from 4EverFab, a local Beatles tribute band, and NRG Entertainment’s disc jockey.

American Training President and CEO Tom Connors poses with Guests Mark Nixon and Linda Hinckley at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala held May 16 at Andover Country Club. Hinckley was among the honorees recognized at the event, awarded for her lengthy employment at Harrison’s Roast Beef in North Andover.  Photo by Felix Khut.

American Training President and CEO Tom Connors poses with Guests Mark Nixon and Linda Hinckley at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala held May 16 at Andover Country Club. Hinckley was among the honorees recognized at the event, awarded for her lengthy employment at Harrison’s Roast Beef in North Andover. Photo by Felix Khut.

Jodi Howshan, American Training’s Director of Professional Development said she was impressed both in the efforts by Colleagues to make the event so impactful for the Guests and in the amount of joy expressed by the Guests that evening.

“I saw women wearing fancy dresses with their nails done and hair styled and men in suits and ties or bowties,” said Howshan. “They all looked so beautiful and handsome.”

Roberts added, “For our Guests to have the opportunity to get dressed up, go to an event like this at the Country Club with their families, and have a nice dinner, is just wonderful.”

Guest Crystal White, 30, said she swapped her regular “comfortable” clothes for a long purple gown that night, because, “I just wanted to dress up for one day. I wanted to look fancy for my friends.”

AAmerican Training Guests Carlos Mendoza, Gualberto “Tito” Rodriguez, and Fransuas Gonzalez laugh and smile as they dance the night away at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. Photo by Felix Khut.

AAmerican Training Guests Carlos Mendoza, Gualberto “Tito” Rodriguez, and Fransuas Gonzalez laugh and smile as they dance the night away at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. Photo by Felix Khut.

White, who typically wears oversized t-shirts and baseball caps covering her short blonde hair, looked stunning in her dress and long flowing hair.

“It made me feel beautiful,” she said.

Fellow Guest Margarita Rios, 58, said she too felt beautiful that evening in her long red gown and sparkling jewelry.

Rios shined as she accepted the 2014 Good Citizenship Award for her dedication to serving others and her community.

“I was so impressed with how much she gives back to the community,” said Howshan. “She doesn’t let anything hold her back.”

American Training Guest Margarita Rios smiles with President and CEO Tom Connors as she receives the Good Citizenship Award for her dedication to serving others and her community at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. Photo by Felix Khut.

American Training Guest Margarita Rios smiles with President and CEO Tom Connors as she receives the Good Citizenship Award for her dedication to serving others and her community at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. Photo by Felix Khut.

Rios received the prestigious award after spending the past year, and many before that, spreading joy to her community through various acts like last December when she asked her friends to perform acts of kindness in place of gifts for her birthday. She threw a party a few weeks later and asked them to share the details of those good deeds.

“She loves when people do good things. She just lights up when she hears about it,” said Hiedi Keefer, Asst. Director of Specialized Housing for American Training, who works directly with Rios.

In April, Rios led a team in cleaning up her church’s parking lot. Then, later that month, she bought balloons and delivered them to Boston’s Children’s Hospital to cheer up the little ones.

“I like doing it,” she said. “I like to help and I want people to be happy.”

“She really has the biggest heart,” Keefer added.

American Training Colleagues and friends smile big at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. (L to R, seated) Colleagues Maxine Pierce, Lorraine McLarney, and Renee Ghembaza. (L to R, standing) Steve McLarney and Colleagues Steve Pellerin, Kevin Cleary as Austin Powers, Karen Grundy and Al Porter. Photo by Felix Khut.

American Training Colleagues and friends smile big at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala, held May 16 at the Andover Country Club. (L to R, seated) Colleagues Maxine Pierce, Lorraine McLarney, and Renee Ghembaza. (L to R, standing) Steve McLarney and Colleagues Steve Pellerin, Kevin Cleary as Austin Powers, Karen Grundy and Al Porter. Photo by Felix Khut.

Rios was awarded along with eleven more Guests, who received employment awards for remaining competitively employed for five or more years with the same company. The recipients were Tim Scanlon of University Cap and Gown, Luis Hincapie of Papa Gino’s, Beverly Oakes of St. Michael’s School, Linda Hinckley of Harrison’s, Victor Sanchez and Sean Valentine of AXI, Robert Twarhog of Marshalls, Frank Bekkenhuis of Target, Florence Durkee and R. Michael O’Connor of Chili’s, and Moises Caraballo of Market Basket.

“I felt happy,” said Hinckley, who has been with Harrison’s for more than 10 years, of receiving her award.

Hinckley also works at American Training and Chunky’s Cinema Restaurant and said she likes that her three jobs keep her busy.

Caraballo also said he felt proud receiving his award. He said he enjoys working at Market Basket because he knows the job and it gives him independence.

American Training Guest Mary Gail Hannan dances with joy to the music provided by NRG Entertainment at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala on May 16 at the Andover Country Club.

American Training Guest Mary Gail Hannan dances with joy to the music provided by NRG Entertainment at American Training’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala on May 16 at the Andover Country Club.

“Our Guests work hard to accomplish all that they do and we want to recognize them for their hard work and achievements,” said President and CEO Tom Connors. “This night serves not only as an opportunity for them to receive the recognition that they deserve, but also as an evening for them to be themselves, reflect on their accomplishments over the past year, and enjoy the moment with their families and friends.”

More than 320 people attended the London-themed event which featured a delicious meal, a live band, a photo booth, and lots of dancing for the Guests, their friends and loved ones, and American Training Colleagues.

“I liked the band and the DJ. I just love music,” said Guest Michael James, 34, who attended the event with his parents and a few former coworkers. He said everyone enjoyed themselves and his father, who grew up in England, appreciated the London-themed features.

American Training Guest Moises Caraballo smiles for a picture as he receives an employment award from President and CEO Tom Connors at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala on May 16 at Andover Country Club. Photo by Mike Mears.

American Training Guest Moises Caraballo smiles for a picture as he receives an employment award from President and CEO Tom Connors at the organization’s second annual Celebrate Good Times Gala on May 16 at Andover Country Club. Photo by Mike Mears.

“Our Guests had a great time and it was great to see the smiles on their faces and the joy while they were dancing,” said Roberts.

The Good Times Gala is one of many annual events American Training holds for their Guests. To find out more about American Training, or any of its branches including Day Services, Specialized Housing or LARE Institute, go to www.AmericanTrainingInc.com.

American Training, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that has been delivering premier, award-winning workforce development, day habilitation, and work and residential programs since 1979. Our dedicated and passionate family of colleagues compliments these programs with some of the region’s most dynamic support services in the areas of transportation, counseling, work-preparedness seminars, and advocacy. We serve hundreds of residents, including people with disabilities, youth, youth-at-risk, the unemployed, underemployed, lifelong adult learners, and those looking to get the most out of life. Our services extend across many cities and towns in the Greater Merrimack Valley area and beyond. We are recognized for our WOW! Philosophy, which describes the fun and entertainment we incorporate in our activities, while always acknowledging dignity and respect for each person. As a company, American Training is fully committed to bringing out the best in everyone we touch by using proven methods leading to lives that are fuller and more meaningful.

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is an author, host of the Paying Attention TV/Radio Program, lectures on media bias and police issues, is a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, and a 1990 Police Survivor. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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