By Liba (Frank) Andrusier
The Capital Region Friendship Circle held their Extraordinary Friends and Heroes Dinner on Wednesday, Nov 17, at the Collage of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, NY.
At the dinner, the Friendship Circle honored 6 special people in their community, who share the Friendship Circle’s mission to serve children in need, and their families.
A unique feature of the event was that the awards being presented will be original art sculptures which have been designed and created by renowned area artist and sculptor Joseph Joslyn whose work has been featured as part of the Albany downtown BID Sculpture in the Streets exhibit.
The Capital District Friendship Circle, an organization that serves two distinct populations – special needs children and their families as well as teenagers in high school and college, is led by Rabbi Shimon Andrusier and his wife Liba (nee Frank).
The honorees include Bob and Susan Neudel, John Mason and Karen Cavanaugh, Jonathan Phillips, and Mary Ellen Whitney.
Like the Friendship Circle, Whitney understands the importance of working with children who are differently abled. As founder and CEO of STRIDE Adaptive Sports in 1984, she attempted to address the lack of access children with special needs have to sports.
Whitney has also developed programs to educate local school districts about providing sports training to students with special needs and she volunteers for numerous local organizations. She was the recipient of the Friendship Circle Leadership Award.
The Neudels are not new to volunteer work. For most of their lives, both Bob and Susan have been active volunteers and supporting a variety of organizations. Susan’s history of volunteering is modeled on behavior she saw in her parents.
Following her many years of volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), Susan founded a program—the RMHC Teen Board—designed to get high school students involved in volunteering. A group of 40 students from 16 different schools cooked dinners for families of terminally ill children, they spent time with the children and participated in a variety of RMHC events.
In addition, this group raised over $30,000 at their yearly “Big Give” event, an impressive sum for teenagers over a three-week period.
Bob has a similar lifelong background in volunteering. Over the years, he has helped raise money for the Jimmy Fund and for St. Jude Hospital, As a teacher as Albany Academy, where he has been teaching science to 3rd-6th graders for over 20 years, he places great emphasis on teaching his students about being positive role models in their community.
He has encouraged his students to take leadership roles in a variety of situations, include the Heart Sale, SnackDrives and the Pull-Tab Program, all of which have taught that being involved and helping is an important part of being a community member. More importantly, Bob has taught them by example. The Neudel’s received the Friendship Circle Pillars of the Community Award.
John Phillips, president and CEO of A. Phillips Hardware, believes firmly in giving back to the community, and has been doing so for most of his life for a wide variety of organizations. His involvement with so many charities and organizations has touched the lives of countless children and families in the Capital District.
John Mason and Karen Cavanaugh are both husband and wife as well as business partners at Sabre Technical Services. When the nation experienced the Anthrax attacks following 9/11, Sabre was the company many turned to, to develop a plan and handle the Haz-Mat cleanup. They were called upon again to use their technology and skills when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.
Returning to the capital district, Mason and Cavanagh created the Sabre Foundation. The number one cause of death of children in the world is lack of clean drinking water. Their goal being to bring and donate clean water technology to where it is needed most.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, John and Karen established “the Water Project,” now known as “Play for Power.” Together, they designed a playground where everything that moves creates electricity which is used to power a pump which then pumps clean water which then can be used by an entire village.