Rockville Center to light it up in blue | Herald Community Newspapers | SehndeWeb

Throughout his life, Joe Winters worked tirelessly to advocate for people with autism.

He founded the Winters Center for Autism, a job training and job placement program for people on the spectrum. In recognition of his efforts, he will be honored posthumously on Saturday at the RVC Blue Speaks Light It Up Blue Gala at Baldwin’s Coral House.

RVC Blue Speaks was founded by Anthony and Mary Lou Cancellieri in 2016 and has become Long Island’s largest autism charity, raising over $300,000 for autism support and awareness. Saturday will mark the first gala since 2019 due to the pandemic. Winters, who was chairman and CEO of Winters Bros. Waste Systems, one of Long Island’s leading recycling and solid waste service providers, was supposed to be honored at the 2020 gala, but it was canceled. He died in January 2021, aged 54, of complications from Covid-19.

“RVC Blue Speaks is an organization our family has long admired for its commitment to the autism community,” Joe’s son Patrick told the Herald in a statement. Patrick is the Chairman of the Board of Winter Bros. and will accept the honor on behalf of his father, alongside his mother, Michele. “We are honored to accept the Blue Legacy Award in memory of my father,” added Patrick. “His legacy lives on through work at the Winters Center for Autism.”

The centre, in West Babylon, helps people on the spectrum get the training they need to join the workforce. Joe Winters founded it after his son Sean was diagnosed with autism. Chris Pozia, the facility’s executive director, said the unemployment rate for adults with autism is 90% and the center is working to help employers understand that there is a talent pool in which they could tap if they gave people with autism the proper training. She added that the award was bittersweet, as Winters is not alive to receive it.

“The relationship between RVC Blue Speaks and the Center for Autism is very symbiotic,” Pozia said. “Our goals, our mission, our values ​​are to help people with autism, to help their families, and to truly help people find purpose and thrive. That was our founder Joe’s vision of really using his Winter Brothers platform, and his background as a father with an autistic son, and his connections in the business world to focus on employing people with autism.

The Cancellieris founded RVC Blue Speaks after their grandson Louis, now 8, was diagnosed with autism at age 2. The group’s mission is to promote awareness and acceptance of people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders so that their quality of life is improved and their potential is realized. It also supports genetic research, programs and community initiatives that directly serve families in need on Long Island, and strives to turn the conversation about autism into action and progress.

The money RVC Blue Speaks has raised over the years has funded thousands of scholarships for high school students entering the Bridges to Adelphi program at Adelphi University, as well as the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, and Hagedorn Little Village School in Seaford. The organization has also partnered with Mount Sinai South Nassau to fund “Louie,” a Vecta machine that provides a calming atmosphere for people with autism in the often stressful and unfamiliar environment of an emergency room or hospital. .

“Joe Winters did a fantastic job before he passed, and now his family continues to build this center,” Anthony Cancellieri said, “and in this center they will be able to train people on the spectrum.”

At Saturday’s gala, the foundation will also honor Tom Wilson with its Courage Award. Wilson, 21, was diagnosed with autism at age 8, but despite his struggles he amassed a 4.0 GPA at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue last semester, where he is studying hospitality, business and philosophy.

“We have an award called the Courage Award,” Cancellieri said, “which just means that despite being on the spectrum, you’re still going to do great things, and he’s a perfect example of that.”

Wilson, a Bellport resident, said he was honored to be recognized. “I’m very proud of myself and want to thank them for honoring me,” he said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m very proud.”

Cancellieri said he expected a crowd of around 200 at Baldwin’s Coral House and planned to raise $75,000 for the foundation. The gala is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. For more information on RVC Blue Speaks or to purchase tickets, visit rvcbluespeaks.org or @RVCBlueSpeaks on Facebook.

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