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Stars Gala » Stars Gala

Stars Gala

DDI hosted its annual Stars Gala and Auction on Friday, November 16, 2018 at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook. More than 350 guests danced the night away and raised approximately $155,000 to support the children and adults served by DDI to achieve personal growth and fulfillment.


The night paid tribute to those who have dedicated their time to support DDI.  Tom Damato and Rich Bruno, sales representatives of Driscoll Foods, have been valued friends of DDI for over fifteen years. As the supplier of food products to the sixty-five children who presently reside in our Children’s Residential programs at DDI’s Smithtown and Huntington campuses, Tom and Rich have demonstrated unparalleled compassion and support for DDI’s work. 


Gala HonoreesPictured left to right are DDI Executive Director John Lessard, 2018 Gala Honorees Rich Bruno and Tom Damato,

as well as DDI Board Chairperson Philip Veneziano. 


Walgreens of Medford, committed to employing individuals of varying abilities, was awarded the 2018 Employer of the Year.   For nearly two decades, Walgreens has provided the individuals DDI supports the opportunity to become more independent and able to lead self-sufficient lives in the future.


Employer of the year

Pictured left to right are DDI Executive Director John Lessard, 2018 Employer of the Year recipient Kim Kranz, DDI Board Chairperson

Philip Veneziano, DDI participant and Walgreens employee John Smith, and Employee Specialist Tara Giarrusso.


Dietrich Warner, residence manager, was celebrated as the 2018 Employee of the Year.  Dietrich began her career at DDI in 1996 as a direct care role, and over time, she excelled in her career to become a residence manager and attain her credential as a licensed practical nurse (LPN).   


During her tenure, Dietrich has always maintained an atmosphere of warmth, respect, and compassion in the Babylon residence.   Dietrich’s devotion and commitment to the individuals we serve is remarkable.  She has become an inspiration to all who work alongside her,” commented DDI Executive Director John Lessard.


Employee of the year

Pictured left to right are DDI Executive Director John Lessard, 2018 Employee of the Year Dietrich Warner,

and DDI Board Chairperson Philip Veneziano. 


“Our Annual Stars Gala has grown to be one of DDI’s largest fundraising events benefitting the services we offer to over 1,000 of our families who have loved ones with special needs,” continued Lessard. “Unfortunately, government sources only provide enough funding to meet the most basic needs of those in our care, but with the help of our generous donors and countless volunteers, it becomes possible for the children and adults we support to achieve their full potential.”


DDI would like to thank all of its 2018 Gala Honorees, sponsors, attendees, donors and volunteers for helping to make the night a success. 



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