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Difference Makers: The Class of 2015

Difference Makers Will Be Celebrated on March 19 at the Log Cabin

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Photos by Denise Smith Photography

While each of the first six classes of Difference Makers was diverse, and effectively showed just how many groups and individuals are worthy of that phrase, the group being honored this year probably sets a new standard.
It includes the region’s only Fortune 100 company, three nonprofit agencies — one committed to fostering and nurturing entrepreneurship, another focused on improving quality of life in Greater Springfield through a host of family-centered events, and the third created to raise funds for childhood cancer facilities in the name of a spirited 11-year-old who succumbed to the disease — and an assembled team of entrepreneurs that kept Springfield’s most iconic restaurant open for future generations to enjoy.
“The stories that start on page A4 are all different, and they show what those of us at BusinessWest knew when we started this program back in 2009,” said Kate Campiti, the magazine’s associate publisher. “And that is that there certainly are a number of ways that people can make a difference in the community.”
The honorees, to be feted on March 19 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House are:

Katelynn’s Ride: Created in 2011 to honor the memory of Katelynn Battista, who lost her courageous battle to leukemia at age 11, the K-Ride, as organizers call it, raises money for both Baystate Children’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. Locally, some of the funds awarded to Baystate have gone to support a new position, a nurse practitioner who acts as a liaison between the families of cancer patients and the teams of specialists that provide care.
Meanwhile, those who participate in the ride say the event itself has become a Difference Maker by providing camaraderie and a forum in which they can fight cancer together and honor both those who have survived their battles and those who have lost, and the ways in which those individuals inspire others.

Judy Matt, president of the Spirit of Springfield: For more than three decades, Matt has been at the forefront of coordinating family-focused events for the residents of Springfield and surrounding communities. That list includes Fourth of July fireworks, the annual pancake breakfast (once touted as the world’s largest), the Big Balloon Parade, and Bright Nights, the holiday lighting display that is on many national lists of must-see attractions.
Those who have worked with Matt praise not only the depth of her work, but the energy and imagination she brings to it, and the way in which she has brightened some very dark days for the city. Said Bill Pepin, president of WWLP and the first board chair of the Spirit of Springfield, “Judy has been a true champion of Springfield, a real believer, especially during the tough times, when a lot of people were saying, ‘if you’re the last one to leave, turn out the lights.’

MassMutual: The financial-services giant is being honored not simply for the depth of its philanthropy or community involvement, but the strategic nature of such endeavors. Focused in three areas — education, economic development, and ‘community vitality,’ the company’s many contributions are long-term in focus, with the goal of strengthening the community and building a quality workforce.
Said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “from the beginning, this city has always been able to count on MassMutual. It’s been a source of jobs, a force on economic development, and a philanthropic monster. And it should never, ever be taken for granted, because not every city has a MassMutual — and every city would love to have one.”

The new ownership team of the Student Prince and the Fort: Last summer, Rudy Scherff, second-generation co-owner of the Springfield-based institution known as the Student Prince and the Fort, announced that, if new ownership could not be found, the iconic restaurant and tavern would likely close amid falling profits and rising expenses. Into the breach stepped a somewhat unlikely group — Peter Picknelly, owner of Peter Pan Bus Lines; the Yee family, owners of the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee and other restaurants; and Kevin and Michael Vann, father-and-son consultants who have worked with a number of restaurateurs over the years.
When they announced their intentions to give the landmark a facelift and a slightly altered menu and reopen the day before Thanksgiving, they not only saved a part of Springfield’s fabric, said Sarno, they gave the entire city a shot in the arm.

Valley Venture Mentors: While only a few years old now, Valley Venture Mentors, an agency tasked with mentoring entrepreneurs and fostering entrepreneurship, is already making a difference in the broad realm of economic development.
Through a host of initiatives ranging from monthly mentoring sessions to shared-workspace initiatives, to a new accelerator program which just welcomed its first cohort of 30 companies, VVM is, according to many observers, making real progress in creating an entrepreneurial renaissance in Springfield and the region as a whole.

The March 19 event will feature butlered hors d’ oeuvres, lavish food stations, a networking hour, introductions of the Difference Makers, and remarks from the honorees. Tickets are $60 per person, with tables of 10 available.
For more information, or to order tickets, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or go HERE.

Previous difference makers

2009
• Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank
• Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual Financial/The Zuzolo Group
• Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of GoFIT and co-founder of Link to Libraries
• William Ward, executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
• The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield

2010
• The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
• Ellen Freyman, attorney and shareholder at Shatz Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
• James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development
• Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities
• UMass Amherst and its chancellor, Robert Holub

2011
• Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
• Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, founder of Rays of Hope
• Don Kozera, president of Human Resources Unlimited
• Robert Perry, retired partner/consultant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka
• Anthony Scott, police chief of Holyoke

2012
• Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO of Big Y Foods
• William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College
• Majors Tom and Linda-Jo Perks, officers of the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army
• Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines
• The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

2013
• Michael Cutone, John Barbieri, and Thomas Sarrouf, organizers of Springfield’s C3 Policing program
• John Downing, president of Soldier On
• Bruce Landon, president and general manager of the Springfield Falcons
• The Sisters of Providence
• Jim Vinick, senior vice president of investments at Moors & Cabot Inc.

2014
• The Gray House
• Colleen Loveless, executive director of the Springfield chapter of Rebuilding Together
• The Melha Shriners
• Paula Moore, founder of YSET Academy and a teacher at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Training Academy
• Michael Moriarty, attorney, director of Olde Holyoke Development Corp., and supporter of childhood-literacy programs

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