‘GAWDA Gives Back’

Tops $2 Million

The Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) and its member businesses will again this fall present sizeable monetary gifts to two organizations whose good works help hundreds of others meet daily needs and long-term life goals. Significantly this year, after 17 years of conducting its fund-raising initiative, GAWDA Gives Back contributions have topped the $2-million mark.

Every year since 2000, when the program was started by former association president David Mahoney and his wife, Donna, members have made monetary gifts knowing their contributions will be dedicated to organizations based in the city that hosts the GAWDA Annual Convention. The idea is to leave behind goodwill and tangible resources as a thank-you for a positive meeting experience.

Last year’s effort raised $190,000, and that amount was split equally and presented to The Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui and The Neighborhood Place of Wailuku in Maui, Hawaii. Since the 2016 Annual Convention, another $9,000 in contributions has come in, pushing total contributions since the initiative began to just over $2 million.

John Ospina, executive director of GAWDA, reflected on the degree of help the initiative represents. “It is amazing to think how much these funds have helped thousands of people through two dozen community programs. The receipt of unexpected resources helps these organizations provide direct aid to individuals and conduct family quality-of-life programs. This milestone represents a tremendous effort sustained over many years by our membership, and that is a very proud legacy for GAWDA.”

The adjacent chart illustrates the growth of the program over the years and the organizations that have benefitted.

This year, GAWDA President Mark Raimy and his wife, Kathryn Raimy, selected the New York City-based groups Headstrong Project and Candlelighters NYC to benefit from the contributions. Headstrong is dedicated to assisting post-9/11 veterans receive mental health care, and the Candlelighters NYC organization helps children who are diagnosed with cancer and serious illnesses to enjoy positive experiences with their families.

Candlelighters NYC

The non-profit organization Candlelighters NYC helps families get through the trying circumstances that surround a child’s being diagnosed with and treated for cancer.

Children from all over the world come to New York to receive the best pediatric cancer treatment available, the organization notes, yet sometimes they and their families are not fully prepared for resulting long stays. The organization offers assistance and support to address the difficulties and inconveniences of hospitalizations and extended stays. Aid may consist of volunteers helping families find their way around an unfamiliar city; a program that provides sturdy strollers suited for NYC’s craggy sidewalks; supplying needed food vouchers and gift cards; help finding clothing appropriate for NYC weather and offering babysitting services.

The staff and volunteers also offer friendship and moral support through all stages of the child’s illness: discovery, diagnosis, treatment and remission. They make sure hospitalized children get to celebrate holidays and birthdays, and that as treatment plans permit, the children and their families also can enjoy fun New York outings, such as Central Park concerts, passes to special events and trips to the museum, zoo and aquarium.

GAWDA Gives Back

Headstrong Project

The Headstrong Project (Headstrong) was founded in 2012 to provide frictionless, world-class mental health care to Iraq and Afghanistan conflict veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and other hidden wounds.

The project partners with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and with top clinicians across the country. Their goal is to provide a comprehensive treatment program for post 9/11 military service veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, anxiety and depression, grief and loss, trauma and anger management. Programs address the challenges and barriers that can prevent high-quality care for veterans by providing cost-free and individualized assistance through networks of experienced clinicians. Three principles guide the program: that services are free of charge, free of bureaucracy and free of stigma. Because providers work directly with veterans, the model eliminates the need for “bricks and mortar” facilities, long wait times and extensive forms.

Since its founding, more than 400 veterans have been helped to regain their mental fitness, the project reports. Currently, 250 veterans are in treatment in the New York Metro area, San Diego and Riverside County, Calif.; and the cities of Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C,. and Los Angeles. The group plans a national expansion to 20 cities by 2020 and the implementation of hybrid telemedicine programs to provide care in rural areas.