A feel-good effort with life-long results
Sept. 10 Motown Magic Under The Stars concert to benefit FAVARH
By Natalie K. Pollock
On Saturday, September 10, FAVARH – The Arc of the Farmington Valley is hosting a concert of Motown favorites from the 60s, 70s and 80s at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center. Family, friends, corporate sponsors and music lovers will come together to enjoy a music genre that still continues to thrill. They will also be there to celebrate a service organization that has been finding ways to support and encourage intellectually disabled young people since 1958.
According to their website, FAVARH, based in Canton, “is the world’s largest community-based organization for people with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. FAVARH supports more than 350 children, young adults, adults, seniors and (their) families throughout the Greater Farmington Valley area and beyond.”
The Shadows of the 60s tribute band has entertained at FAVARH events such as the annual gala in the past. With energetic choreography and stunning period costumes, they have brought back the sounds and moves of such Motown greats as the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and Marvin Gaye among others.
Founder Dave Revel has 30 years’ experience in the music industry, is a former member of the Drifters and a current member of The Persuasions, an a cappella group. The Shadows band tours widely and has sold out concerts in a variety of venues, large and small.
Bob Maxon, weatherman and anchor with NBC Connecticut and a West Simsbury resident, will act as the master of ceremonies as he has since six years ago when he first took on that role for FAVARH’s gala. He has worked for NBC Connecticut for 27 years, and the television station is a long-time supporter of FAVARH.
“This year’s fundraising event is exciting because of the Motown concert. It will be outside at a big venue with great entertainment. I am honored to be part of an important night and a great fundraiser,” said Maxon.
His wife Jackie Maxon is a paralegal and the entertainment director at FAVARH. The couple has two daughters, one of whom has graduated from college. He has also been involved with Special Olympics since 1990.
“I have an uncle that is intellectually disabled and has been in an institution his whole life. How far we’ve come with the employment opportunities at BeanZ and the independent living apartments at Bear Woods in Canton as well as a new building in Bloomfield. I am happy to be a part of what FAVARH is doing,” said Maxon.
BeanZ & Co. is a café within the long-standing food business New England Pasta Company in Avon, where “everyone belongs,” according to the café’s motto. It employs intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD) young adults that are identified and transported by FAVARH. Maxon calls Nick Sinacori, who works there, his friend.
Another BeanZ employee and FAVARH board member Lauren Cook recently married Scott Masson, who has been an active participant in Special Olympics and is employed by MW Industries in Southington. The newlyweds have moved into the Bear Woods independent and supported apartment complex in Canton.
Penny Phillips, marketing and communications director for FAVARH, points out that “if a business wants to employ IDD people, a crew at FAVARH will work with the company to design a program” similar to the BeanZ & Co. concept. “There are more than 20 crews in the Valley. The program helps people to transition to living independently and working.”
Nick Sinacori lives at Bear Woods. It is a 40-unit apartment building at 350 Commerce Drive that has reserved a quarter of its apartments for IDD people. Across the street is a gym available to residents.
His mother Suzanne Sinacori, who along with her son are FAVARH board members, said, “Most of the residents come from their parents’ homes. There is so much joy and nerves” with that transition.
Nick has a one-bedroom apartment in a building with onsite support 24 hours a day. He is in charge of his own meals, cleaning his apartment and doing his own laundry. He invites friends over and watches sports with his father who visits regularly.
Nick has been working every day at BeanZ since 2018 and moved into the apartment a year ago. He is looked at as a mentor by his peers and tells anyone who asks what he enjoys doing.
“I wanted to be more independent,” he said.
Nick grew up in West Simsbury. His mother became the school nurse so that she could work on his schedule. She was her son’s nurse at St. Francis Hospital.
Sports is an activity that he and his father share. Nick enjoys swimming and bowling. He has volunteered as the golf assistant coach in the Special Olympics and announces baseball games in Simsbury. He has also volunteered as a SCTV cameraman.
“I am very proud of him. He has acclimated really well to living here. He has conquered his fears, for example the fire alarms were frightening. He had to pivot and be flexible, which is hard for someone with autism. Now he goes with the flow better. Cooking is still frightening for Nick so he’s not doing that yet. He heats up meals and microwaves. He’s fully capable of cooking but has no desire to do it,” said Suzanne.
Nick is the oldest of three children in the family at 27 years of age. He has a 24-year-old brother and a sister who is 20. His father Mike Sinacori serves as the president of the FAVARH board and works at AT&T. He has been Nick’s swim coach at the Special Olympics.
“Nick plays basketball at the gym across the street. There is a healthy meals option here, and a food delivery service. We partner with the chef at Maple Tree. There are 22 FAVARH residents here now. Nick does not need as much support as some,” Phillips added.
Bear Woods is the first such facility funded with state assistance and serves as a model. There are six other similar complexes being built. Lavender Fields in Bloomfield just opened.
Bill Harmon has served on the FAVARH board since 2019. He works as the chief client officer for Voya Financial in Colorado now, after working in Connecticut. His son William, 21, has Down’s syndrome, and is spending the summer at a camp for young people with special needs in Colorado that focuses on life skills and independence.
“After William aged out of school, we did some traveling as a family. Now he is involved in day programs and has three jobs. Unfortunately, there is no FAVARH in Colorado. He wants to be a dog trainer and work at Chick- fil-A,” said Harmon.
He explained, “Voya Cares is part of the financial services business that focuses on retirement. [This particular program] focuses on special needs people and their caregivers to help with finances with government programs. I felt I needed more than a job. I needed a purpose. Voya gave me that,” said Harmon.
Voya is a major donor to the Bear Woods apartment complex and the gym across the street, according to Harmon. It helps IDD young people with planning for a future without parents.
Motown Magic Under the Stars concert goers may select a VIP experience with a catered table for eight from the Metro Bis restaurant or order a dinner picnic with three-days’ advance notice from New England Pasta Company at 860-678-9100 or The Winged Bear at 860-658-2295. Gates open at 6 for picnicking and the concert begins at 7:30.
For tickets in advance visit favarh.org/Motown. Lawn tickets are $25 ($30 on the day of the concert). Rain date: September 11. Corporate sponsorships are available. VL