Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Father Heath Pahucki, mother Claire Pahucki, Sullivan County ATV president Bob Gates and Willem Pahucki. They received a check for $6,000 on Saturday evening, as did two other families.
Sullivan ATV group ‘runs’ to their aid
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO December 10, 2013 Since 1999, the Sullivan County ATV Association has been donating the proceeds of its various annual "runs" to families with children with special needs, to the tune of more than $150,000 since that inaugural year.
And this year was no different, as Saturday evening, at Mr. Willy's restaurant, the group handed out a total of more than $20,000 to three grateful families, the Sullivan County CASA youth court advocate program and Monticello's three elementary schools.
But with more than 40 property owners, more than half of which were present Saturday, former Sullivan ATV president Tony Poli said, "One of the real reasons for this dinner tonight is to thank all you property owners letting us use your land. Without all of you, what we do wouldn't even be possible."
Without the landowners whom allow the group to utilize their lands, Sullivan County ATV wouldn't have close to the 30-40 miles of trail it currently has for its various runs. Participants in these runs, who come form New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, pay entry fees which account for the proceeds.
Current club president Tom Gates handed out the evening's monetary awards, starting with a $1,000 check for the Sullivan County CASA organization. But first an emotional Gates offered, "Without our volunteers and members this doesn't happen tonight. It entails a lot of effort from a lot of people and that's what makes this happen. I'm honored and you're all like family to me here. That's what we are, a family."
Interim CASA Director Theresa Giglio told the Democrat, "I think this is amazing. It truly is. These funds will certainly be put to good use. It will help us provide our kids what they need, especially in situations where kids are being removed from their homes. We like to be able to provide them with things so that they can enter a new home prepared. These funds will go a long ways toward making sure this happens."
Sullivan County CASA provides screened, trained and supervised volunteers who are appointed by the Family Court Judge to speak up for the needs of abused and neglected children. The volunteers, each as an independent voice, advocate for the best interests of children, one child at a time. The volunteers are from all walks of life and are dedicated to reducing the amount of time a child spends in temporary foster care. A safe, permanent and nurturing home for every child in Sullivan County is CASA's ultimate goal.
Gates next handed a $1,000 check to the George L. Cooke School's Assistant Principal, Rosemarie Romano. Besides the $1,000 for the Cooke School, the Kenneth L. Rutherford School, and the Emma C. Chase schools will also receive $1,000 endowments.
And then there were the evening's main beneficiaries; the Natale family and 8-year-old Aiden; the Pahucki family and 7-year-old Willem; and lastly the Soderlim's and 5-year-old Amelia; all of whom received $6,000 checks from Sullivan County ATV.
Both Aiden and Willem were diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 4 with leukemia and are currently in remission. Five-year-old Amelia suffers from a rare disorder called optic nerve glioma.
Offered Willem's father Heath, "I'm just overjoyed and overwhelmed by the camaraderie I see here tonight and how we've been truly treated as family here. He [Willem] wanted a four wheeler for Christmas and I think he can have it now."
Willem's parents touted the fact that Willem will officially be considered "cured" upon his final chemo appointment on March 20. "I want to thank the organization for such an amazing thing in helping our family, our schools, and our youth," said Willem's mother, Claire Pahucki, adding, "He [Willem] was first diagnosed on his fourth birthday back in 2011. It was a huge struggle, not just physically and emotionally, but also financially. I'm very, very grateful today and we're looking very much forward to his last day of chemo on March 20, 2014."
Aiden Natale and his family were the beneficiaries of the Sullivan County ATV’s generosity to youth, schools and families of children with special needs.