ABOARD gala recognizes award winners

| Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens served as the backdrop for the 13th Annual Gala to benefit ABOARD's Autism Connection of PA on Saturday. More than 260 guests — including board chair Elliot Frank, executive director Luciana Randall, Ralph andSharon Martin, Jennifer Salamon and Frank and Debbie Coonelly — were there to laud a host of individuals, including Grandin Award winner Jillian Zacks, an attorney at Metz Lewis Brodman Must O'Keefe LLC and the mother of 14-year-old twins who are on the spectrum.

“I have to say it's truly an honor to receive an award named after such an inspiring woman,” she said. Contenders for the award, named after Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted autistic who became a best-selling author and professional speaker, included finalists Janice Bollman-Trout and Joseph Kleppick.

“I am very proud of him,” offered Kleppick's mother, Cindy Rosser. “He's a great kid.”

Joseph Lucot accepted on behalf of Giant Eagle, which was recognized as a Special Honoree for the company's commitment to giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to thrive in a working environment, and John Lovelace served as the honorary chair of the evening.

“There was even more enthusiasm than last (year). We have a lot of interest, and that's great. Autism is fascinating because it's such a huge spectrum ... when it's in front of you, you recognize it and realize it needs to be dealt with just like anything else,” offered MJ Crane, who served on the gala committee with her husband, Steve.

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