Category: autism

LDSS Night of Champions 2017 Recipients

Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Honors 2017 Champions at Annual Gala

The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) recognized five outstanding individuals and their employers during the organization’s eighth Annual Night of Champions gala, held Thursday, May 11 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Savannah.

The organization’s 2017 Champions are adult workers who demonstrate exemplary dedication and commitment as employees and are recognized as integral team members at their places of work.

The awards went to:

“By living to their fullest potentials, the LDSS Champions are advocates for themselves and others with Down syndrome or other cognitive or developmental challenges, proving themselves truly able,” said the 2017 Night of Champions chairwoman, Allyson Harvin. “Each year, we recognize those Champions who, through their paid or unpaid work, bring about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down syndrome and all differently-abled adults.”

The President of LDSS, Candy Bogardus presented the President’s Award to Bonnie Rachael, founder and CEO of Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center. Located in Guyton, Georgia, Faith Equestrian began back in 2006 with the mission of, “We exist to improve the lives of individuals with different abilities through the power of the horse.” The center now has 12 horses, a donkey, and offers two primary programs, the Therapeutic Riding program and the EFL Program. For more information on the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, visit

Over 600 Savannah area business leaders, employees and advocates attended the event. The National Down Syndrome Society’s Chief of Staff delivered welcoming remarks and Savannah’s own Jamie Deen, TV personality and best-selling cookbook author, served as master of ceremonies. Deen, who sits on the LDSS Board, is a strong advocate for hiring individuals with Down syndrome and other different abilities.

2017 Night of Champions Attendees

2017 Night of Champions Attendees


NICHOLAS BROWN came to the Savannah International Airport in 2014 and worked in the airport terminal before he was offered a job as a groundskeeper. His supervisor, George Miller, says Brown demonstrates commitment, dedication, personal care and pride in his work. He also has been recognized by WTOC as a Community Champion.

MACKENZIE HANCOCK has worked for Polka Dots Gifts & Accessories for the past year. Hancock has several tasks that she does regularly but is always willing to try something new. Her manager, Jackie Pickering, says Hancock comes to work happily, has an enthusiastic personality and does whatever she is asked to do. Her coworkers say she is incredibly funny, caring, kind and loving and is personable with staff and customers.

GEORGE GATES has worked as a custodian with Goodwill Southeast Georgia for 15 years. He greets his co-workers with a smile, a sincere “hello” and his signature hug. His supervisor, Runella Black, says Gates comes to work early and never hesitates to work late if the facility is short-staffed. He impresses others with his work ethic, compassion, friendly personality and ability to work well under pressure. He demonstrates superlative customer service and enjoys speaking (and taking pictures) with the various dignitaries who tour the building. He also loves sharing his success story of how Goodwill has impacted his life.

DENNIS PICKETT has been employed as a warehouse team member with for eight months. His employment specialist, Alina Rickards, says Dennis volunteered in the cafeteria while he still was in school and expressed a desire to become part of the workforce. After completing a job assessment, Pickett joined the warehouse team.

BRENTON SCOTT has been on the team at Coastal Pet Rescue for a year. His supervisor, Jennifer Taylor, and the facility’s director, Lisa Scarborough say Scott’s family had spent several years trying to find a place where the young man could work on developing his independence. He first was teamed with a senior volunteer to work one day a week in the kennels to provide proper diets, perform all sanitary cleaning and make sure the dogs got daily exercise. After about four months, he started joining coworkers on weekends to attend adoption events to promote the dogs he cared for and to help them find new homes.

Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Night of Champions 2017

Jamie Deen, Jennifer Taylor, and Brenton Scott

The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a family support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, outreach, education and advocacy to champion and celebrate acceptance and inclusion. Meetings are held every fourth Tuesday of the month, typically with a guest speaker and social time for families to meet and interact with one another. LDSS encourages people to bring their children. LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society. For more information about LDSS, visit Find LDSS on Twitter at @LowcountryDSS.

Candy Bogardus

Cynthia Wright
Junior Partner
Carriage Trade Public Relations®
Cecilia Russo Marketing


Boom! Zap! Pow! Salute to Savannah Super Heroes Awards Banquet Raises $20,000 for Local Autism Organization

Savannah, GA – November 4, 2015 — The Matthew Reardon Center for Autism (MRCA) announced today that it raised $20,000 from its awards banquet held on October 22 at the DeSoto Hilton Hotel. Proceeds from the evening will be used to support the organization as it expands its resources and footprint in Georgia in order to better serve the growing needs of the regional autism community.

Boom! Zap! Pow! A Salute to Savannah Superheroes Awards Banquet was the second of three events hosted in celebration of MCRA’s 15 years serving the autism and special needs communities in Savannah and throughout southeast Georgia. The evening featured the inaugural presentation of the Marie Backus McGaughey Award for Childhood Philanthropy. Greg Parker of the Parker Companies received the award in recognition of his outstanding generosity including Parkers’ “Fueling the Community” program, which provides funding to local schools in southeast Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Area high school students contributed to the evening’s entertainment, including the Habersham Vibe jazz quartet and The Savannah Arts Academy Dance Company.

MRCA’s final anniversary event will be the 2016 Autism Conference in Savannah (Feb. 11-12) that will feature internationally recognized experts in various autism-related fields of work and research. Conference organizers are bringing together a variety of professionals and family participants from the U.S. and Canada, most notably Dr. Temple Grandin as the keynote speaker. MRCA will also host a Friday evening (Feb. 12) community event featuring Dr. Grandin that is free and open to the general public.

About MRCA: The Matthew Reardon Center for Autism operates the only year-round, day school in southeast Georgia for children with ASD. Furthermore, it promotes outreach and advocacy through forged partnerships with families and with existing medical, educational, and community services in order to help these children reach their full potential and enhance their quality of life as well as that of their families. The Matthew Reardon Center for Autism is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, and relies on support of those who share our passion and vision. For more information, visit

Contact: Patti Victor

  1. 912-355-9098