Hundreds enjoy Not-So-Snooty event for Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

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Story by Robin Lee Michel
Photos by Marissa Carole Dembkoski

Melissa and Brian Gatesman, who live in the Albany, N.Y., suburb of Colonie, N.Y., had an unusual route when they took their holiday-time trip to New York City. Instead of heading directly south, they drove 120 miles east. Their first stop was Windsor Locks to take part in the Not-So-Snooty, Beer, Wine and Cheese Tasting Adventure. This year, Bradley Family Day’s event at the New England Air Museum was held Nov. 22.

The fest, sponsored by JetBlue Airways, benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a program founded in 1988 by actor Paul Newman to give seriously ill children ages 7 to 15 the opportunity to experience camp with fun, friendship and spirit of childhood. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp also offers family programming and brings outreach activities to hospitalized children unable to attend camp. The first camp opened in Ashford, and there are now 15 camps collectively known as SeriousFun Children’s Network in the United States and abroad. Each year, more than 20,000 children and family members use the services — all provided free of charge.

“We first came six years ago because the proceeds go to a good cause,” Brian Gatesman said. Since that time they have seen many more breweries and wineries showcased. “The food is spectacular and the service is unbelievable. We feel spoiled,” he said. The couple had reservations to stay in one of the high-end hotels near Bradley International Airport and then were heading the next morning to New York City for shopping and sightseeing.

Kathy Maznicki, who is one of the fundraiser’s founding committee members, said the affiliation between the Bradley Family Fun Day organization and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp began 13 years ago when a camp board member suggested involving the Bradley International Airport community in supporting the good cause. At first the family day was exactly that: an open house to give the public the opportunity to see aircraft up close. Even though the family event has been phased out, the name remains, and two fundraisers —the wine and beer fest, and a breakfast — continue.

More than 450 guests mingled in the air museum’s two main indoor exhibit areas to sample wine, beer and food, while listening to live jazz by the Pratt & Whitney Screamin’ Eagles. They also browsed the displays, tried flight simulators and viewed the collection of authentic and replica aircraft representing aviation history from pioneers to the jet age.

North Granby resident Deborah Zanella said she was quite impressed by and pleased to be at the event for the first time. “I’m really surprised with the variety of the collection,” she said as she viewed a display about the role the Polish Air Force played in World War II. “I never knew about this,” she said, referring to the little-known history.

Maria Angelita Gomez, director of annual giving for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, said the air museum was an exciting venue. “This event is in the top 15 percent of our fundraisers. It’s terrific how the committee has taken ownership of our mission. It’s great to have them for advocates,” Gomez said.

The venture would not be possible if not for all the corporate sponsors and fleet of volunteers, Maznicki said. This year’s major raffle prizes included roundtrip tickets (JetBlue), overnight stays (five different hotels) and women’s basketball tickets (Signature Flight Support). Executive Cuisine Catering, of New Milford, which caters food for private jet customers, served an extensive array of hot and cold delicacies.

“JetBlue has been a proud supporter of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp since we launched our service from Bradley Airport in November 2010,” said Ronda Ivy McLeod, manager of regional marketing for JetBlue. “We have a longstanding commitment to supporting the people, places and events that matter most to the communities we serve, and we are proud to support the good work of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.”

Maznicki said she expects future Not-So-Snooty, Beer, Wine and Cheese Tasting Adventures to continue to grow in popularity and attendance. “We don’t advertise. It’s all word of mouth,” she said. “It’s a nice night out. And benefits a wonderful cause.”

 

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