This year’s Charlie Smith Community Awards Banquet found friends old and new gathering for a warm night of celebration and connection. From the opening reception’s jovial chatter to the last moonlit goodbyes, those in attendance at Black Bear Crossings in Como Park once again enjoyed this annual event, as the intimate atmosphere of a capacity crowd allowed the chance to both solidify and reminisce on old friendships while also making new ones.
After opening remarks by Access Press Board Chair Mike Chevrette and Executive Director Tim Benjamin, guests enjoyed a turkey dinner and the continued jazzy stylings of pianist Larry McDonough. Two departing board members, JoAnn Cardenas Enos and Mary Kay Kennedy, were then recognized for their outstanding service over the years, both using their exits to elicit smiles rather than tears with jokes and sincere thanks.
The evening’s apex came with the awarding of the Charlie Smith Community Award to Jim and Claudia Carlisle, two longtime members and advocates of the disability community. Through the speakers who chose to introduce them, their legacy was clearly on display. While being admired for their shared tenacity and lifelong activism, it was evident from the frequent laughter that this couple also values humor as a tool in overcoming adversity. With an ultimate legacy of spreading inspiration and awareness to anyone they’ve come into contact with, the award winning couple reminded us all exactly why and how we continue the struggle, and if we’re lucky, continue it with a smile.