NSSRA Honors Its “Shining Stars” At Annual Banquet

Linda Goodman (left) with members of the Slotnick Family. L-R: Valerie Slotnick, Ben Slotnick, Barry Slotnick, Carly Slotnick, Natalie Slotnick and Jay Slotnick. Goodman is the director of the Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship, which has donated over $185,000 to NSSRA programs and services in the last 11 years. This year the award was re-named the Mitchell L. Slotnick Friend of the Year in honor of Dr. Mitchell L. Slotnick, a founding member of NSSRA Foundation and who’s son, Jay, has participated in NSSRA programs for nearly 40 years.

10 Honorees from Glenview, Gurnee, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Mundelein, Wilmette and Winnetka Recognized As Outstanding Members of the NSSRA Family

Download PDF
Media: View NSSRA’s Annual Video | 2019 Photos

Northbrook, IL – May 30, 2019 – It was a heartfelt night of celebration on Friday, May 10 when nearly 450 participants, family members, staff, board members, supporters and partners came together at the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook for NSSRA’s Shining Stars Awards & Recognition Banquet. The annual gathering gives NSSRA an opportunity to recognize their outstanding participants, families, staff, advocates, partners, community members and friends who have truly made a difference the previous year.

“Our participants are incredible people, and the most important reason we gather to celebrate,” said Craig Culp, NSSRA’s Executive Director. “It’s exciting to see so many at the banquet, more this year than ever, supporting and applauding the most deserving individuals in our communities, award winners or not.”

Nine individual awards were given to ten recipients.

Sofia & Luciano Beltrano, siblings from Glenview and students at Glenbrook South High School, were each honored with NSSRA’s Youth Participant of the Year award. Recognized for their engagement, growth at programs, and kindness toward others, they accepted their awards with their parents at their side. “Thank you, NSSRA, for helping me make new friends and all the fun field trips,” said Sofia. Her brother, Luciano, also shared, “Thank you, NSSRA, for teaching me how to ice skate. My favorite activity is going to Six Flags Great America!”

The evening also marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of Dr. Mitchell L. Slotnick, a decades-long member of the NSSRA community who left a lasting legacy of leadership and generosity. Slotnick was a founding member of NSSRA Foundation in 1997, and in its 22-year history the Foundation has raised over $1.8 million for NSSRA programs, scholarships and vehicles. Slotnick’s son, Jay, has been participating in NSSRA programs for nearly 40 years.

In honor of Mitch Slotnick, Culp announced the permanent re-naming of the annual “Friend of the Year” award to the “Mitchell L. Slotnick Friend of the Year” award, which this year went to Linda Goodman. Goodman is the director of the Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship, held in Winnetka each July. NSSRA has been the charitable beneficiary of the tournament for many years, and in the last 11 years the tournament has donated over $185,000 to NSSRA programs and services.

Diane Curtis of Winnetka accepted NSSRA’s Adult Participant of the Year award on behalf of her daughter, Jane McDonald, also of Winnetka. McDonald participates in Enriched Lifestyles for Adults (ELA), NSSRA’s adult day program. Accepting the award, Curtis shared, “Our hearts are full of gratitude that our daughter has found such a wonderful place to land. I knew when she raced past me when I dropped her off at ELA that she was comfortable and excited to go there.” She continued, “We are very grateful to this organization and to everyone who supports it.”

This year’s Program Staff of the Year award went to Mike LaMarca of Mundelein, a part-time program assistant and coach who has been with the agency for six years. Accepting his award, LaMarca commented, “It has been an honor to work for such a great organization. My biggest joy has been the participants, to see the camaraderie in all that they do, and the fun that they have, and the friendships that they’ve come to have over the years has been a great joy.”

Wilmette Park District, one of NSSRA’s largest 13 partners, received the Partner Agency of the Year award for their significant support of and enthusiastic involvement with NSSRA participants, programs and services.

Wilmette Executive Director Steve Wilson, accepting the award on behalf of the park district, said, “We’re here tonight to celebrate a little bit of what’s good in the world around us, and if it wasn’t for the commitment and support of the Board and Park Commissioners, and their support of NSSRA, this partnership wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does for our communities.” He continued, “if it wasn’t for the efforts of Wilmette Park District and NSSRA staff on a daily basis to improve and strengthen and deepen the partnership, the community wouldn’t be as great as it is either.”

He concluded, “For the staff of NSSRA, no matter what your role is, no matter how many months of the year you work or how many hours a week you work, know that you make an impact not only on the participants in your programs or in the partner agency programs, but on their families, their friends and therefore the greater community and even the world around you.”

Award Winners
Partner Agency of the Year:
 Wilmette Park District
Friend of the Year: Linda Goodman
Advocate of the Year: Cristina Hughes (Gurnee)
Family of the Year: Weber Family (Kenilworth)
Volunteer of the Year: Kiley Coy (Glenview)
Program Staff of the Year: Mike LaMarca (Mundelein)
Youth Participant of the Year: Sofia & Luciano Beltrano (Glenview)
Gator Athlete of the Year: Stephanie Brandwein (Highland Park)
Adult Participant of the Year: Jane McDonald (Winnetka)

The 2019 Shining Stars Awards & Recognition Banquet was sponsored by NSSRA Foundation, with additional support from local businesses, families, community supporters and donors. This year’s Presenting Sponsor was the Gerald & Olivia Shapiro Family Foundation of Highland Park. See a full list of sponsors below.

Sponsors & Donors

Presenting Sponsor
Gerald & Olivia Shapiro Family Foundation

Audio/Visual Sponsor
Slotnick Family

Invitation Sponsor
Rick & Kristen Dean

Program Book Sponsors
Binstein Family
Joan Golder
Marc Jacobson & Associates
Weber Family

DJ Sponsor
Wintrust Community Banks

Dessert Sponsors
Autism Speaks
Lippai/Gibson Family
Strategic Talent Solutions

Photography Sponsors
D&R Autoworks
Lake Forest Park & Recreation
Lippai/Gibson Family
Robynn & Keith Medansky
Schuman Family
Sunset Foods

Décor Sponsors
AA Service Co.
Tommy Danis
Bonnie & Herb Horn
Don & June Fisher Family
Bob & Amy & Luke Greenebaum
Kivarkis Family
Lakeshore Psychology Group
Netzer Family
Gwen & Ches Porter
Shaw Family
Wilde Family

Genevieve Adsit
Assouad Family
Mike & Lorena Beltrano
Don & Sue Bergsrud
Elizabeth & Chandler Bigelow
Gerilyn Miller-Brown & Paul Brown
John & Donna Bush
Ron, Micki, Zach and KC Coppel
Friends of NSSRA
Joan Golder
Karasik Family
Richard & Heidi Katz
Dave & Monica Kern & Family
Pamela Krupp
Ronald & June Lobert
Mr. & Mrs. Ed Loeb
Carol Maxon
Don & Nancy McNair
Mary Jo & Stephen Morley
Michael Peterson & Laurie McGovern Peterson
John H. Ray
Barbara Rueckert
Naomi & Jerry Senser
Dave & Dina Tosh
Stanek-Treston Family
Tish Family
Tom & Gloria Whalen Family
Larry & Carole Widmer


NSSRA provides and facilitates year-round recreation programs and services for children, teens and adults with disabilities who live in the partner communities. NSSRA is an extension of ten park districts, two cities and one village in the northern suburbs of Chicago. This partnership includes the Park Districts of Deerfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka; the Cities of Highwood and Lake Forest; and the Village of Riverwoods. NSSRA has been creating an environment of belonging through play since 1970, and has the distinction as the first Special Recreation Association in the country. For more information about NSSRA and the programs and services it provides, visit www.nssra.org.

Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association Foundation (NSSRA Foundation) was established in 1997 to support the mission of NSSRA by raising and granting supplemental funding. NSSRA Foundation raises funds throughout the year with all proceeds benefiting the Association. The Foundation, in conjunction with NSSRA, hosts annual events for all donors, supporters and families. The Foundation also raises funds through solicitation of grants and their annual Holiday Appeal. Throughout the year, NSSRA Foundation receives generous support from many individuals, corporations, foundations, businesses and community organizations. For more information about NSSRA Foundation visit www.nssrafoundation.org.

Having trouble opening PDFs? Download Adobe Reader here.