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Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce 2017 Pyramid Awards Dinner Benefits College of Adaptive Arts

The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce combined honoring outstanding business community members with raising awareness of the College of Adaptive Arts, its first charity of the year, at its sold-out 2017 Pyramid Awards Dinner on June 15 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Pkwy.

The uplifting evening gave Chamber members the opportunity to treat employees, family and friends to a three-course, formal dinner and raise awareness and support–through silent and live auctions–for the College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) in San Jose. Keynote speaker Michael Pritchard raised people’s awareness about bullying, which sometimes happens to the very adults with differing abilities that CAA serves.

CAA is a nonprofit enabling adults with disabilities–from Down syndrome and developmental delay to the medically fragile–to successfully pursue higher education through the arts. “We are different. We are able” is its motto. The privately accredited college (www.collegeofadaptivearts.org) started in 2009 with 12 adult students and now has 88 enrolled.

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Two CAA enrollees made brief remarks about their experiences at CAA to the dinner attendees.

“You get to learn and appreciate every gift…I get to take all kinds of classes, and it’s so special,” said Emily Gumaer.

“I enjoy CAA and I love all the activities,” said Trevor Lucken, whose love for golf inspired him to start the CAA golf marathon tournament to raise money for scholarships.

“I’m so tremendously honored and humbled and grateful that the Santa Clara business community has embraced this new model of equitable higher education for adults with special needs, who historically have not had access to higher education,” said DeAnna Pursai, CAA Executive Director and co-founder with Pamela Lindsay.

A nationally acclaimed humorist, youth motivator and anti-bullying advocate, keynote speaker Pritchard quoted lessons he learned from kindergarteners: “Don’t play angry tag with people.” “Don’t let your sad turn to mad because then it all gets bad.”

“In a heartbeat, a kid can teach you the wisdom of compassion,” said Pritchard. “We need to see with our hearts. Wise people raise people….and the best leaders get us to believe in ourselves.”

“We’re all interconnected. Violence doesn’t have a zip code,” said Pritchard. “The answer is community unity….Together we all could win. When our nation sees people’s hearts not just their brains and we include our college friends here, we change the world.”

Chamber of Commerce members honored for 2017: Sam Kabert, Individual Member of the Year; Bay Club Santa Clara, Business Member of the Year; Jeffrey Hosier, Don Von Raesfeld Chamber Volunteer Award; Jan Eric Nordmo, Distinguished Community Leader; and Mark Porter, Ambassador of the Year.

“The Chamber has come a long ways, and the future looks bright to accelerate forward and help the business community,” said incoming Board of Directors Chair Joe Siecinski, one of 25 Chamber members installed as 2017-2018 officers and directors at the dinner.

“The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce believes in community prosperity, and we believe our more than 300 attendees feel the Fund-a-Need [benefit dinner] was a successful support of community prosperity,” said Chamber President & CEO Chris Horton.

The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce & Convention-Visitors Bureau (www.santaclarachamber.com), with 615 member businesses, is contracted by the City to manage and operate the Convention Center and Visitors Bureau. For convention center information, visit www.santaclaraconventioncenter.org or call 408-748-7000.

For a list of “50 Awesome Things To Do in Santa Clara” and a unique virtual aerial tour of the City, go to Visit Santa Clara at www.santaclara.org.

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