West Hartford resident Ronit Shoham, along with Cheryl and Jamie McDonald, and Iran Nazario will be honored at Leadership Greater Hartford’s Polaris Awards ceremony on Oct. 18, 2017, at the Bushnell in Hartford .
By Jackie Palermo
All four winners of the 2017 Polaris Award have made great contributions to the Greater Hartford Community and exemplify the hard work, selflessness, and leadership that the Polaris Award seeks to recognize and inspire in others.
The Polaris Award ceremony is an annual fundraiser with hundreds of diverse leaders from Greater Hartford in attendance. These “unsung heroes” are honored and celebrated for their inspiration to the community. All the proceeds of the event support Leadership Greater Hartford’s work training and connecting future leaders.
Ronit Shoham, one of the winners of the 2017 Polaris Award and a humble “volunteer extraordinaire” of West Hartford, will be honored for her enormous contributions to so many organizations, events, and efforts in the Greater Hartford community over the past two decades.
Shoham told We-Ha.com that she was very honored to be recognized. “I really truly believe that when you give you get so much more back.”
When asked why she does what she does, she followed with a quote from Ghandi:“Be the change you want to see in the world.” She explained that one must “take ownership” of what they see in the world and be “a part of the change” in order for things to be different.
Shoham first began her involvement with the community as “PTO mom,” and in 2002 founded the West Hartford Little League. She explained that her two girls wanted to play baseball, and she realized that there was not equal opportunity for all.
“Every child regardless of of their ability or gender should be given the opportunity to be a part of a team,” she explained. From the Little League grew the Challenger Division, a league in which children with special needs are given a chance to experience baseball and the life lessons that go along with be a part of a team.
“I feel that life is challenging to all of us, and for some people, life puts more challenges in front of them, and they never asked for these challenges.”
Another amazing contribution made to the community was Shoham’s role as founder and president of Cut out Cancer, a non-profit organization which provides salon and spa services to individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment.
After being inspired by one of her close friends battling cancer, and the documentary “Mondays at Racine,” a story about two sisters who open their Long Island salon the third Monday of every month to women diagnosed with cancer, Shoham organized a similar situation in which the Bloomfield salon, Milano, provides free spa service to women with cancer on the second Monday of every month.
Shoham is currently working as volunteer project manager for the rebuilding of Jonathan’s Dream – West Hartford’s original accessible playground – and the new version will provide more opportunities than ever before for children of all abilities.
Shoham said she is excited to meet the other winners of the Polaris Award, who have been equally strong forces in community building.
Cheryl and Jamie McDonald are owners of the very popular Bear’s Smokehouse restaurant in Connecticut, as well as Blind Pig Pizza and Chango Rosa. Their contribution to the community includes hiring ex offenders and raising the minimum wage they pay to $15 an hour for non-tip employees.
Iran Nazario, a former gang member and high school dropout, will be recognized for overcoming his hardships and being an inspirational non profit leader. He is the president of the Peace Center of Connecticut and works hard to educate young people about the violence prevention, the dangers of gang affiliation, and finding a better future.
LGH alumni and members of the community are invited to attend the Polaris Awards Gala at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 18, to honor these successful leaders and celebrate how they have made our community better and stronger. Registration for Polaris is available online at leadershipgh.org. For information about Polaris sponsorship opportunities contact Katy Bannister at 860.951.6161, ext. 1800 or [email protected].
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