MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio - Our Lady of the Wayside honored two its best in front of more than 650 volunteers and staff members at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights.
Northeast Ohio business leaders Chris Zito and Ed Crawford were given the 2013 Starlight Guardian Humanitarian Award for their tireless service to hundreds of children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Chris Zito told NewsChannel5 Our Lady of the Wayside opened six new homes in the past year, creating opportunities to improve the lives of nearly 1,000 people who need assistance.
"We serve a population of people that needs a lot of help," said Zito. "It's a very demanding job, and Our Lady of the Wayside frankly does it better than anybody else."
The 9th Annual Humanitarian Awards luncheon was led by WTAM personality Bill Wills, Chairman Gary Bauman, Event Founders Samuel H. Miller, and Our Lady of the Wayside President and CEO Terry Davis.
"Our biggest job is to find residential homes for these individuals, they want to live in the community just as you and I do, and that opportunity doesn't often exist for them," explained Davis.
"We believe in our mission, and our mission is to make sure that these individuals have the opportunity that they need and deserve to become productive citizens in their community."
Event Chairmen John Climaco and Robert Troop stressed the growing importance of all Our Lady of the Wayside programs.
"I've learned what the intellectually challenged are capable of doing, and it is simply amazing," said Climaco. "Our Lady of the Wayside, in my opinion, is the best provider in this area."
Robert Troop has been involved with the organization for the past 43 years, and his good friend was one of the first to receive Our Lady of the Wayside assistance back in 1971.
"It's just a wonderful feeling for me to be able to participate, and to help raise money and contribute," said Troop with a smile. "It's just a great group of people."
Host Committee Member Tom Zarlinga told NewsChannel5 the homes opened for the intellectually challenged are well-appointed and organized.
"When you go into these homes, they're beautiful and they really provide the best care for the kids and the adults too," said Zarlinga. "It's really amazing."
NewsChannel5 was also recognized during the event for a 5 On Your Side report profiling Our Lady of the Wayside's efforts in helping Denise Toth of Cleveland.
Toth's van was stolen in Sept. 2013, and the organization stepped up and donated a van to Toth so she could continue delivering food to hundreds of homeless people.
"Thank you so much to Our Lady of the Wayside and agency Vehicle Director Ken Voight," said Toth. "Not only did I receive a van, but I met some wonderful people and friends. I will be forever be grateful."
Past Starlight Guardian Honorees include: Alex Machaskee ('05), The Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla ('06), Larry Dolan ('07), Bob Troop and John Climaco, Esq. ('08), Gary Bauman and Jim Brown ('09), Mike & Sharon Hargrove and Marilyn Cunin ('10), Michael Clegg and Jack Kahl ('11) and John Lanigan & Tom Cutter ('12).
If you would like to show your support for Our Lady of the Wayside and all its programs, all the information you need can be found on its website .