Connecticut Sun Recognize Inspiring Women


L to R: Kasprzak, Gullotta and Spoonster Schwartz

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (August 20, 2012) — The Connecticut Sun honored three Inspiring Women who have distinguished themselves in a variety of ways while positively impacting their communities. They were be celebrated during a pregame reception and halftime ceremony when the Sun hosted the New York Liberty at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 18th at 7 p.m.

Joanne Kasprzak, Chris Gullotta and Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz were recognized as the first members of the Connecticut Sun’s Women of Inspiration program. The Connecticut Sun Foundation will donate $500 in the name of each recipient to the cause of their choice. Also honored that evening was be the winner of the inaugural Margo Dydek Award, Rebecca Lobo.

Selected from a large group of remarkable nominees, these women are the founding class of a program that will annually recognize outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the community. Each year, a new class of Inspiring Women will be selected from candidates submitted to the Connecticut Sun for consideration.

The 2012 Connecticut Sun Inspiring Women:

Joanne Kasprzak
When 15-year-old Mary Kasprzak died of a stroke on September 8, 2003, her mother Joanne took some comfort knowing that, through organ donation, her daughter helped save the lives of five people. Today, through the efforts of Joanne and her husband Tom, Mary is still inspiring and impacting lives. Shortly after Mary’s death, the couple wrote a book about their daughter, “Plain Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles.” Since the book was published in 2009, thousands of dollars in proceeds have been donated to various charities, including the Lighthouse Vocational Educational Center, and Horizons, a camp in Lebanon for special needs children, adolescents and adults that Mary attended. “It shares her legacy of kindness, compassion and forgiveness,” Joanne said of the book about Mary, who was born with Down syndrome. “It demonstrates her simple but profound lessons.” Joanne will make her donation to the Lighthouse Vocational Education Center. For more information about the book, visit www.plainvanillawithrainbowsprinkles.com

Chris Gullotta
Each June, graduates of Creative Experiences at Glastonbury Youth and Family Services receive a little blue marble and a message from Youth Program Coordinator Chris Gullotta. She tells them to take care of their world. Since 1974, Chris has been taking care of the children who have come through Creative Experiences, teaching life skills while also formulating numerous programs that give participants a feeling of support and mutual respect. Current programs include a summer and fall play, a cable TV show, a youth services action group and the Peter Pan Players, who travel to elementary schools and nursing homes. Chris is known for being available at all hours of the day or night. She has brought a group of children to the funeral for the father of one of their friends, and she has gathered high school students together to rake leaves at the home of an incapacitated senior citizen. A Certified Prevention Specialist with a Bachelor of Science degree, Chris developed the Creative Experiences Program for her agency and has assisted other communities in developing similar programs. For her work, she has been recognized with the Governor’s Award for Service, the Connecticut Youth Services Award, and, most recently, an award from Harvard University’s School of Education for her development coaching of undergraduate education majors. Chris also teaches in the STEP Program for the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Chris will make her donation to Friends of Glastonbury Youth.

Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz
Dr. Schwartz has devoted her nursing career to healing the wounds of war. The first woman and first nurse in the 146-year history of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs to serve as the State Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Schwartz has lived a life of distinction and achievement. A flight nurse in the United States Air Force who served during the Vietnam War, Dr. Schwartz has worked tirelessly on behalf of all war veterans to ensure they have access to needed services. She successfully advocated for a new veteran’s home in Rocky Hill, and she has worked to reduce homelessness among returning veterans by working with them to find employment and places to live. She also led efforts to develop Oasis Centers at state colleges so veterans seeking an education using the GI Bill had a place to meet and support one another. Dr. Schwartz has also identified and worked to eliminate disparities in health care equity for female veterans, and she has made a point of personally awarding Connecticut veterans with the state’s war time service medals to ensure they receive proper gratitude. In 2011, Dr. Schwartz became the first woman and first Connecticut resident to serve as the President and Chairman of the National Association of the State Directors of Veterans Affairs. For her work, Dr. Schwartz has received numerous awards, including the Commendation Medal of Vietnam Veterans for Justice, Integrity and Meaningful Achievement, Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains. She has been inducted into the Veterans Hall of Fame in her home state of Ohio, and the American Academy of Nursing. She has also served on the National Boards of Directors of the American Nursing Association and the Vietnam Veterans of America, and she is a past treasurer of the Vietnam Veteran’s Women’s Memorial. Dr. Schwartz will make her donation to The Mary Walker House.