CHESTER — Friday evening, April 13, the 39th annual Thomas J. Ewing Dinner/Auction to benefit Chesterwye, the center to assist adults with developmental disabilities, was held at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department in Chester. More than 200 people turned out for the event.

Chesterwye Foundation Chairman Wheeler Baker emceed the evening. Baker recognized the County Commissioners Steve Wilson, Jack Wilson, Jim Moran and Mark Anderson, who attended. Anderson spoke for the group, stating, “Chesterwye is a great organization. We can’t wait to see the new state-of-the-art facility being built over on State Street in Stevensville where Chesterwye individuals will soon live.”

Baker welcomed everyone, particularly singling out several individuals for their longtime and enduring commitment of service to Chesterwye. Those recognized included longtime volunteer and former Executive Director Janet Akers, who retired from Chesterwye this past year; Mary Lou Boyd, Chesterwye’s first executive director, starting back in 1969; and current Chesterwye Executive Director Debra Langseth. Baker also thanked the leadership of KIVFD for their support of this year’s dinner/auction by providing their huge banquet hall for the evening’s program.

Following comments by both Boyd and Langseth, Baker then recognized both Stewart Nash (Bobby Ann’s husband) and brought forward honoree Chesterwye founder Bobby Ann Nash.

He said, “Let me tell you something — the word “Can’t” is not in her vocabulary!”

As Nash made her way to the podium, receiving a standing ovation, she pointed that famed index finger toward Wheeler Baker with a smile. Nash has earned a reputation for using that finger in past years to recruit many “volunteers” to help the cause of Chesterwye.

In her remarks, Mary Lou Boyd said, “I first met Bobby Ann in the mid-1960s at a kindergarten meeting of parents. She stood up during that meeting and began pointing her finger all around the room, telling everyone she was going to need their help to create a place where people with developmental disabilities could go to receive care and training. That was the beginning of Chesterwye.”

Both Boyd and Nash spoke about the early efforts to raise funds to support the programs for Chesterwye’s adults needs; endless bake sales, cookouts, a haunted house around Halloween, even a circus coming to Kent Island.

Nash said, “Back then, people supported us. They’d buy a cake and give us $20 for it. That was a lot of money back then when most cakes didn’t cost more than $5. People did things like that to show they cared.”

Nash’s son “Chipper,” now 53, was also mentioned. When he was born with Down syndrome, there were no local services to help people with that disability to reach their fullest potential.

Nash said, “Chipper made me have faith in God. Today, many people are now saying again that children who they know will be born with Down syndrome should be aborted. I don’t agree with that. If you do that, you’re missing out on getting to know some of the sweetest people who’ve ever lived.”

“When we started Chesterwye, no one ever questioned why we were doing this for adults and not children,” said Nash. “There was so much magic about starting Chesterwye.” Nash thanked Fisherman’s Inn Restaurant owner Oscar “Sonny” Schulz for all he has done in past years to support Chesterwye. Schulz was present at the fundraiser Friday evening and acknowledged the thank you from Nash.

The meal for the evening was catered by Chesapeake Celebrations, which provided a choice of filet mignon steak or Chesapeake Chicken stuffed with crab imperial. It was served with all the trimmings, including steamed asparagus and lightly spiced sliced potatoes. Dessert was a special chocolate mousse pudding.

DJ music was provided by Sky Brady.

There was a huge silent auction of very interesting items and services. The live auction was conducted by Campbelll Auctioneers and Appraisers, which included the famous black walnut cake originally made and donated Florence Howard that once sold seven times in one evening for a total of $7,100. No totals from the auctions were available at press time.

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