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Harbor Lights Ball Held at Woodbridge Renaissance Hotel

By Joseph L. Kuchie—

WOODBRIDGE – The Raritan Bay Medical Center Foundation held the 28th annual Harbor Lights Ball at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel on September 29th.

The foundation selected six honorees to present awards for their commitment to Raritan Bay Medical Center and the surrounding communities. Gregory Ficarra, Deborah Tripod, Mark Niemiera, Jack and Carol Hila, and Vanessa Mendez were each honored for their extraordinary work and dedication.

Nearly 500 people turned out for the Gala, which had a “Cirque du Sante” theme and featured live music, cirque performers, dancing, and a silent auction. Rozalia Czaban and Joseph Britton, co-chairs to the Gala committee, agreed that it was more then just a ball.

“It’s not just an event,” said Czaban, who is a co-chair for the first time this year. “It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year but it’s a lot of fun with different performances and dancers. It’s really just a spectacle.”

According to the Foundation’s website, all the proceeds from the event went to the medical center’s Broadening Our Vision, Securing Our Future construction and renovation project. Robert Durso, another co-chair to the Gala, described the celebration as “spectacular” and said the money would be going to a new facilities in both Old Bridge and Perth Amboy.

“This is our way of giving back to a community that has been so great to us,” Durso said. “It’s the ultimate event of the year, and it’s something that is extremely needed for our hospitals.”

Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac was on hand to take part in the festivities. He was honored that the Raritan Bay Medical Center foundation once again chose Woodbridge to host such a high-end event.

“Without a major hospital in our town, it’s great that Raritan Bay Medical Center has made a commitment to Woodbridge to host this event,” McCormac said. “It’s a great event for the right cause, and we are very proud that our own Greg Ficarra is an honoree.”

Ficarra, who was honored with the Humanitarian Award, is currently Woodbridge Township’s Council President. He was previously the director of health, physical education, nursing and athletics in the Perth Amboy public schools and dedicated 30 years to working in the school system.

“It’s been a pleasure to be in such a great community for so long,” Ficarra said. “It’s really a gift to have the ability to help the community, and it’s great that I can be honored for doing something I love.”

Despite all the things Ficarra did for Perth Amboy, he explained that his most memorable moments involved former students coming back to the city. His best feeling, he said, was seeing those children come back and be successful.

“I think some of the best moments over the years have been seeing former students come back to Perth Amboy and succeed,” Ficarra added. “Some of the doctors here today are former students and it’s really important to see those kids become successful.”

Carol and John Hila were also honored with the Norman Tanzman Award for their contributions to the medical center and city. Carol is the president of Woodbridge Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and John was the former Deputy Attorney General and Outside Counsel to the Department of Transportation.

“My husband and I are very honored to receive such a great award. Raritan Bay was and still is an important part to both of our lives, and it meant so much to us to be apart of this tonight,” Carol Hila said. “The event is phenomenal and they always do a great job of putting it together.”

Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz was also on hand to congratulate the honorees and help with the Raritan Bay benefit. “It’s a really special evening,” Diaz said. “There are so many great people here supporting the hospital and we are here to do all we can to help Raritan Bay.”

Margaret Nolan, a long-time contributor to the foundation, comes from the Victoria Health Care Center in Matawan. She believed the event was a great mix of both business and community.

“This is certainly a top-shelf event,” Nolan said. “It’s a venue where both business and community can come together and celebrate what Raritan Bay has done.”

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