Peter M. Vito & Elizabeth R. Donatello to serve as chairs of local foundation's event
Suneel's Light is a Western New York nonprofit foundation with the mission of raising funds for research that will lead to a cure of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and to increase public awareness of the genetic disease. The organization has announced local philanthropist and nationally renowned restaurateur Russell Salvatore will serve as the 2016 honorary chairman of "Suneel's Celebrity Gala," the foundation's annual "Dancing with the Stars"-inspired fundraiser.
Peter M. Vito, retired commissioner of Erie County Central Police Services and chairman and CEO of Peter M. Vito & Associates Inc., and his wife, Elizabeth R. Donatello, Esq., Niagara County assistant district attorney, were also named event chairs. Funds raised by "Suneel's Celebrity Gala" in Buffalo help this local nonprofit foundation support critical research for treatments in search of a cure for DMD, a lethal genetic childhood disease.
As one of Western New York's most established local restaurateurs and businessmen - one who is known throughout the region for his philanthropy and as owner of Russell's Steaks, Chops & More - Salvatore will bring added visibility and leadership to the fundraiser. Winner of the Association of the Western New York Fundraising Professionals Outstanding Philanthropist Award in 2015, Salvatore was recognized for his significant and profound impact on the community. By taking on this newest leadership role, Salvatore continues his proven track record of generosity by adding Suneel's Light Foundation to the list of dozens of local charities that he already supports.
"I'm honored to be serving as the 2016 honorary chair for 'Suneel's Celebrity Gala,' because I believe our children's health is a top priority," Salvatore said. "I'm asking every business and the community at large to join me by purchasing tickets or donating to this important cause. This event gives us a unique opportunity to provide an entertaining event, while helping the Suneel's Light Foundation in its important mission."
Vito will also lend his expertise and leadership to this important community event. His resume runs the gamut of police work for over 40 years, in addition to the many successful businesses that he has founded and led along the way. He, too, has a lengthy career of commitment to the community, including serving as a longtime member of the Suneel's Light Foundation board of directors, as well as other community-focused boards.
"Currently, more than 20,000 children in the United States suffer from this fatal disease, and more than 100,000 worldwide, with a statistically higher number of identified cases in Western New York than the national average, and that's just not acceptable," Vito said. "We must continue our efforts to raise the awareness and funding needed to fight this devastating disease."
Tragically, children born with DMD succumb to the genetic disease by their early 20s. Typically during their school-age years, in conjunction with all of the other problems surrounding this disease, they suffer from learning disabilities, social isolation and behavioral issues.
The fourth annual "Suneel's Celebrity Gala," which will feature local celebrities competing in various ballroom dance disciplines, will be held from 6-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Salvatore's Italian Gardens. Tickets for "Suneel's Celebrity Gala" are available at www.suneelslight.org.
"Our board could not be happier or honored to have these two, well-known community champions at the helm of 'Suneel's Celebrity Gala,' " said Ken Manning, president, Suneel's Light Foundation, and partner at Phillips Lytle LLP. "I am sure they will each bring the same drive, dedication and passion that made them both such well-respected members of our community to 'Suneel's Celebrity Gala.' I know their collective contribution will help create a perfect formula for success at this year's event."
About Suneel's Light Foundation
Established in 2002, Suneel's Light is a charitable foundation whose namesake is a teenage boy who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The foundation was established to fund critical research for treatments and a cure for DMD, which targets young boys, without regard to ethnicity, and leads to death from respiratory or heart failure by their early 20s, making it the most lethal genetic childhood disease known.
Without a breakthrough in ongoing medical research and treatment, there is little hope that Suneel, and other children like him, will live to adulthood.