CarePlus Foundation’s Courage Awards Gala Exceeds Expectations, Expands Ability to Help Others Achieve Goals

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Annual event raises over $155,000 to support individuals engaged in mental healthcare programs and services at CarePlus NJ.

Tara Augustine, Senior Vice President at CarePlus; Ken Ehrenberg, Chief of the Paramus Police Department; John Cosgrove, Mayor of Fair Lawn; Mary Ann and John Uzzi, 2015 Courage Awards Gala Co-Chairs.

Celebrating courage, hope and the quest for happiness was the theme of the CarePlus Foundation’s 2015 Courage Awards Gala held on Wednesday, June 3rd at the Venetian in Garfield. The venue was decorated with 1,000 colorful paper cranes that appeared to fly throughout the space on tables, plants, and centerpieces.

The origami cranes were symbolic of the journey of one CarePlus client who shared her story about her wish for happiness that led her to the services at CarePlus. During her speech at the Gala she mentioned that a majority of the cranes that filled the Venetian that night were part of the original 1,000 that she had created.

The celebration began with the presentation of 29 recipients for the 2015 Bernard Dubnick Scholarship which recognizes hard work and determination to further educational and career goals. The Foundation was proud to award the largest amount of scholarships to date, totaling $55,000.

“The Courage Awards Gala is our largest fundraiser of the year,” said Tara Augustine, Senior Vice President at CarePlus. “This year the event exceeded expectations by raising over $155,000, our most ever!”

This type of success allows the Foundation to continue to provide the Bernard Dubnick Scholarship awards yearly to individuals who face mental health or substance use challenges and who also need financial assistance with reaching their educational goals. Money raised at the Courage Awards Gala is also used to fund housing support, medication assistance, addiction services, child abuse intervention and many more services for children, families and adults in the greater northern New Jersey area.

The evening continued with recognition of local heroes who shared their stories of resiliency, advocacy and service related to mental health. This year’s honorees included The Sefcik Family, survivors of suicide loss and advocates in prevention with their presentation “Remembering T.J. – A Story of Teen Depression, Lessons and Hope”; John Cosgrove, the Mayor of Fair Lawn and supporter of the Fair Lawn Stigma-Free Zone initiative; and Kenneth Ehrenberg, the Chief of the Paramus Police Department and collaborative leader in crisis de-escalation and mental health awareness.

The Foundation also awarded Dr. Dina Vaynberg with the Compassionate Care Award for her 28 years of service at CarePlus, representing the best in the field of mental health care. In accepting the award, Dr. Vaynberg expressed gratitude for her patients, her co-workers, and the CarePlus President and CEO, Joe Masciandaro for his leadership.

In addition to closing the silent auction and 50/50 raffle sales, the Courage Awards concluded with a Live Auction conducted by one of the event’s co-chairs, John Uzzi. After auctioning off 9 prizes, the guests at each table were asked to work together to make one final donation in exchange for the handmade centerpieces featuring the origami cranes.

“The evening celebrated all that CarePlus and its supporters achieve and contribute to the local community,” Augustine remarked. “We are very grateful for all that contributed to its success.”

About CarePlus Foundation, Inc. ("CarePlus Foundation")
The CarePlus Foundation – the supporting arm of CarePlus was created with a mission to decrease the stigma of mental illness and pave the way to accessibility of care for those looking to seek help through community education, advocacy, and fundraising.

Care Plus NJ, Inc. ( is a northern New Jersey provider of recovery-focused mental health, primary care, substance abuse, and family services that addresses the unique needs of individuals with a holistic approach to recovery and overall wellness. Operating out of 23 sites – including three outpatient centers located in Paramus, Fair Lawn, and Montclair, ten residential facilities, offices at three local hospitals, and seven community offices – their services are convenient to clients located throughout Northern New Jersey. They also provide educational programs on mental health-related topics to schools, organizations, and community groups; training topics including certified Mental Health First Aid, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention and Crisis Planning and Intervention Strategies for Schools.

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Caryl Felicetta
Care Plus NJ
since: 01/2010
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