Women of Distinction Honorees Champion Causes at Luncheon

Eileen Corroon Burns has dedicated both her time and her seemingly limitless energy to the causes she loves.

Among them is the annual Policeman’s Ball, which is held at Mar-a-Lago and supports law enforcement in the town of Palm Beach. The town enjoys a level of security seen in few other communities, said Burns, one of two honorees during the Palm Beach Atlantic University Women of Distinction luncheon at The Breakers in Palm Beach on Wednesday.

 From left, Michele Kessler, 2011 honorees Suzanne Wright and Eileen Corroon Burns, and Dr. Gail Austin Cooney. 

Burns also is a strong advocate of the town’s Crime Watch program, and she and her husband, Brian, have funded the police department’s Teen Age Academy for the past 10 years.

“All of the money that we raise stays right here in our town,” said Burns, a New York native who has lived in Palm Beach for more than 30 years.

Burns also came up with a creative way to support Ambassador Nancy Brinker’s Race for the Cure by co-founding “Wake Up for the Cure,” a breakfast event at Club Colette with fellow Palm Beach residents Susan Keenan and her daughter, Samantha Fairchild Storkerson.

This year’s event raised $75,000 “all before 10 a.m.!” Burns said with her trademark enthusiasm.

In addition, Burns was the first woman and third recipient of the prestigious Ballinger Award in 1990 for her masterful restoration of The Vicarage, the second oldest house in Palm Beach. She also is a trustee of The Society of the Four Arts and serves on its Campus on the Lake Education Committee, and she supports a host of Ireland-based causes and organizations.

Despite her many achievements, “I’m awed by the quality of civic contributions made by the women here,” Burns said.

Burns also urged the 400 people in attendance to support Autism Speaks, the organization that is the life’s work of her co-honoree, Suzanne Wright.

Wright told a story she has shared often over the past seven yers about her grandson, Christian, who was diagnosed with autism in 2004.

At the time, Wright and her husband, Bob, were shocked to learn that no options existed for helping Christian and other children who suffered from this neurological disorder.

“The doctors wished us well, but offered no real hope for Christian,” she said. “It was at that moment that both Bob and I knew we had been called upon to change the future for all those individuals everywhere who are living with autism.”

In 2005 the Wrights, along with a group of supporters, founded Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

Wright said that today, one in 100 children and one in 70 boys will be diagnosed with autism. By comparison, the prevalence rate of autism was one in 10,000 20 years ago and one in 150 in 2007. The organization has launched a series of “Learn the Signs” public service announcements starring celebrity parents of autistic children, including Ernie Els and Toni Braxton.

On April 1, Autism Speaks will kick off Autism Awareness Month with its second Light It Up Blue campaign, during which local, national and world landmarks will be illuminated by blue light bulbs, Wright said. PBA will participate this year by lighting up the Warren Library.

This year marked the 20th year of PBA’s Women of Distinction luncheon, an event that recognizes women who have made significant contributions in the community and also raises money for scholarships.

Introducing Burns was 2010 Women of Distinction honoree Dr. Gail Cooney. Michele Kessler, a 2007 honoree, introduced Wright.

During the luncheon, the 2011 Women of Distinction scholarship recipients, Anna Karabensh and Candace Kurtz, delivered the invocation, and the PBA Singers performed patriotic selections.


Category Tag(s): 02/2011 General News