By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region – It is not everyone who can sit in front of a room of 200 people and graciously listen as their friends tell embarrassing stories about them. But on May 21 Darren McLaughlin, the general manager of Wayside Racquet & Swim Club, did just that. The stories were all in good fun and for a very good reason: the night was actually a “roast” and fundraiser for Employment Options, Inc. The event was held at the Riverview Banquet Facility in Hudson.
Employment Options, based in Marlborough, is a nonprofit agency serving the Metrowest region whose mission is to help those “who are looking to improve and manage their mental health and wellness including individuals who have experienced economic disadvantages.”
As the organization's Executive Director Toni Wolf said, a roast is a “funny way to honor our leaders.” ?McLaughlin has definitely been one of those leaders, she added, as a constant friend and supporter of Employment Options.
The night was kicked off by emcee Dave Seymour, one of the hosts of the television show, “Flipping Boston.”? Speaking candidly, Seymour noted that he had struggled with alcohol abuse at one point in his life. That's why, he said, organizations like Employment Options were so critical in helping those who suffer from mental health and substance abuse.
John Polanowicz, the state's secretary for health and human services, then addressed the audience. He lauded McLaughlin for not only his support of Employment Options, but for the many other charitable endeavors he does on a consistent basis.
“He will do any job that is asked of him,” Polanowicz said. “He is truly an important part of the fabric of the community.”
The night's roasters included David Bagdon, publisher of the Community Advocate; Susanne Morreale Leeber, president and CEO of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC); Scott Duplisa, of the Mass. Department of Transportation and a newly elected Hudson selectman; and Mikey Adams, of WEEI's “Planet Mikey.”
One by one, they all had their chance to good-naturedly joust McLaughlin. The four all reminded the audience that McLaughlin seemed to prefer women's clothing. As evidence, they noted he had worn a dress at last year's event to portray roastee Cathy Mogavero, the former executive vice president of the MRCC. Leeber even brought a video clip that showed McLaughlin as Mogavero in her office.
Other quips detailed McLaughlin's constant tardiness, obsessive need for neatness, his hair, his relationship with his family and his penchant for trying to turn any conversation into a chance to sell a new membership to his club.
After being roasted, McLaughlin had a chance to return the favor by sharing a few remarks about the four, all of whom were still his friends, he added, in spite of their comments.
Wolfe then spoke briefly about the importance of Employment Option's mission.
“We need to change the picture of mental illness and how we talk about mental health and depression,” she said. “I charge everyone here to become mental health ambassadors. Recovery cannot happen without a community of acceptance.”
For more information on Employment Options, visit www.employmentoptions.org