Gruber, Zannella, Mersky Receive ‘Gift of Sight Awards’


Counter-clockwise from top, IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Phil Gruber, Local Lodge 1363 Directing Business Representative Phil Zannella, Jr. and Onex Corp. Senior Managing Director Seth Mersky received the 2013 “Gift of Sight Award” at the 33rd Annual William W. Winpisinger Charity Banquet in Las Vegas.

IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Phil Gruber, Local 1363 Directing Business Representative Phil Zannella, Jr., and Onex Corp. Senior Managing Director Seth Mersky were honored with the 2013 “Gift of Sight Award” from Guide Dogs of America (GDA).

The awards, given annually in recognition of extraordinary efforts on behalf of GDA, were presented at the 33rd Annual William W. Winpisinger Charity Banquet in Las Vegas.

“It’s an honor to present three extremely deserving individuals with the ‘Gift of Sight Award,’” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Guide Dogs of America is able to provide critical services to so many because of people like the one’s we’re honoring here tonight.”  

GVP Gruber began raising money for Guide Dogs early in his IAM career. As president of Local Lodge 688 in St. Louis, Gruber organized a dinner that raised $10,000 for the organization, enough at the time to fund the training of one guide dog.

“I saw this organization offer freedom to the visually-impaired, the opportunity to do things with a guide dog that they would have otherwise never been able to do,” said Gruber. “To be able to give myself, to make life just a little easier for somebody else, is very humbling.”

Cleveland Local Lodge 1363 DBR Zannella recalled hearing former IAM International President William W. Winpisinger say he’d be honored to someday have his name attached to GDA, then International Guiding Eyes. Zannella said it was his father and “Wimpy” who inspired his passion for GDA.

“I’ve had good mentors. The rest is history,” said Zannella. “As far as the award goes tonight, I accept that on behalf of probably thousands of people. Everybody in this room realizes that no one does it alone.”

Buffenbarger praised Onex Corp. Senior Managing Director Mersky for preserving thousands of good-paying IAM jobs in Wichita, KS, when the company bought a division of Boeing commercial airplanes to create Spirit AeroSystems.

“Community and charitable support are part of the hallmarks of great and thriving organizations,” said Mersky. “The IAM’s 65-year commitment to Guide Dogs surely must be one of the longest-running sponsorships of a business or trade organization. Congratulations on your loyalty and your generous spirit.”

The weekend’s festivities also included the annual Hawgs for Dogs motorcycle ride, a charity golf tournament and a sporting clay event. Those events and the banquet combined to raise 20 to 25 percent of GDA’s annual budget.