Hyatt Regency Saipan formally welcomed the holiday season on Dec. 1 with the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony followed by a benefit dinner for the Autism Society of the CNMI.
Hotel executives and staff clinked a toast with guests at the lobby where the towering Christmas symbol was officially set alight by general manager Nick Nishikawa and human resources director Josephine Mesta.
The ceremonial event was made more meaningful as four families of children whose wishes were granted in the past by Make-A-Wish Foundation, a valuable community partner of Hyatt Regency Saipan, graced the occasion.
Following the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was the benefit dinner at Giovanni's restaurant for the Autism Society of the CNMI.
Close to 90 individuals supported the fundraiser, which celebrated Hyatt Regency Saipan's 32nd anniversary in the hospitality industry on island.
“Hyatt Regency Saipan has been supported by the community for the past 32 years. We, too, support the community,” Nishikawa told guests at the only Italian restaurant in the Northern Marianas.
Guests enjoyed cocktails and scrumptious appetizers prepared by the hotel's highly skilled culinary team led by executive chef Gabriele Colombo, while looking at a photo gallery showcasing Hyatt Regency Saipan's evolvement for over three decades.
“Hyatt is still around and is still part of the community,” said Mesta. “It is our responsibility to thank the community for contributing to our success and as a result, we would like to give back to the island.”
Saturday night's charity dinner also featured a raffle draw and silent auction, both aimed at raising more money for the Hyatt's chosen beneficiary. At the event, a brief presentation was made by two of the charter members of the Autism Society of the CNMI, John Guerrero and Vince Merfalen, who are both parents of children diagnosed with autism.
Guerrero defined autism as a developmental disorder that affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. He said that based on recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 88 children born today would be diagnosed somewhere in the autism spectrum.
“Autism remains a challenging condition for the children and their families but the outlook today is much better than it was five to ten years ago in the CNMI. With the right therapy, many of the symptoms of autism like communication issues can be resolved,” added Guerrero.
For his part, Merfalen noted that the best way to understand autism is to talk about the story of their child or loved one who is diagnosed as autistic.
“If you know anybody who's autistic, try not to treat it yourself. Seek expert advice; that's the best course of action,” he said.
Merfalen also discussed the various activities hosted by Autism Society of the CNMI, which has been a chartered nonprofit group for about a decade, to raise awareness about autism on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
These activities include the proclamation of Autism Awareness Month usually every April, trainings, and putting together individuals with autism in a social event to teach them social skills. The group also conducts an annual quiz night, which has been moved from December to February as holidays are a busy season, explained Merfalen.
The two thanked Hyatt's Nishikawa and congratulated the hotel on its 32nd anniversary.