The Arc of Katy announces founders award and volunteers of the year honorees

Contributed Report
Posted 9/1/22

The Arc of Katy board of directors said it will honor Marie Tsakiris with its 2022 Ann Davis Founders Award and Judy Colabella and Walt Palen as The Arc of Katy 2022 Volunteers of the Year.

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The Arc of Katy announces founders award and volunteers of the year honorees


The Arc of Katy board of directors said it will honor Marie Tsakiris with its 2022 Ann Davis Founders Award and Judy Colabella and Walt Palen as The Arc of Katy 2022 Volunteers of the Year.

The awardees will be recognized at The Arc of Katy 2022 Achieve with Us Gala Sept. 23 at Beckendorff Farms in Katy. The annual benefit with dinner and entertainment will raise funds for day programs for teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families residing in the tri-county Katy area.

Commenting on the honorees, The Arc of Katy President Cherie Duddridge said, “We are pleased to honor Marie Tsakiris along with Judy Colabella and Walt Palen as they have helped to make a reality The Arc of Katy’s vision of establishing a permanent facility. Their contributions and sweat equity are helping us to sustainably deliver high quality, affordable programs that provide learning, skills development, social enrichment, recreation and community service opportunities for teens and adults with IDD in Fort Bend, Harris, and Waller counties.”

Tsakiris, a registered nurse, community volunteer and property manager, made possible the donation of The Arc of Katy’s new facility, Duddridge said.

“We are pleased to present Marie with the Ann Davis Founder’s Award for her generous contribution to our organization, and for her ongoing work to provide opportunities for people with special needs to be engaged and active members of our community,” Duddridge said.

A Michigan native, Tsakiris relocated to Texas in 2004 and lives in Katy with her husband Louis and son Alec. She began working with youth with medical and special needs and their families as a volunteer for Friday Night Friends at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. When the H2O program for teens and adults with special needs began with St. Peter’s UMC as its meeting place, Tsakiris began working as its registered nurse. She now serves as the registered nurse for the church’s recently established Special Needs Ministry.

Tsakiris said through her work at the church she learned about other programs available to youth and adults with special needs in the Katy area, including The Arc of Katy. After hearing that The Arc of Katy had lost use of its original program location following Hurricane Harvey, Tsakiris and her family decided to support the organization in securing a permanent home.

Tsakiris and her family through efforts of the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees Chairperson Marie Flickinger also are donors to that college’s Neurodiversity Program.

“My family and I are very pleased to help The Arc of Katy and are proud to see how happy the participants and staff are in their new building,” Tsakiris said.

Said Duddridge: “As a nonprofit organization, we greatly appreciate the generosity of Marie and her family as the facility they built and donated to us will help us sustainably deliver high quality, accessible and affordable opportunities for more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Colabella, a semi-retired healthcare professional, and Palen, who recently retired after 47 years with the energy industry, have been engaged with The Arc of Katy since 2009 when their now-31-year-old son Ben enrolled as a summer participant while attending the program for students with special needs at Taylor High School.

Palen has carried out several different volunteer roles with The Arc of Katy, most recently taking the lead in planning, design and set up of the organization’s new program facility located at 934 Jordan Ranch Blvd. in Brookshire. In recent months he often has been seen working with other volunteers to install equipment and furnishings and build a new storage and work shed and garden area there.

Meanwhile, Colabella has been supporting The Arc of Katy’s online program started in 2020 to keep participants engaged who were unable to join in person because of COVID-19 health precautions and has helped to establish the day program’s new butterfly raising project. She also has volunteered in The Arc’s Be Strong aquatics program.

In addition, Colabella and Palen support The Arc of Katy’s monthly social programs including leading movie nights for teens and adults with IDD and have helped deliver the day program’s recent woodcraft projects and popup craft sales.

Colabella and Palen have volunteered in the Katy area since moving here almost 25 years ago with Ben and his older brother Jeffrey. In addition to The Arc of Katy, they supported the Taylor High School performing arts programs, the Katy Wolf Pack Special Olympics team, H2O at St. Peter’s UMC and YMCA Camp Cinco.

Palen said he is pleased to volunteer because, “If it were not for programs like this, people like Judy and I would not have been able to work and carry on our careers. The Arc of Katy provides fun, safe and healthy day programs and social events that are important to our children and to our families.”

Noting that their family settled and stayed in Katy because of the excellent school system, Colabella said, “Now, we stay in Katy, because of The Arc of Katy. The participants are all Ben’s buddies. Our involvement keeps us young and engaged. Volunteering with The Arc of Katy is fun for us and is good for Ben and the other participants. The Arc of Katy has become our community and family.”

For more information on The Arc of Katy programs, including volunteer and donor opportunities, visit the website For gala sponsor and attendance registration, visit the website

The Arc of Katy