The UNICO Club of Southington is proud to announce the selection of Sandra and Gino Brino as the 2017 Gold Medal recipients. The Gold Medal Award is the club’s most prestigious distinction and has been awarded annually to distinguished citizens since 1945. A dinner ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:15 p.m. at the Aqua Turf Club.

Link to: Record Journal Article April 15, 2018

Their love story began in front of Room #201 at Southington High School and has led them on a journey of faith, dedication and benevolence for more than three decades.

Now Sandra and Gino Brino have been selected as the 2017 Southington UNICO Gold Medal recipients – the organization’s most prestigious honor. Awarded annually since 1945 to distinguished citizens in the Southington community, both Sandra and Gino will receive coveted gold medals at a dinner ceremony on Wednesday, May 16, at the Aqua Turf Club.

Married since May 30, 1987, the couple has two daughters, Valerie Moriarty and Cecilia Zimmerman (and two sons-in-law!), and are proud new grandparents to Eli. Sandra continues to work part time at CIGNA as a project manager and also helps care for her precious grandson.

Gino is a partner at Southington Family Dentistry in Plantsville. He graduated from the University of Connecticut as an Honor Scholar in Biological Sciences and received his dental degree from the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in 1998.

The couple agree that their faith is “the most important thing to us” and helped establish Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford. In fact, Sandra took a hiatus from her career in 2002 to devote more time to her church community and organized many Southington Bible study groups.

“Christ is the head of our household and is really an integral part of our lives,” said Sandra.

Also integral is the couple’s belief in volunteer work and civic responsibility. They are perhaps best known for their mentorship of the Cyber Knights – Southington’s nationally recognized FIRST Robotics Team 195.

“We wanted to ensure that our volunteer efforts were going to have an impact with regard to anything we got involved in,” explained Gino.

Indeed, an impact has surely been made – especially in the lives of the hundreds of students involved in the program since Sandra and Gino became the lead mentors in 2008. With each of their talents – Sandra has the business expertise while Gino has the engineering skills – the couple has taken the team to new heights, including the implementation of a board of directors and the establishment of the organization as its own 501(c) 3.

They joke with each other over the amount of time spent dedicated to the program, which begins in the first half of the school year with mentorship of the JV team, also known as VEX Robotics. As they enter into the FIRST Robotics season, from January through May, Gino spends 40 to 45 hours per week “at the shop,” a dedicated space in town that houses the program. Sandra puts in 20 hours a week throughout the school year handling the administrative responsibilities.

Moreover, the couple must raise between $70,000 and $90,000 a year and garner the help of 30 adult volunteer mentors to help manage all components of the program.

“We said from the beginning, ‘if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right and run the program like a business,’” maintained Sandra.

That business is thriving and continually merits national recognition and esteem. A two-page list cites all of the team’s awards and accomplishments. Sandra and Gino are most proud of the team’s 2015 FIRST Championship event, during which the team garnered an Engineering Inspiration Award. Only three other robotics teams in the world received that same distinction.

More recently, the couple has infused robotics fervor into younger students by helping fund elementary school teams. Gino mentors the Kelley Elementary School FIRST Lego League team.

Most rewarding, both Sandra and Gino note, is that many students over the years have told them that Robotics “completed changed their lives.”

Ostensibly, the mentors’ lives have also been changed as a result of their commitment to the program.

“Sandra and I believe in doing things that make an impact. It’s got to make an impact to a person or the world,” said Gino.

The Gold Medal dinner ceremony will be held Wednesday, May 16, at 6:15 p.m. at the Aqua Turf Club. Tickets are available from any Unico member and at the office of Fasulo & Albini at 16 Cornerstone Court, Plantsville, or contact 860.276.9787.