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Jim Daddabbo

Jim Daddabbo, owner of Mesa Grande in Auburn, was announced as the 2013 United Way campaign chair Wednesday at the United Way of Cayuga County's 2013 annual membership meeting.

AUBURN | Jim Daddabbo, who owns Mesa Grande in Auburn, was given a dark prognosis as an infant. Doctors said that he had cerebral palsy and predicted that he would never walk or talk.

Now a successful business owner, Daddabbo gets around just fine, and has no problem talking, he said Wednesday at the United Way of Cayuga County's 2013 annual membership meeting.

Daddabbo was appointed as 2013 United Way campaign chair, and will be the person tasked with visiting businesses and individuals around Cayuga County and speaking about the benefits of donating to the United Way, which supports 23 member agencies in the county that help children, the mentally disabled, the elderly, those grieving from loss, those who need to find work and housing and a host of others needing assistance.

Daddabbo had a unique story to share with the members at Wednesday's luncheon. Born with cerebral palsy, Daddabbo was late reaching the typical baby milestones. Doctors told him mother he would never walk or talk.

His mother relied on the E. John Gavras Center, one of the partner agencies supported by the United Way, to get the support needed to help Daddabbo develop and eventually become a contributing member of the community.

"By many measures, we are a successful part of the community," he said. "I would not be here today without the support of the United Way in the 1970s."

Daddabbo said he was the 1973 poster child for the United Way, when the slogan was: "Thanks to you, it works," referring to Daddabbo learning to walk against all odds.

He said the 2013 slogan is: "Thanks to you, it's still working."

"I am living proof of what an investment in the United Way does for our community," he said.

After the meeting, Daddabbo said he wants his personal story to inspire people to donate and take action to support the United Way.

"It's nice to help a child who needs something, on an emotional level," Daddabbo said. "But on a practical level, isn't it nice when that kid grows up to contribute to the community?"

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Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.