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Keeping it Favoloso

Rosemary Pace passes her passion for NAMI Collier County to her grandson

When Naples resident Rosemary Pace is passionate about something, she leads by an enthusiastic example. Pace (pronounced pa-chay) has left a legacy of support for NAMI Collier County for nearly 20 years with innovation and delightful persuasion. She has served on the board of the organization, promoting its mission to improve the quality of life for Collier County families affected by serious mental illness through education, support and advocacy. She led a team of her friends who raised $250,000 over 15 years for the annual fundraising and awareness walk, which will be held Jan. 30, 2021 at Baker Park.

Pace has passed on her passion to her grandson Henry Berkowitz, 13. Henry, who lives at Syosset, Long Island, chose NAMI Collier County for his Mitzvah Project, which is designed to engage children in important values of Judaism including repairing the world and compassion for others. With an initial goal of raising $1,000, Henry has raised more than $3,000 selling tie-dye bandanas as he prepared for his bar mitzvah in November.  “The reason why I chose NAMI is because of my grandmother,” he wrote on his fundraising Instagram post. “She has been an advocate for this charity since I was born. I would like to continue the legacy.” Rosemary became involved with NAMI Collier County 18 years ago after she was recommended as a potential board member to the former board chairman. 

“He asked me if I had mental illness in my family, and I said ‘no’,” she recalls. “But then I remember I had a cousin a year older than me who took her own life. That was over 40 years ago when we didn’t talk about mental illness.”

With her involvement in NAMI, she says she now understands how tortured her cousin Rita likely was, with little support available. Her aunt and uncle told everyone that Rita died of cancer. “The more I became involved in the organization, the more I realized how devastatingly important education is,” she said. “I can’t say enough about this NAMI, which is really hands on.”

When Pace joined the board, she was encouraged to form a team for the annual fundraising and awareness walk. Instead of just asking people to support the organization, Pace did what she does best: she made it fun. She invited five women to have dinner at her house every Monday leading up to the walk. In return, they were each asked to donate $100 and help recruit others to participate. That first walk, they raised $6,000.

“The team took on a life of its own,” Pace says. “It wasn’t all me.”

The team’s name, Team Favoloso, comes from Pace’s heritage as a second-generation Italian. When she married her second husband, she was given a family title, which was conveyed by the Vatican through his family’s distant relationship to Mary Queen of Scots. When the couple divorced, her ex-husband agreed she could keep his name and the title, Contessa Pace Di Mattei Baldini. “I like to have fun with it,” she said. “Being the Italian lady, there was no way I could name the team anything else.”

Each fall, Pace would launch the team’s annual efforts with a coffee and croissants gathering. Custom t-shirts were designed for participants in each walk. Invitations to the gatherings Pace hosted in her home were so coveted that a core of 30 or 40 team members participated for 15 years before Pace retired the team in 2018. Known as the NAMI cheerleader, Pace gave a speech at the walk about the importance of education, and every year her daughter Alexis brought Henry and later his little sister Chloe to participate with the team.

While she no longer serves on the board and retired Team Favoloso, Pace is still involved, walking every year and helping when needed. Henry’s decision to follow in her footsteps has made her efforts worthwhile.  “I can’t even tell you how much that means to me,” she said. “This is a lesson that we do impacts children at the earliest of ages, and I’m probably most proud of that.”