Getabout, New Canaan's van service for both senior citizens and those needing special assistance, will celebrate 30 years of service Sunday Oct. 17, at the Country Club of New Canaan. The annual jazz evening and silent auction is the Getabout's single largest fundraising activity and is responsible for raising almost half of the charitable organization's annual budget.

Founded in 1980 by a public-spirited group of New Canaan volunteers, the Getabout has grown from a few dozen rides in a retrofitted van in its first year, to some 10,000 rides annually, in a four-vehicle fleet of two customized wheelchair-accessible large vans and two mini-vans. But its core mission remains the same, according to Getabout President Bob Witt: "to help New Canaan senior and special-needs residents maintain active, vital lives in our community -- no matter what their transportation challenges."

This year's fundraiser is also important because the organization is marking its first year of offering no-cost "Medi-Rides," now expanded to non-emergency medical trips not just in New Canaan, but also in Stamford, Norwalk, Darien and Wilton," said Witt. The added medical trips, many previously served by the Red Cross, have proved very popular, but have raised the annual operating costs of the Getabout by many thousands of dollars.

Fall fundraiser co-chairwomen Robin Busch and Kathy Auda Skaperdas hope for record results in both attendance and funds generated from the event. Working closely with the country club staff, the Getabout's Fundraiser committee has scheduled the cocktail party from 5:30 to 8 p.m., on Sunday, Oct. 17. "With the outstanding teamwork from our dedicated volunteer committee -- and in light of the need to support our growing Medi-Rides base -- Kathy and I are anticipating a wonderful evening," Busch said.

"We are particularly excited again this year to be pairing an exceptional Silent Auction with the "Keep Our Vans Rolling" giving tree, to help drive the fundraising, Skaperdas said. "Thanks to the fantastic work of our Auction co-chairs Beth Reifers, Gale Stafford and Lori Underwood, we'll be featuring an exciting slate of unique gifts and services, generously donated by local merchants and residents."

Featured auction items include:

"¢ American Girl doll package, including several hand-sewn one of a kind outfits

"¢ Bronze sculpture "Atlas" (1992), by noted sculptor Harry Caesar

"¢ Catered cocktail party, from The Caterers

Christine Simmons portrait

"¢ Cooking lessons for eight by the Culinary Works

"¢ Golf rounds from Country Club of New Canaan and West Point Country Club.

"¢ Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket vacation houses.

"We are especially grateful to the family of former First Selectman Dick Bond, which has graciously donated a week at their Nantucket home for the silent auction. Bond was a longtime supporter of the Getabout, both in his personal and his official capacity, including his role in securing our longtime space office in Vine Cottage," said Witt. Bond passed away in January 2010.

The Getabout's Fall Fundraiser Committee also includes Jennifer Bretl, Peggy Casavant, Laura Danforth, Julia Deane, Alexandra DeMarino, Carol Hollyday, Chris Hussey, Rene Kemp, Katherine Lenoue, Eileen Margherio, Kassie Means, Rosemary Ogden, Katherine Ong, Nicoline Sawabini, Margo Sisson, Kathy Sweeney, Joyce Weisenseel and Ruth Witt.

Reservations for the evening are still available; call 966-9283 or 203-972-2744.

Although partially funded by the Town of New Canaan and supported by the New Canaan Community Foundation, Getabout relies heavily on private contributions, most importantly the Fall Fundraiser, to defray the difference between the suggested $3 price per one-way ride and the actual costs of $18 per local ride and up to $64 for Medi-Rides to Stamford or Norwalk. All management costs are borne by volunteers from the Getabout Board of Directors. Getabout trips are available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information on the service and reservations, on a minimum 24-hour advance basis. are available at 972-RIDE (972-7433).