Albertson, NY — Broadway came to Long Island for a musical afternoon in benefit of the Reach for a Star Luncheon, which raised close to $221,000 for vital afterschool programs and extracurricular activities for students with severe physical disabilities at the Henry Viscardi School (HVS) at The Viscardi Center.
Special guest Kara Lindsay, famous for her roles in Newsies, WICKED, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, performed a set of show tunes for a crowd of 450 attendees at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on April 10. At the close of her set, Lindsay sang “Tomorrow” from Annie with several second graders from Viscardi.
Students at the Henry Viscardi School often require life-sustaining medical supports throughout the day and need accessible transportation to get to and from school, leaving few options for socialization outside the classroom. The Reach for a Star Luncheon was established to raise support and awareness for programs like adapted sports, the arts, and recreational overnights — enriching experiences that afford students with disabilities the opportunity to explore interests, enjoy a sense of independence, and spend time with friends.
Funds raised at previous Luncheons have enabled Viscardi to double its Friday Night Recreation sessions each month. Keynote speaker Rachel Gross, who graduated from the Henry Viscardi School in 2014 and now studies at Hofstra University, spoke about how the program broadened her horizons as a student.
“The program is so important to the students at Viscardi because we all live so far away from each other, and since distance and transportation options are limiting, we would otherwise rarely ever get to see our friends outside of school,” Gross said.
On a broader scale, The Viscardi Center this year continues its mission to empower students like Gross. John D. Kemp, President and CEO at The Viscardi Center, addressed attendees about upcoming initiatives designed to prepare students for independence. Highlights include the Bridge Program, which will serve adults who wish to continue their education and stay connected to the community after aging out of school, as well as efforts to expand academic overnights offered at Viscardi’s on-campus Independent Living House, “so [students] can go to bed on a school night, get up on Friday morning, get themselves ready, and get across the street with their homework.”
The Luncheon included a cocktail hour, featuring over 100 auction and raffle prizes, and a sit-down lunch. Special guests at recent Luncheons have included Jennifer DiNoia, formerly Elphaba in Broadway’s WICKED; Chilina Kennedy, star of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; Hoda Kotb, co-anchor at NBC’s TODAY; the Angels from Kinky Boots; and Elise Testone, a finalist on American Idol.
A dedicated Committee of volunteers ensures the success of the event year after year. The Reach for a Star Luncheon Committee is Co-Chaired by long-time supporters Iris Katz, Denise Wolfbiss and Ruth Geismar and includes Lynne Arleo, Danielle Berro, Gloria Boritz, Michele Cagner, Bernadette Casey-Smith, Rita Castagna, Candy Cucharo, Debbie Cuevas, June Danis, Lisa Gross, Fran Gutleber, Sam Kemp, Janie Krauter, Liz Leiter, Hollie Mechak, Kim Memoli, Vicki Murphy, Aileen Murstein, Deanna O’Connor, Maggie Pipia, Carmela Acerra Posillico, Jennifer Schatzberg, Madeline Schuster, Jennifer Slade, Merry Slone, Stacy Solow and Tracy Wolfbiss.
About the Henry Viscardi School
The Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center is a New York State supported school that offers children with severe physical disabilities, who often require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day, a traditional educational setting option that provides rigorous academics and opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Its specialized, accessible educational setting provides a fully enriched academic program, a variety of therapies, assistive technology, and medical supports to students who may otherwise need to receive instruction in their homes or at a hospital.
About The Viscardi Center
Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers people with disabilities. It provides K-12 education, school-to-work youth transition services, vocational training, career counseling and employment placement, assistive technology, and adapted driver education to children, adolescents, and adults with a wide variety of disabilities. The Viscardi Center also assists businesses in diversifying their workforces, and developing and advancing disability inclusive cultures in their workplaces.