Monday, May 19, 2014

Pediatric Cancer Foundation: "Totally 80s"

Back in March I hosted "The HOPE Project," a performance benefit to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. I chose this organization after doing some research and discovering that over 90% of ever dollar they receive goes towards funding research to find a cure for pediatric cancer. That was the deciding factor for me. As a result, I was able to donate over $14,000 to them. They were so grateful and gave me two tickets to attend their “Totally 80s" event on May 15th as a special guest. I was extremely excited and eagerly accepted.
My mom and I drove into Manhattan after work and, after driving around for a bit, managed to find a meter to park at right around the corner from Providence, the venue for the night’s event…SCORE! When we entered Providence, I was quite impressed. It was beautiful! The place was so funky and different. There were two floors and everything screamed "80s."  The party planners did a TOTALLY AMAZING job!
Just as we walked in, I met Cheryl Rosen (President) and Nancy Joselson (Executive Director) whom I had never personally met but had spoken to and emailed several times as I was planning my benefit. I was equally as pleased to meet them as they were to meet me. Nancy showed me the program and, to my surprise, I was listed as a Diamond Sponsor for my contribution to their organization! What an honor! I was introduced to several other key people in the organization and we “laid claim” to a small table inside before going to scout out the buffet table.
The food selection ran the spectrum from sushi to pasta…and that sushi was exactly what I needed to avoid the pasta! There were also passed hors d’oeuvres. 
We mingled with the guests, spoke to several board members, listened to some great 80s music from the band and took some pictures. Halfway through the evening, the ceremony began. The honorees for the evening were Lois Baskin and Jodi Posner, friends who had been chairing the PCF Walk together each year for the past 20 years. In that time they have raised an incredible 4 million dollars! Jodi lost her son about 16 years ago to cancer. I find it incredibly inspiring that she was able to channel her grief into something that benefits other children still battling their illness. The friendship, admiration, and respect that these women had for each other was clearly evident, as was the support from those surrounding them. I was moved by what they have been able to accomplish with the help of their friends, family and communities. Unfortunately, the pair have decided to step down. I wish them an evidently well-deserved retirement, but from what I learned about them in this short time, they'll probably still have a hand in the PCF Walk next year! 
The evening concluded with an auction, with items to bid on that would directly assist patients with pediatric cancer. These included pediatric infusion pumps, patient comfort programs and various research projects. For just these items, alone, over $30,000 was raised. WOW! I was in awe! 
As we left, the party was still in full swing, but my bed was calling as I had to be up bright and early for work the next morning. Thank you to everyone at the Pediatric Cancer Foundation for being so welcoming and kind. Like I said, you never do good deeds for the recognition, but it is nice to know that my donation was appreciated and will be put to good use. Thank you.

CTV Interview With Al Lambert

A while back, Vinnie Medugno, a good friend and all around amazing entertainer, asked if I would like to be interviewed by Al Lambert for his CTV Show. Of course, I immediately said that I would love to. After all, interviews mean promoting my platform and the Miss America Organization and that’s always a positive thing. 
Mr. Lambert called me a few weeks later and arranged for me to come to the CTV studio for the interview. It took a bit of juggling to mesh our dates, but in the end, we found a mutually agreeable one. What was even better, was that it was scheduled for a week before Miss NY, which would give me some great practice.
When I arrived, it took awhile to find the right door in, but I made it perfectly on time. After signing in, I was led into the studio. There were two other guests and Al asked if I would mind waiting until they were done as they had other appointments. I thought that was a great idea and knew it would give me a chance to watch and see the style of his questioning before it was my turn. The downside was that I had to look at a box full of Dunkin’ Donuts treats for a half hour. Miss New York swimsuit on the horizon trumped my craving though…talk about will power. 
When it was my turn to be interviewed I fixed my lipstick, put on my mic, did a sound check and it was showtime! I spoke about my experiences in MAO, my platform, my ambitions and my plans for using my title in the coming months. I have to say, the 15 minutes went by quickly and before I knew it, the interview was over. I took a few pictures on my way out and I have to admit -- I did eye those donuts one more time as I was leaving! 
Thank you so much Mr. Lambert for allowing me the chance to speak about what I love and thanks to Vinnie for arranging it all. I had a really great time! Once the interview is up I will be sure to share it on my Facebook Page!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Costco Fundraiser For CMN

Each May, Costco (a sponsor of the Miss New York Pageant) raises money for Children’s Miracle Network, the national platform of the Miss America Organization. The Children's Miracle Network raises funds for 170 children’s hospitals across North America, which, in turn, use the money where it’s needed the most. When a donation is given it stays in the community, ensuring that every dollar is helping local kids. Our local CMN Hospital is located in Long Island. All local NY titleholders are invited to come to the Costco on Staten Island to help them in their efforts.
On May 10th, I was joined by a few of my fellow Miss New York contestants at Costco to lend a hand. Although many of the girls were unable to attend, I was happy to be joined by Sarah Hreyo (Miss Empire Star), Alex Moley (Miss Staten Island’s OT), Charista Mroczek (Miss Richmond County’s OT), Dominque Bianco (Miss NYC’s OT) and Sarah Pierson (Miss Empire Star’s OT).
We had so much fun raising money for this wonderful cause together. There was an enormous cake, which was cut completely by Patrick -- not an easy feat, but he was quite the cake-cutting superhero! 
Linda Carbo, Barbara Monte and Barbara Thompson were there to cheer us on and Debbie Cantoni, Miss New York ED, dropped by to take some photos. Mike from Costco was also on hand. His catch phrase for most of the day was, “If you donate $100, Jamie will eat a piece of cake!” Even though Miss NY was a few short weeks away, I would have done just that! It was great seeing so many people I knew come by. It was even greater seeing so many students who remembered me from my visits to their schools. 
It was a long day, but it was totally worthwhile. Costco generously matched every dollar donated by the customers. We collected quite a bit of money and managed to hand out every piece of cake! Thank you so much, Costco, for not only supporting the Miss New York Organization, but also the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Together, we made a difference in our local community and had fun while doing it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Soroptimist International & Gift Of Life

After my two school visits to P.S. 69 and I.S. 75 on May 7th, I continued on with my marathon 4 appearance day, after a quick stop for Dunkin’ Donuts refueling, of course! (Gosh, I should really just be paid to be their spokeswoman...)

Stop #3:

Way back in September, I received an email from Janet Dugo from Soroptimist International of Staten Island. She invited me to speak at their May meeting where they would be distributing the Violet Richardson Community Service Award to deserving young women. I was a recipient of the award in 2009, so I was very excited and honored to be asked. At that time, May seemed so far away…and here it was, time already! 

I arrived at The Staaten with my mom and we made our way to our table, stopping along the way to speak with several people we knew. I was thrilled to see Evelyn and Tina from the SI Giving Circle as well as Roseann from Meals On Wheels. The meeting began just as we made it to our seats.
Once “meeting business” was complete, the ceremony began. As the guest speaker, I was up next. My speech was about my time in the Miss America Organization and my community service experiences. Basically, "what I've been up to" since receiving the Violet Richardson Award. I even got a laugh when I said how much I was looking forward to McDonald’s after the Miss NY Pageant!
After I spoke, new members were inducted, one of whom was Dawn Reid Green, the mom of my friend Naja who I danced with on SI Tech’s Dance Team. Old members introduced themselves and I was completely impressed by all of their accomplishments. One woman was even the first female bank Vice-President...EVER! She is 93 years old and she was totally inspiring to speak with. 
The awards were then presented to three young women for their commitment to service and their outstanding efforts in helping others. It’s always inspiring to me to see young women working so hard to make a difference and become positive role models in their communities. Congratulations to them all! 
Unfortunately, I had to leave right after awards were presented to head downstairs to my fourth (and FINAL) event of the day!

Stop #4:

My last event of this very full day was the Gift of Life Family Transport Dinner. Good friends of mine, Missy and Brian Forsyth, lost their 16 year old niece, Amanda Sue Forsyth, eight years ago when she was killed by a drunk driver. Her organs were donated and ultimately, saved 7 others. In this spirit, her family wishes to continue her legacy. The organization's website reads:
"When Amanda’s accident occurred, the NYC Fire Department stepped in and provided 24 hour transportation services for her family: a gesture that made all the difference for a family suffering the devastating loss of a child. This service allowed for Amanda’s family to be with her as much a possible during her hospitalization, relieving them the stressful task of driving during their grief. The Forsyth family believes this service should be available to all families going through similar ordeals and as a result, have created a charity to continue this service."

After a quick stop in the ladies room to put on my crown and touch up my lipstick, we went downstairs to meet my little sister queen Alexa and her mom. Thank goodness both events were at The Staaten!  All I can say is WOW! There were more people downstairs than I could even begin to count. The event took up at least 4 rooms and the party was in full swing! There was a singer in one room, a band in another, and food & baskets everywhere!
I took a few minutes to look at a quilt hanging in the hallway, which memorialized those who had donated their organs to help others. Inside the second room I found Alexa, who was selling 50/50 raffle tickets. We bought our raffle basket tickets, and I helped Alexa sell 50/50 while mingling with the guests. There were people from all walks of life, but they all had one goal in mind; to raise as much money as possible.
Before the evening came to a close, some of the attendees spoke about how organ donation had helped them or their loved ones. I was so moved by their words that I have decided to become an organ donor myself. It is something all of us should definitely consider. Please, if you get a second, look up the facts about organ donation. They might just inspire you all as well. 

As the night came to an end, baskets were called and we said our goodbyes. Thank you so much Missy and Brian for inviting Alexa and I to attend this wonderful event. I am so proud to call you guys my crazy friends! 

That's All, Folks!

As my first four appearance day came to an end, I was way, way, beyond exhausted. The day was well worth it, though, because I got to inspire students to make a difference and I was inspired by the giving nature of my fellow Staten Islanders. Win-win all around!

PS69 "Miracle Makers" & IS75 Junior Giving Circle

As I said before, May is for miracles (#MayIsForMiracles) and May 7th was most certainly a day jam-packed with philanthropy. I have become a pro at 2 appearance days, and even pretty good at getting through 3 appearance days, but I had never attempted a 4 appearance day. Well, there's a first time for everything -- I guess it was inevitable. For the sake of ease, I’m going to break this day into two separate blogs, so here goes!

Stop #1:

My first visit of the day was to P.S. 69. As Miss Staten Island 2012, I created "Wish For Change," where students in local elementary schools filled buckets with spare change and bills that they earned themselves to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Classes competed to see who would collect the most money and the winner had a pizza lunch with yours truly. Over the past 2 years, this program has changed and grown with my platform expansion. I have used my buckets in over 10 schools to include causes such as Light The Night ("Bright Lights") and Children’s Miracle Network ("Miracle Makers"). On this particular day, I was at P.S. 69 to talk about The Children’s Miracle Network. My goal was to speak to the fifth graders about volunteering and kids helping kids. They would then be empowered to turn key the information to their entire school and motivate all 46 classes….yes, 46…to help others.
Accompanied by my dad, who was excited to join me, I was greeted by Linda Sorrentino, Enrichment Coordinator, who escorted me to meet Principal Doreen Murphy. Afterwards, we went to the auditorium where I waited for the fifth grade classes to arrive. Throughout my presentation, the students listened attentively as I spoke to them about myself, the Miss America Organization, philanthropy, and the Children's Miracle Network. They asked so many questions on so many levels, but it was clear that they were ready and willing to help. I explained what they needed to do and left my buckets in their hands.
I picked up the buckets, yesterday, and I am quite pleased with the results! I will post the total soon! On Monday, May 19th, I will return for the start of their "Spirit Week" to announce the winning class!

Stop #2:

My second stop of the day was a visit to I.S. 75 to speak with students involved in the "Junior Giving Circle." The Staten Island Giving Circle, of which I am a member, does amazing work in helping others in hundreds of ways from wrapping Easter baskets for those in need to collecting money to send to the Phillipines to help typhoon victims.
Samantha Cooper Pettinato, a member of the Staten Island Giving Circle, started this junior chapter at I.S. 75. The students meet once a week to work on various projects to help their community. Their current project is collecting unwanted prescription eyeglasses.
I was told that the students - especially the girls - had been awaiting my visit for the past month. So, when I was finally able to speak with them, they were extremely eager to hear what I had to say. The conversation was a casual give and take. I had the opportunity to tell them of my personal philanthropic accomplishments, as well as hear about theirs. What a remarkable group of young people they are! I am truly thankful to have had the opportunity to meet them.

Magic & Miracles Haiti Benefit

May is for miracles, so it was only fitting that I attend the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation Magic & Miracles fundraiser. The Siller Foundation’s mission is to honor the sacrifice of Stephen Siller who laid down his life to save others on September 11, 2001.

This particular event was set to raise funds for "Stephen's House" in Haiti. After the earthquake in Haiti, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation committed to join New Hope Baptist Church to raise funds to relocate an orphanage housing over 100 children who need a safe place to heal and thrive. This project is still ongoing and the needs of the children remain immense. Local students and educators were being honored at the event to thank them for their fundraising efforts in our school community.
The room at The Staaten was packed and beautifully decorated in black and silver. There were only a few baskets but they were awesome so, of course, I bought some tickets. After all, the $800 Dine Around Staten Island basket had my name written all over it. What greater way to celebrate post Miss NY then with free food!?
The event began with a video of the orphans in Haiti who would be the recipients of everyone’s generosity. It was pretty inspiring watching the resiliency of these kids. When the video was over, a woman who cares for over 100 of these children stood up to speak. What an incredible, humble lady she is. I wanted to meet her so after the speeches were over, I did just that. We exchanged information and I promised her that in a few weeks we would arrange a pen-pal system so that her children could write back and forth to some Staten Island students. She was thrilled with the idea and so was I! 
The evening continued with a magic show. The magician, Robert Coghlin, was amazing! I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled off the tricks that he did. Not even a crown could get him to spill his secrets! I then helped the foundation sell their "Birthday Board" raffles.
I met some old friends and made quite a few new ones. As a matter of fact, I met a women at our table who I would be seeing in a few days as her daughter is a Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award Winner and I was asked to speak at their dinner. Everyone on Staten Island is most certainly connected! The baskets were called (sadly I didn’t win that Dine Around SI one) and the evening came to an end. 
Thank you Mary Siller-Scullin for inviting me to come out to support this event. It was inspiring to see the work the Siller Foundation does even outside of our own country. This organization has grown greatly over the past few years and it has been wonderful to take part in it. You are all incredible people. Congratulations on your tremendous work with the children of Haiti.