Monday, June 30, 2014

St. Patrick's Summer Kick-Off

Stop # 2:

After the Olivia Boccuzzi Kid's Marathon, I headed back to Staten Island for my second event of the day. I had been asked by Michel Spano to attend the first ever "Summer Kick-off" for St. Patrick’s School. The event would be a fundraiser for the school with performances, vendor shopping and, of course, FOOD! No brainer…I accepted!
It was shaping up to be a beautiful day and there were quite a few people of all ages making their way into the schoolyard as we arrived. I walked around the yard, looking at all the cute items at the vendor tables and taking pictures.
I also spoke about The Miss America Organization to a few groups of young ladies who were eager to know more about how I got my crown. I always love telling my story and encouraging them to get involved!

We sat and watched the performances which included snippets of In The Wings Productions' rendition of Shrek and the handsome, talented Struck Boyz from Star Struck Dance Studio. They were all so good!
Before we left, we stopped inside to cool off. Wearing a crown with so many clips in the blazing sun tends to make your head pretty hot. I bet that's a secret you never knew! While inside, I chatted with several of the volunteers who were curious to know why I had chosen my platform. I spoke to them about Dominic, my best friend who passed away from leukemia, and I was stunned when one volunteer told me that she had been one of his carenurses while he was in the hospital. She had been there the night he passed away. I was overwhelmed. She took me outside to meet a second nurse who had taken care of him, as well. We shared some stories and spoke about what an amazing person Dominic was. I felt so many different emotions speaking with them, but one thing was clear; although he has been gone for a little over 7 years, Dominic has not been forgotten by anyone who has ever known him. 
It made me smile and reaffirmed my determination to focus on my platform and doing all that I can to help researchers find a cure for pediatric cancer. What a perfect way to end an event

Thank you Michel for inviting me to such a great, community-oriented event. I had a great time!

Olivia Boccuzzi Foundation: Kid's Marathon

To start off the summer, I had a jam packed 3-event day on June 7th.

Stop #1:

Last year, as Miss Greater New York, I attended an event that isn't seen too often: a Kid's Marathon! Through this event, the Dyker Heights Athletic Association (DHAA) joined forces with The Olivia Boccuzzi Foundation to find a cure for childhood cancer. All proceeds raised during the marathon benefited The Olivia Boccuzzi Foundation, which directly funds research for new and innovative ways to treat pediatric brain tumors.
This foundation was developed by Mr. and Mrs. Boccuzzi, the parent's of a little girl, Olivia, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 2. Olivia passed away 2 years ago, and the Boccuzzi family now runs this organization in her name. Their website reads:
As our family has learned, childhood cancer does not discriminate. It is the number one disease killer of children in the world.
This year, I once again joined the young boys and girls who would be running through the streets of Dyker Heights. Spirits were high as entered St. Bernadette's schoolyard. It looked like there were even more participants this year! I walked around a bit speaking to quite a few people and taking pictures along the way. 
The opening ceremonies began, and I was moved to tears by the beautiful speech given by Olivia's parents. They spoke about the heartbreak of discovering their child had a brain tumor and the additional shock when they learned of the lack of funding for childhood cancer research. These parents were told, "There is nothing we can do for your child." I couldn't even begin to fathom their struggles, but I commend them for turning their tragedy into an opportunity to help other families. They presented a check for $100,000 to NYU and Sloan Kettering Hospitals for research. Incredible! 
Olivia’s brother let some pink balloons float into the sky for his sister and my heart ached. I am so determined to do as much as I can to help people like the Boccuzzis so that one day no one will ever have to feel that kind of pain again. 
Afterwards, I headed to the street with the kids to kick off the run. We all waited for the signal - "On your mark, get set, go!"…and the first group was off! I chatted with some of the parents for a bit and then, sadly, I had to leave to make it to another event.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Boccuzzi for all that you do. You are such a strong and beautiful family and I wish you nothing but comfort and peace during this time. Thank you for having me.

Wheels On The Water

Earlier this month, I attended two events for the NYC Arts Cypher. They are an official 501c3 nonprofit organization, committed to promoting positive values through arts and entertainment programs, projects, and events. Their website reads:
Our organization is focused on the youth in our communities; in particular at-risk teens who have difficulty working in an educational setting. Our goal is to motivate young people to apply their energies in a positive and productive manner.
The NYC Arts Cypher has been working on an Anti-Bullying Campaign entitled "Don't Be A Bully" for quite some time. This year, I was honored to have been asked to take part in their annual press-conference. I spoke about my own experiences with bullying - because unfortunately everyone has them.
One week later, I attended their "Wheels On The Water" event. This event featured a dine-out fundraiser at the Marina Cafe during which a portion of the proceeds were donated to the organization. There were vendors, raffles, and exotic cars along with a live DJ and special guests. Two of those guests included Courtney Hall from BELLA Magazine and my friend Christina Moore, Miss Cosmopolitan.
After the event had to be cancelled twice due to bad weather, we definitely found a nice night! It was a lot of fun and my dad, who was my date for the night, enjoyed it, too! I think his favorite part was looking at all the exotic cars.
I, personally, loved being interviewed - quite a few times! I always think, "I would never have been able to do this a few years ago!" It a nice reminder of how much I've grown through the Miss America Organization.
Thank you to Charlie Balducci (president and founder of NYC Arts Cypher) and Renee Wood for inviting me to attend both the press conference and "Wheels On The Water." I am happy to support your organization and the great things you're doing for the youth in our community!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

St Jude Car Wash

As you all know, my platform is "Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer" and I have worked with many different organizations to promote this. Recently, I was invited by my friend Tina Bilcher-Murphy to attend not one, but two events organized by Kids For Kids, a group of amazing young people aged 5-18 who work to raise funds for St. Jude.
The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. No child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay. The first event was a car wash at the start of the month at Standard Burger, a local restaurant on Staten Island. I eagerly accepted the invitation and, on that morning, headed out to what I thought would be a cute, small car wash that would raise a few dollars for St. Jude. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
As I drove up with my family I was amazed to see a line of cars for at least half a block waiting to get in. The parking lot was packed with swarms of kids of all ages washing cars, selling cute, homemade flower pens and books and filling buckets with water and suds. NY 1 news was doing interviews and the adults were keeping the line moving. Talk about teamwork!
My mom and I started to help out while my Dad and brother got on line for a wash. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few kids I knew from my school visits as well as my kindergarten/first grade teacher whose daughter was one of the event's participants.
My 2013 Princess, Rose, and her family were helping, as well. I also met and spoke with Caitlin McFeely who was the organizer of the second event I would be attending the following week. We spoke for awhile and made plans to connect for some future events.
After a delicious lunch (I couldn’t pass on those burgers!) we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the car, but not before I posed in an awesome Porsche doing my best "queen wave!"
Thank you to Tina for connecting me with Caitlin McFeely and St Jude's "Kids For Kids" program. I am looking forward to with this group more in the future and seeing all the amazing things they will accomplish!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Staten Island's Got Talent

I've been involved in the performing arts for as long as I can remember and have always been surrounded by amazingly talented people. Both my We Dance For Dreams and The HOPE Project benefits involved talented Staten Islanders. So, I you can guess you can imagine how excited I was when I got a call from Vanessa Morro to be a celebrity judge for the first ever "Staten Island’s Got Talent" contest, which was set for just one week after the Miss NY Pageant.

The contest was co-sponsored by the Grace Foundation and part of the night's proceeds would be donated to them. Watching talented individuals from Staten Island AND raising money for a great cause… obviously I was in!
The morning of the show I attended my boyfriend's FDNY Family Day. I made it to the St. George Theater just in time to change, fix my make up. Right before the show, I went to check in with Vanessa and got an awesome surprise. The original host of the show, Gracelynn Santos, was not able to make it, so her last minute replacement was none other than the newly crowned Miss NY 2014, Kira Kazantsev! The night was already turning out perfectly and the show hadn't even started yet.
I then had a chance to meet  and chat with my fellow judges: Marissa Pontecorvo from American Idol and Jay Montgomery, founder of the Harbor Lights Theater Company who coincidentally was one of my judges at the Miss SI Pageant back in November. I loved them already!
It was so exciting to see my name on a judge's folder! What was more exciting was that I was sitting in the exact same place as the Miss NY Pageant judges had one week before when they were watching me. Sooo cool!
Once the show began, I was amazed to see so many young talented individuals. There were mostly singers with a few dancers in the mix. I have to say, my favorite act was Frank Morris who beat boxed. I couldn't believe my ears! He sounded just like a radio! I'm not sure if I'm supposed to disclose this information as a judge, but he definitely got high scores from me. The acts were all wonderful with contestants ranging in age from about 6 to 70. I was so impressed! Kira was an incredible emcee, too, and I was having the time of my life.
In the end, the prize winners were:
3rd Place: Angela Gianina (Singer: "Human")
2nd Place: Frank Morris (Beat Boxer)
1st Place: Sami Jo (Singer: "Blues Is My Middle Name")
After the show, I was able to go backstage and meet some of the contestants. I even gave my business card to a few of the girls, encouraging them to check out the Miss Staten Island web page and consider competing! I can never say enough about MAO and I take every opportunity to bring other young women into the organization.
Thank you Vanessa and the Grace Foundation for having me. It was an experience I will never forget!