Thursday, August 21, 2014

Light The Night Kick Off & Fundraising

"Light The Night (LTN) Walk is a fundraising campaign of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) which brings together families and communities to honor blood cancer survivors, as well as those lost to the diseases, and shine a light on the importance of finding cures and providing access to treatments for blood cancer patients." I have taken part in this walk for many years. Last year, I was a member of the LTN Committee on Staten Island and this year I am serving as co-chair of the committee. That is why it was extra-special for me to attend this year's Light The Night Kick Off Party!
The Kick Off Party serves as a celebration to jump start each team's fundraising and encourage new teams to join us. This year's event was a great success, complete with food, raffles, and motivational presentations.
Last year, my team raised $2,710. While it may seem like a hefty task, I would love to surpass that total this year and I am setting the team goal at $3,000. My team, "Miss Staten Island's Angels," currently has $550 raised. Let's get this number up!

Donate. Join My Team. Walk To End Blood Cancers.


Great American BBQ

The Annual Great American Barbecue is held each year as a fundraiser for the Pleasant Plains, Prince's Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association. I was invited to attend by Janine Materna a few months back and was happy to accept. I was curious to see the Seguine Mansion, where the event was to be held. I had never been there before but I knew that it is a notoriously famous Staten Island landmark.
The morning of the barbecue was gloomy and the skies threatened rain. My mom and I grabbed our umbrellas and headed out hoping for the weather to turn…fingers were crossed. As we walked up the street towards the mansion, we heard piercing, cat-like screams coming from the grounds. What in the world? We had no idea what it could be until we reached the gate and saw about a dozen peacocks walking across the lawn, the roof…just about EVERYWHERE! I have to say, I wasn't too thrilled about having to walk past them but they kept their distance and that was fine by me.
We were greeted by Janine and spent the afternoon mingling with members of the Staten Island community. We saw tons of familiar faces including Domenic Recchia, Bob Ferrone and Roberta Hayes. We also made quite a few new friends and set up meetings in the coming weeks to further support Staten Island. I was also honored to meet George Burke who currently resides in the mansion.
Everyone was decked out in festive red, white and blue, which added so much to the atmosphere of the event. Of course, there was tons of food and everyone knows how I feel about food! The weather cooperated for most of the afternoon until we were just about to leave. We ran for the car just as the thunder started. That was close!
Thank you Janine for inviting me to this super fun event. I'm thankful that we met way back in December and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Monday, August 11, 2014

PrideFest & Back To The Beach

About one month ago, on July 12th, I attended two awesome Staten Island community events.

Stop #1:

My first stop was Staten Island Pride Fest. This would be my second year attending. Last year, there was a parade through St. George ending in a community vendor/information fair. This year the venue and format were different, but the spirit and message of the day were still the same; Be proud of who you are! I was honored to be invited back to show my support for Staten Island's LGBT Community. This year it was great to be joined by our new Miss New York, Kira Kazantsev, and my little sister queen, Alexa Moley, Miss Staten Island's OT.

We arrived at Snug Harbor and were greeted by Jim Smith, the Executive Director of the Miss Staten Island Organization and former SI Pride Parade Grand Marshall. Alexa, Kira and the phenomenal Linda Carbo joined us soon after we arrived and we alI spent some time walking around, meeting people, taking pictures, and checking out all the great stands set up throughout the grounds.
All the while, music was provided by some pretty entertaining local musicians. I chatted with community organization members, caught up with some old friends, and bought an exquisite pair of green earrings…always a win!
We were so excited to watch the Doggy Drag Show and nominated a cute little dog dressed as a cupcake as one of the winners. He came in third!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked because I needed to get to my second event, but before we left, Kira, Alexa and I introduced ourselves to the crowd and expressed our support.
It was a fantastic morning filled with so much love and spirit. Everyone deserves the freedom to be true to who they are and if we all stand together, and support one another, we will one day live in a society that truly provides "liberty and justice for all." Thanks Paul Sanders, event coordinator, for inviting me again. I had a blast! See you next year!

Stop #2: 

After a bite to eat and a quick stop home to change, my family and I headed to Midland Beach for "Back To The Beach."  This 2-day event is such an incredible community gathering and although I was exhausted, I couldn't wait to get there.
I was thrilled to see so many people lining the Boardwalk. There were hundreds of vendors (HELLO SHOPPING!!!!), bands performing, activities for the kids and representation from several public officials. We walked up and down the boardwalk quite a few times, stopping to look at the vendor stations, chatting and taking pictures. I saw so many people I knew and even bought myself an adorable scarf dress.
Right before we left, I ran into Gabriella Caggiano (New York USA Ambassador Jr. Teen) and my own sister queen Alexa Moley (Miss Staten Island's OT) and her family.
I had a great time connecting with the Staten Island community at a laid back event. It makes me so happy to see such wonderful and diverse people coming together to celebrate their hometown. Of course, being able to shop on the beach isn't too shabby either. I can't wait until next year!

For more fun pictures from these two events, click here:

Visiting The Harvey Family

As Miss Staten Island, I try to attend and support as many charity events as possible. One of my favorite charity events is Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Gala, which I attended, once again, this year. At the gala, I met Pina Harvey whose oldest daughter, Isabella, has leukemia. I introduced myself and asked if it would be okay to come visit Isabella and her siblings in the coming week. Pina immediately agreed saying that Isabella LOVED princesses (who doesn’t?) and would be thrilled. We exchanged information and set a date.

Knowing that Isabella loved princesses and dress-up, I picked up some things every little princess needs; sparkly shoes, a tiara, glitter nail polish, coloring books, crayons, bracelets, etc, etc, etc!

My visit was planned as a surprise and, when we arrived, Isabella was shocked and so excited. Her 3 year-old sister Alyssa and 1 year-old brother Brandon were equally impressed. Alyssa’s twin Michael, however, looked up and then decided that his iPad trumped a princess any day. He remained on the couch intent on his game!
During our visit, we played, colored, polished nails, and, of course, put on makeup. I have to say, Isabella totally impressed me with her cosmetology skills. Alyssa was very enthusiastic and by the time we left her face was completely covered in lipgloss and eye shadow…very sticky but equally adorable!
I was floored by how calm Pina is. She has 4 kids under the age of six, a husband who works long hours (she herself works when he is home), her parents, her Grandmother (who suffers from Alzheimer's) and a dog…all under one roof! She is amazingly strong and focused on her children and getting Isabella better. Right now, Isabella is in maintenance and doing well. She said that Tammi and Jen from Gianna's Heart of Hope Foundation helped to ease a lot of their financial burden and she is truly grateful.
I fell totally in love with this family. Isabella is an amazing, strong child who I know will only continue to get better and better. I made plans to come visit again and bring some of my old dance costumes for the girls. I will also be joining them on September 7th for a Carnival Fundraiser for their Light The Night Team. I can’t wait! Thank you for allowing me to come visit your beautiful family, Pina!

Friday, August 8, 2014

4th Of July Parade

Though it is summer, I've been as busy as ever. As you may notice, it's been a little difficult keeping up with the blogging, but I'm trying my best! Since we're approaching August, I think it's time to write a blog about the 4th of July parade!
About a month ago, on the 4th of July, I participated in the annual parade on Travis Avenue for the third year in a row. This year, though, the weather was definitely not cooperating. The day dawned dark with a severe threat of rain. I hoped the rain would hold up long enough for the parade to carry on. Travis hosts one of the oldest consecutive Independence Day celebrations in the United States and I wasn’t going to let a little rain keep me from once again being a part of something with such a rich history behind it! I crossed my fingers, got dressed, gathered my umbrella and we were on our way. 

This year I was thrilled to be joined by my Star Princess Natalie. My sister queen Stephanie, Miss Richmond County, was accompanied by her Star Princesses, as well. We gathered in the parking lot and spent some time mingling with participants and spectators, exchanging stories, commenting on the weather and taking pictures.
The parade was delayed as we waited for Mayor DeBlasio to arrive. By that point, I was starving and couldn't pass up the offer of Wendy's fries. But seriously…who can?
That's when I felt it; a single raindrop, which turned into many more in a very short time. We got out our umbrellas, climbed into our cars and for the first time in my three years as a titleholder, I rode in a parade inside a car. It was a very different experience, but fun just the same. 
As always, this parade route was quite intimate. Even though it was raining, I kept my window down so I could talk to the spectators lining the route. Despite the rain, there was a great turnout. The weather definitely didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits!
I had a great time supporting my community and topped off my day by spending some quality time with my family! Thanks to everyone on the Travis Parade Committee for having me back!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Gala

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being a special guest at the gala for Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Foundation. I first attended in 2012, but was unable to attend last year due to a prior commitment, so I was super excited for this year!

Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Foundation was created by Jennifer and Michael LaBarbera in memory of their daughter Gianna Nicole who lost her battle to leukemia on November 1, 2007. She was only 4 years old. It is the foundation's primary goal to help ease the financial burdens of families currently in the battle against this devastating disease.
My mom and I made our way to the El Caribe in Brooklyn. Once again, the venue was incredible. We were greeted by Tammi D'Antoni and had a few pictures taken by our friend and photographer, Steve White.
There were more baskets than I could count (I had my eye on a few specific ones) and food tables covered the entire dance floor. I was stunned at how many guests there were…way more than there had been two years ago! We edged our way to our table where we saw Michael Scholl, Tammi's Mom, Claudia Carucci of Zoe Salon (my fabulous hair sponsor), Carla Murino, and Belinda Mendez-Azzolini, who are all great friends and equally great people.
After a blessing from father Jamie (whom I met a St. Bernard's Bazaar last year), Gianna’s Uncle Lou addressed the guests. He spoke about Gianna, the foundation and its work, and introduced the families the foundation was honoring; The Tornabene family, the Harvey family and the Delfino family. I already knew the family of Marina Tornabene - an amazing young woman, wise beyond her years - and hoped to introduce myself to the other families before the night was over.

There were a few more speakers and then it was time for Michael Scholl and me to speak to the 600+ attendees. Michael, who is part of the Inner Circle, had the opportunity to donate his share of their annual satire show's proceeds to a charity of his choice. He was so kind to give me the choice of where the money should go and I chose Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope Foundation. It felt great to be able to give them this money because I know what great work they to directly help families affected by cancer. Both Michael and I received an "Appreciation Award."
The dance floor was opened and, after introductions by Cindy Vero & Vinnie Medugno, there were incredible performances by George LaMond and Brenda K Starr.
Later on, I introduced myself to the other recipient families and exchanged information with them for future fundraising collaborations. I took some more pictures and bought my basket raffle tickets, which I put in just in time before they began to call the winners. It has become well known that I am very lucky when it comes to winning at basket auctions, but this time I was shocked when I won the grand prize I was hoping to win all night: 2 VIP tickets to the Bella Magazine White Party in the Hamptons with special guest Laura Prepon from Orange Is The New Black!! I also won a $400 bar basket that I could barely carry out.
This event was more amazing than I can even describe. The love in the room was overwhelming and I know that a lot of money was raised to help families in need. Gianna Nicole's Heart of Hope has never had to turn away a family in need of assistance and that is because of the support and generosity they continue to experience year after year. Thank you, again, Tammi D'Antoni and Jennifer & Michael LaBarbera for asking me to join you on this special night. You are truly inspirational people whom I have come to love and admire. I can't wait until next year!