Saturday, November 8, 2014

October Madness; Part 3

And wrapping up October...

CF Spooktacular

Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Lou Valentino and his wife Donna. Their daughter, Kaitlin, suffers from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. I was asked to attend their CF Spookatcular for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as Miss Greater NY 2013, just 2 weeks before I was crowned Miss SI 2014. We became good friends and I was thrilled to be asked to attend their fundraiser this year as Miss Staten Island. The event fell on the night of my birthday and what better way to celebrate than with friends raising money for a great cause?
I decided to wear my New York taxi outfit that I wore for the National Sweetheart Pageant in August.  My mom went as a "Spelling Bee" and I have to say, we both looked pretty good! When we arrived at The Excelsior Grand, I was thrilled to see that this year there were a great deal more people in attendance. We said hello to Lou and Donna and caught up with other friends including Gerard, who (even though he didn't come dressed as Miss America as he promised) made a pretty amazing Ralph Kramden!
There were so many great baskets, so of course we had to buy our tickets. Lou made an inspirational opening speech about his daughter and all the other young people struggling with CF.  It gave me hope for a future without CF when he shared the progress in treatments achieved in just a few short years through research.
The food was delicious and we were happy to help out by selling 50/50 raffle tickets throughout the night.  We even got to choose the winners for best costume.  My choice for Best Male Costume just happened to be a guy dressed in a full Dorothy costume complete with sparkly red high top sneakers! We didn’t win any baskets but I had a great time celebrating my birthday and supporting Lou and Donna in their quest to stamp out Cystic Fibrosis once and for all.  Thank you Lou and Donna for having us and for being such incredible people!  I can’t wait for next year!

Red Carpet Dance Awards

Each year Staten Island honors local dance studio owners in a Red Carpet Awards Show while donating a portion of the proceeds to St. Jude. Produced by Joan Lamberti of Vizza V Productions, this event is a showcase of the talented young dancers of our borough. This year, I was excited to have been invited to be an award presenter. I was even more excited because I had bought a new gown to wear!

I arrived and quickly got dressed. I was ushered onto the red carpet where I was interviewed by Joan and photographed with a Howard Stern performance artist. I have to say, he looked just like the legendary shock jock! I was also thrilled to meet and take pictures with the infamous Abbey Lee Miller of Dance Moms. I spent some time taking pictures with the dancers, making some new friends and catching up with old ones. I was especially happy to spend some time with Gail Willadsen Criscione of Star Struck Dance Studio (an old friend and mentor) and Frankie Zulferino, who I worked with to tweak my Miss NY talent dance.
The show was amazing and I was happy to see so many of the schools who had participated in both my We Dance For Dreams and The HOPE Project benefit shows. Joe Causi did such a great job emceeing. He was seriously funny! I also loved seeing Frankie and the Star Struck dancers open the show. Once all of the dancers had performed, it was award time. I presented the awards to the directors of each school, including Miss Carol Gigante of Gigante Dance Center, where I have danced and taught for the past 11 years.
As always, the show was a great success. Thank you Joan for having me. I look forward to returning next year!

Light The Shore

Two years ago, on October 29, 2012, Staten Island was hit by the force of Superstorm Sandy. Through the efforts of grassroots organizations such as Yellow Boots, the Staten Island Long Term Recovery Organization (SI LTRO) and Guyon Rescue to name a few, we have come a long way in rebuilding our island. However, there are still families who remain homeless.
A few weeks ago, I ran into Alana Tornello, an old friend from high school, at the Alzheimer Foundation's High Tea. Alana is a coordinator at SI LTRO. She invited me to attend the "Light The Shore" remembrance ceremony to mark the two year anniversary of Sandy. I gladly accepted.
Though the night was cold and rainy, I was not going to let it stop me. My parents and I made our way to Midland Beach where we took our places amongst about 100 people, including quite a few Staten Island politicians, to honor those we lost and those who helped survivors to rebuild. I was happy to see some old friends including Farid Kader of Yellow Boots and Frank Siller of the Siller Foundation. As the ceremony began, I was incredibly inspired by those who spoke about their experiences and how far they have come since that horrible night two years ago. One woman lost not only her home but her husband and daughter, as well. Her words brought me to tears, but her courage and determination to overcome and rise out of her despair were truly uplifting.
After the ceremony, we walked up to the beach where we placed electric candles along the shore in remembrance. It was truly a night of community bonding and support. It's events like these that make me more proud than ever to be a Staten Islander. Thank you to everyone who came out in spite of the horrible weather and to Alana for allowing me to be a part of it.

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