Music was in the air at the 34th Annual Reach for a Star Luncheon, which raised more than $235,000 to benefit accessible extracurricular programs for children with severe physical disabilities from the Henry Viscardi School (HVS) at The Viscardi Center.
Special guest Chilina Kennedy, lead in the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, performed a song set in front of more than 400 attendees at the Crest Hollow Country Club. A group of HVS students had the opportunity to attend and second graders joined Kennedy on stage to sing “You’ve got a Friend” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”
“It was a pleasure to be a part of the luncheon this year, to learn about the Viscardi School, and to share Carole King’s music with the incredible audience of students, parents, staff and supporters of the school,” Kennedy said. “The best part for me was meeting the students and singing with them. They are truly inspiring.”
Kennedy was presented with a portrait painted by HVS senior Mariah Sepulveda to commemorate the visit and demonstrate the importance of extracurricular activities and after-school programs.
For many young learners from HVS, who often require special transportation, assistive technology and life-sustaining medical supports throughout the day, options for socializing outside the classroom are limited. The Reach for a Star Luncheon was established to bolster funds for activities, like clubs, adapted sports, dance therapy and recreational overnights, which afford students the means to spend time with friends outside of school, broaden their interests and share new experiences.
According to John D. Kemp, president and CEO of The Viscardi Center, this year’s event has already made a difference. During his speech, he announced that the school plans to double its Friday Night Recreation sessions.
“Today is a day to celebrate the impact you’ve made on young, beautiful Viscardi lives,” Kemp told supporters. “These after-school programs, when added to their rich academic curriculum, shape the character of these students for a lifetime.”
HVS graduate Adeline Joshua echoed his statement. Joshua, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in international relations and affairs from Georgetown University and now works as a Government Information Specialist at the U.S. Department of State in Washington DC, described how accessible activities taught her about leadership and advocacy, built her confidence and sparked an interest in politics.
“Everyone is capable of doing great things if given the support,” she said.
The luncheon began with a cocktail hour, international auction and grand prize raffles, and concluded with a silent auction. Special guests in recent years have included Hoda Kotb, cohost of NBC’s Today’s fourth hour, the ensemble cast from Broadway’s Kinky Boots and Elise Testone, American Idol finalist, who attended this year’s event as a guest.
The Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center is a New York State-supported school that offers parents of children with severe physical disabilities and 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 a hospital.
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 pre-K through high school 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.
Read a review of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical “Extraordinarily Beautiful.”