By Joyce Cheung
Great Neck North High School was decorated in orange and blue on Sunday, May 21, as it hosted a walkathon for Cystic Fibrosis honoring Bernard Kaplan’s years of service. This June will mark Kaplan’s completion of a remarkable 23 years as principal of North High.
After Kaplan announced his retirement back in December, the North community tried to figure out how best to celebrate and honor such a distinguished principal who has worked tirelessly and guided the school to its high academic standards, while maintaining a warm and nurturing environment for its students. The Great Neck North High School Parent Teacher Organization (GNNHS PTO) decided, with Kaplan’s approval, to host a walkathon for Cystic Fibrosis. The cause, dear to Kaplan’s heart as his grandson Harlen is affected by the disease, brought hundreds of people together.
The day began at 8 a.m. with student and parent volunteers setting up tents and decorations, as well as registration and concession stations. Meanwhile, Michael Meehan worked on the sound system and coach Eamonn Flood marked the walkathon course to ensure the smooth running of the event. Family, friends, students, faculty, staff, parents, administration, former teachers and alumni all gathered for this meaningful event in honor of the principal’s retirement.
More than 300 participants enjoyed the orchestral music provided by Joseph Rutkowski and his students. At 9:30 a.m., the Student Organization leaders presented flowers and a gift to Kaplan. They also presented him with a “million dollar check.” The million dollar check, a Kaplan trademark, was donated in return for Kaplan’s wise words to all his freshman students that “if you get involved in your high school, you will graduate with so much experience and knowledge as if someone gave you a million dollars.”
Kaplan stood on the podium on the front steps of North High and thanked the PTO, students, parents, faculty, administration, the entire Great Neck community, his family and especially his wife, Sheila. Wiping away his tears of joy and gratitude, he spoke from his heart on how meaningful North High and the entire Great Neck community is to him.
By 10 a.m., all of the participants, dressed in T-shirts saying, “Bernie’s Blazers GNNHS Walk for Cystic Fibrosis,” headed down Polo Road towards Old Mill Road, meandering through our beautiful town. The walk concluded at North High with the crowds enjoying pop music provided by the students.
“The walk was great,” commented junior Kevin Li. “Everyone had an amazing time. I really felt that the walk fully encompassed the loving spirit of Great Neck North as everyone came together in full support of Mr. Kaplan. It was awesome to see so many students, parents, faculty and administrators participating. I really wanted to walk today mainly to show my support and love for what Mr. Kaplan has done for our school.”
The walkathon committee, a sub-group of the GNNHS PTO comprised of Joyce Cheung, Rebecca Cohenmehr, Haleh Damaghi, Dafna Kordmany, Moji Pourmoradi, Sharleen Sarraf, Rebecca Sassouni and Ilona Trokel, shared a round of high fives and hugs to a job well done.
The beautiful day concluded with the raising of more than $15,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Kaplan and his family would like to thank all of the participants, along with the Freshmen ($250), Sophomore ($500), Junior ($750) and Senior ($1,000) level sponsors. Anyone who would like to contribute to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of Kaplan can mail a check to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at 1 Huntington Quadrangle, Suite 2S13, Melville, NY 11747. Be sure to put Hoofing It for Harlen in the memo line.