One of Port's fastest growing groups, Poppy's Special Friends, celebrated its first annual dinner-dance this spring at the ornate Chateau Briand in Westbury. The event honored President and Founder, Edward Kulich, who has guided Poppy's Friends over the past 15 years. The event was attended by over 175 guests and comprised a list of impressive names from Port, the town and the county.
Kulich praised those who generously assisted him over the years, especially Peter and Phillip DeJana of DeJana Industries in Port. He had the highest praise for the special kids who he felt warranted a standing ovation. Kulich pointed out the organization, whose full name is Poppy's Special Friends Inc., is now a fully exempt federal and state charity and he welcomes any and all contributions.
Deputy Parks Commissioner Warren Schein said the evening's tribute was especially 'a testament to Ed Kulich for accomplishing so much through the work of volunteers.' Matthew Dwyer of the Nassau County Office for the Physically Challenged attended as a representative of County Executive Thomas Souzzi. Dwyer said the county executive wished Poppy's continued success and was gratified to see Kulich's effort over the years evolve from a 'seed to a tree.'
The guest speaker was Janice Patterson, director of Public Services for the Mineola School District, who recounted the history of legislation affecting special children and how these laws have improved the lives of children and their parents. She praised the philosophical approach taken by the legislature which aims to assure equal access as afforded to the non-disabled. Her greatest source of pride, the former school principal said, was hearing a parent say to her 'you gave us hope.'
An affable Foundation Officer, Jo Marino, who has been a consistent and willing volunteer for over a decade, greeted the guests at the door. Director of Activities Alexander Scaramucci said the dinner-dance was a welcome annual event to complement the many other activities held annually such as the Christmas party and the summer barbecue.
Master of Ceremonies and Senior Vice President Frank Carnese steered the event from the podium and pointed out the generous array of gifts from donors. The gifts included golf outings, tickets to sporting events and Broadway shows. These gifts were auctioned and the proceeds will be used for many of the projects undertaken by Poppy's Friends. Donations to Poppy's Special Friends can be sent to P.O. Box 1230, Port Washington, NY 11050.