Written by Adam Sternberg Wednesday, 12 June 2013 08:58
Up to 650 people traveled to Albertson last month to attend The Viscardi Center’s Celebrity Sports Night 2013 gala fundraiser. As with past events, the evening featured a variety of sports legends and celebrities, resulting in another rousing success that raised approximately $1.2 million.
This year, sports legends included Hall of Fame football greats Joe Namath and Joe Theismann, plus former New York Mets star, Mookie Wilson.
From the entertainment world, celebrities included Kenny Alpert, WFAN sportscaster; Barry Landers, the longtime radio voice of the New York Islanders and Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly, co-anchors of the Fox 5 “Morning Show.” Also attending was Steve Schirripa, a star of the legendary television series, “The Sopranos” and the charismatic Bo Dietl, former highly-decorated NYPD detective and security expert. Bo served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, managing to keep things intimate, jovial and informal.
The evening began with a cocktail party, which gave the guests the opportunity to mingle with the celebrities and sports figures. Also, several got autographs from them and in some cases, had their pictures taken. Several wheelchair bound students interacted with the guests, and many looked genuinely happy to be there. An atmosphere of optimism and anticipation prevailed.
During this time, a silent auction was conducted. Items were displayed and guests wrote down the price they were willing to pay. Later, after the auction closed, the winners were notified.
Next came an excellent sit-down dinner consisting of a farmhouse vegetable salad, a bread and rolls selection, free range chicken, short ribs and vegetables, followed by desert.
With everyone well fed, Bo Dietl introduced the members of the sixth grade Viscardi chorus, who sung a heart rendering performance of “God Bless America.” The rendition was so moving that there were tears running down the faces of many guests. The performers received a loud and well-deserved standing ovation from a grateful audience.
After John D. Kent, president and CEO of Viscardi welcomed everyone to the event, John Dockery, a former New York Jet star, introduced several of the celebrity athletes, each of whom told how the Viscardi Center and especially the students, had affected their lives. They spoke of stories of children who came to the center with very sad and complex difficulties, and how the center had helped many of them eventually obtain a normal life. But the attribute that made the most difference for the students was their own dedication and persistence, even when things looked down, to continue to strive to reach their dreams and goals.
Following the talks, several students sang a song expressing their thanks to the donors, one entitled “U are the You In Life We Need,” sung to the tune of the popular song “Hero.”
Michael Vittorio, president and CEO of the First National Bank of Long Island,
was presented with the Distinguished Honoree Award, which he humbly accepted. Joe Theismann then received the annual Roy
Campanella Award, one named for the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger star who suffered a dehabilitating automobile accident.
Theismann remains heavily involved in philanthropic causes. His football career was abruptly ended when his leg was shattered in a 1985 contest.
Bo Dietl was awarded a large painting by Kiara Esteves, the salutorian of this year’s graduating class. Kiara’s wish is to become a biochemical engineer and it’ s clear that she’s off to a good start. Steve Schirripa conducted an on-stage auction, enthusiastically promoting all of the items up for sale. The highlights were box seats to a New York Mets game at Citifield. Seats for two separate games were auctioned for an amount of $22,000 each. Also, one day on a 150 ft. yacht large enough to hold about 20 people went for $75,000.
The next event will be Viscardi’s Inaugural Golf Outing, which promises to be more fun. It will take place at the Meadow Brook Club on Friday, Sept. 13. Details may be found at viscardicenter.org/golf.