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Saturday, February 29, 2020

(Courtesy of Kaplen JCC) For the 18th year in a row, JCC family and friends gathered on a perfect summer day to take part in the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades’ “Play Fore! the Kids,” which supports programming for children who are differently abled.

This year’s event was held on August 6 at Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, New Jersey, where participants enjoyed the course and courts—or a fabulous afternoon of canasta and mah-jongg—and then gathered for cocktails, dinner and an auction to top all auctions. With items that included a private four-person tour with Chef Jean-Georges to his NYC restaurants, a trip to London to attend both the first Yankee/Boston game in Europe and Wimbledon next June and untouchable sporting events with pre-game sideline passes, participants bid at record highs, making this year’s auction the most successful and exciting ever. The day raised more than $300,000 to support more than 800 children who come to the JCC each year to gain important life skills, attend summer camps and participate in educational and recreational programs that enhance their quality of life.

“Providing meaningful experiences for children with different abilities is a core JCC mission,” explained JCC CEO Jordan Shenker. “To meet the varying needs of our participants, we offer more than 60 programs every month that encourage everyone to reach their highest potential. These programs focus on everything from independent-living skills to sports, recreation and specialty programs like art and music therapy. Our goal is provide children of all ages and abilities with opportunities to learn and grow and feel included, while enjoying the company of their peers. We achieve this every day and the funds we raise at our annual “Play Fore! the Kids” event allows us to continually develop new services for people in our community with special needs. We are grateful to everyone who supports this event and extend our thanks to all our generous sponsors, auction contributors, chairs and staff, who help make this such a great success year after year.”

A highlight of the evening featured Louanna Branca and her husband, Danny Boylan, parents of twins who were born prematurely, spent months in the neonatal unit at Hackensack University Medical Center and were released with a complex series of health challenges. After being discharged, Ethan, one of the twins, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and after a long search for treatment, the family was referred to the JCC Guttenberg Center for Special Services, where their lives were changed in just one phone call. Louanna had this to say about her family’s experience with the services her son receives at the JCC:

“Within a week, we met with Shelley Levy and Colleen Lofaro at the Guttenberg Center and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. We began by enrolling Ethan in Camp Haverim, and they told us that Ethan would be provided with social skills, swimming and water park activities, sports, adaptive physical education, academic enrichment, music therapy and art—not to mention that this would all be delivered by the most highly qualified and skilled professionals and with an almost one-on-one adult to child ratio. For the first time, we had found people who understood us, our concerns and most of all our son’s needs. Before camp even began, Ethan’s group leader came to our house to meet all of us and discuss our goals. We knew that this special groundwork would make Ethan’s experience all the more meaningful, and as the parents of an autistic child, our worries for Ethan’s safety and care were immediately put to rest.

“After camp ended, we could see that Ethan had made significant progress. In September, we enrolled him in the JCC Sunday Funday program, where the JCC seamlessly continued to meet our family’s needs. Both Ethan and his twin sister, Ava, now attend programs at the JCC and love it. We are all familiar with the quotation, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Personally, we believe that it takes a special team like the one at the JCC to raise not just a special needs child, but an entire family, as well. We are so grateful to everyone, as the amazing assistance we receive is making a real, ‘ordinary’ life possible!”

The JCC extends special thanks to its presenting sponsors: The Hechler Family and The Kurtz & Spadaccini Family; event chairs Daniel Cohn, Cory Hechler and Tracy Reichel; auctions co-chairs Michel Fox Blum and Jamie Molluzzo; and the games and tennis co-chairs Stephanie Cohn, Jenna Gutmann and Jillian Somberg. The dedicated committee included Brandis Bukzin, Becky Canarick, Nanette Greenberg, Amy Handman, Jonathan Marks, Sarah Nanus, Erica Polavieja, Jacqueline Pollack, Heather Rabinowitz, Beth Rubach, Eva Rubach, JoJo Rubach, Lindsay Skulnik, Joanna Wald, Hope Waxman and Jill Zimmerman.

The JCC is still accepting donations to help children with different abilities reach their potential. Donations can be made by visiting www.jccotp.org/playforethekids.