Nov. 19, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside/Woodside Boys & Girls Club held its annual “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser on Saturday night and raised a net total of about $30,000.
The fundraiser was based on the popular TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ that has swept the nation in recent years. In this local adaptation, seven couples, each consisting of a professional dancer paired with a well-known Woodside/Sunnyside resident, performed at St. Teresa’s auditorium before an audience of more than 350 people to raise funds on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club and other charities.
The couples danced in the middle of the auditorium surrounded by large tables where people ate, drank, clapped and voted for their favorite dancers by placing dollar bills into buckets after each dance. The hall was decorated with shiny cut-out stars and each table was full to capacity with cheering spectators.
The local stars were Fr. Tom Pettei, the pastor of St. Raphael’s Parish in Long Island City; Carmen Parache, the principal of PS 150; Anthony Inzerillo, the principal of PS 199; Janet Viana, a board member of the Sunnyside/Woodside Lions Club; Brent O’Leary, a founder of the Sunnyside/Woodside Boys & Girls Club and the Hunters Point Civic Association; Fayez Salloum, a lector and minister of hospitality at St Teresa’s Church; and Merly Jones, the director of professional development at the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.
Jones was awarded first place for funds raised—bringing in a total of $3,800. She had plenty of friends in attendance that filled up the red buckets with cash after she danced.
Meanwhile, O’Leary, took top prize for his performance. He put together a performance that incorporated an Irish gig, salsa and other dance genres—to great applause.
Vincent Renda, the president of the Boys & Girls Club, said the club raised $40,000 from Saturday’s event—and is likely to make a profit of $30,000 after expenses. In 2010, when the club held its first Dancing with the Stars, the club brought in a profit of $6,000.
Renda thanked the attendees. “Many of you have supported us – coming here year after year—and it has really made a difference,” he said.
The club has grown with its fundraising prowess. It now offers children’s programs six days per week—up from one, shortly after the club was launched in 2009. The programs serve kids in grades 5 through 10.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been a supporter of the club since its inception, also praised the club for its community work. Every year, he has allocated $5,000 in city funds to the club.