Nov. 10, 2012 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 $20,000.
The fundraiser was based on the popular TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ that has swept the nation. In this local adaptation, six 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 300 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 Monsignor Steven Ferrari, the administrator/pastor of St. Teresa Parish; Sheila Lewandowski, founder of the Chocolate Factor Theater Company in Long Island City; Nick Murphy, co-owner of Bar 43; Jessica Burch, a lifelong Sunnyside resident who is the Dean of media and arts at IS 5; Walter Sanchez, a Sunnyside native who bought the Queens Ledger in 1986; and Joe Pagano, best known as being the drama teacher at PS 150.
Burch was awarded first place since she raised the most funds; followed by Msgr. Ferrari and Pagano was third.
Surprise guests included J.R. Martinez, an Iraq war veteran, who won the national Dancing with the Stars prize in 2011, and his wife, Diana Jones. Martinez gave a rousing speech and praised the group for its work.
When the dance floor was opened to the general public, Martinez was seen dancing with long-time neighborhood residents demonstrating his impressive dance moves.
Vincent Renda, the chairman of the Boys & Girls Club, said Saturday that the fundraiser was to help the group raise funds to cover the cost of its children’s programs as well as to accumulate savings for the construction of a planned clubhouse.
Renda said that the club had just expanded its program from two to five days per week. The program serves kids in grades 5 through 10, with sessions held every weekday at PS 199 between 6 and 9 p.m. The club has a current obligation of $30,000 to manage the program through June 2013.
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.