enCOURAGE KIDS FOUNDATION RAISES $1.3M AT 31ST ANNUAL GALA
NBA All-Star and NY Knicks Legend, John Starks Accepts ‘Community Partner Award’ on Behalf of the Garden of Dreams Foundation
More than 800 supporters gathered at the Marriott Marquis on March 10th for the enCourage Kids Foundation Gala, one of New York City’s most beloved charities. Now in its 31st year, the organization raised an impressive $1.3M. The proceeds will support the organization’s unyielding mission of providing funding to area hospitals and their most crucial pediatric programs that give kids facing a variety of health issues unique experiences to laugh, play, and have fun – whether they are being treated in the hospital or living with their struggles at home.
The evening was hosted by Steve Schirripa, best known for his work on “The Sopranos” and his current role in the CBS hit drama, “Blue Bloods.” NBA All-Star and NY Knicks legend, John Starks accepted the ‘Community Partner Award’ on behalf of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit that works with The Madison Square Garden Company to donate tickets and suites to families enrolled in the enCourage Kids Foundation Escapes program. Joining the event were NY Knicks legend, Larry Johnson; journalist and television personality Tom Murro; Jillian Tapper, Miss New York 2014, and the ‘culinary bad boy’ from the Food Network’s “The Food Network Star,” Chef Chris Nirschel.
The enCourage Kids Foundation honored real estate executives, Michael May, Chief Operating Officer of CCRE, and Sush Torgalkar, Chief Executive Officer of Westbrook Partners for their dedication to philanthropic efforts that improve the lives of children and their families. Upon accepting his award, May shared that his seven-year old daughter struggled with serious heart issues for many years and it was the fun distractions that made routine check-ups less invasive for his daughter, stressing that the enCourage Kids programs were as equally as important as her doctor’s care.
Guests were moved by the story of Liza Perez, a former enCourage Kids Foundation mom turned advocate and volunteer for the organization. The Escapes program allowed her son to share a special connection with NY Knicks Legend, John Starks as he battled with a brain tumor. “At first I couldn’t understand the importance or the need for these outings” she said. “But as months passed and we spent more and more time in the hospital, we started to feel very alone and even isolated. I reached out to them and what we got back was a sense of belonging and community and so much more.”
In addition to the Escapes program, the monies raised will help support more than 700 programs at area hospitals throughout NY, NJ and CT, which include the foundation’s Pediatric Hospital Support Program that provides activities designed to enhance the quality of life for children in pediatric care units and Hospital Happenings, which are interactive parties and events that include visits from musicians, clowns and entertainers.