Friendship Circle Luncheon Raises Funds For JCC

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The Friendship Circle Luncheon Committee (Photos by Sid Jacobson JCC)

Hundreds gathered at Old Westbury Golf & Country Club to recognize honoree Donna Schlessinger and Tikkun Olam Award recipient Gale Sitomer before Tony award-winner and television actress Laura Benanti closed out the afternoon with an unforgettable performance.

In its 15th year, the Denise Silverberg-founded Friendship Circle Luncheon, A Yellow Rose Event, raises funds each year to improve the lives of those afflicted with dementia and other chronic conditions at any age or stage, as well as providing support and education for their families.

Donna Schlessinger, the founder and creative force behind Mutt Media NY LLC, a graphic and web design firm specializing in social media and email marketing for small business, is the original chair of the JCC’s Yellow Rose Society. She previously served as chair of the Friendship Circle Luncheon Committee. A resident of Muttontown, she is also the creative director of Schlessinger Eye & Face in Woodbury, spearheading all marketing endeavors.

Tikkun Olum Award recipient Sitomer has redefined the termed “charitable,” working tirelessly to support causes including: Special Olympics, United Cerebral Palsy, Mothers Voices, The Allen Stevenson School, Pediatric Aids and multiple breast cancer research organizations. She also serves on the Board of The Michael Bolton Charities, whose current emphasis focuses on women and children affected by domestic violence in New York and Connecticut.

The event kicked off with a cocktail reception and raffles followed by program presentations and entertainment presented by Americana Manhasset. The room was transfixed as Vicki Griffiths, whose husband Bobbie attends Sid Jacobson JCC’s groundbreaking adult day program for young people in their 30s, 40s and 50s with dementia, spoke, with her beloved spouse by her side. Griffiths described his transformation to the crowd.

“I watched my husband come alive again. Our family had a new hope,” said Griffiths. “Every single day since he has been attending Sid Jacobson’s Young Onset Adult day Program, I watch Bob’s heart sing a bit. This expertly-run program provides a safe and productive place for our spouses and loved ones to go.”

The mood lightened when Master of Ceremonies Greg Kelly welcomed newscaster and journalist Paula Zahn to the stage to present to Sitomer. The luncheon concluded with a performance by celebrated television and stage actress Laura Benanti.

Paula Zahn and Greg Kelly lead the Friendship Circle Luncheon.

Sid Jacobson JCC programs are tailored to the full spectrum of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, from cognitive exercises and support groups for those in the early stages to structured day programs for frail and memory-impaired individuals suffering from more advanced staged disorders. The JCC’s Let’s Do Lunch program is a first-of-its-kind program designed for individuals in their 30s, 40s and 50s with young onset dementia and neurodegenerative illnesses.

The JCC also offers three highly acclaimed Creative Arts programs. Music + Memory participants receive an iPod customized with their favorite music to help trigger positive memories. The Mneme Therapy program provides a rewarding experience by combining painting with singing, movement, storytelling and praise. In collaboration with the Nassau County Museum of Art, the Museum Program welcomes a person with early stages of memory loss and a family member to attend a docent-led tour that stimulates interesting conversation.

Donations can still be made by visiting www.sjjcc.org/luncheon or by contacting assistant director of development Bridgette Troisi at 516-484-1545, ext. 141 or btroisi@sjjcc.org.

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