The center pieces were branches with cutout pictures of children's faces. They seemed to dance in front of us; girls and boys who were the children of the parents at our table. It was formal in a way; women in fancy dresses and men in suits -- food and drinks were abundant. A wide-eyed first comer, like myself, chatted about how important this formula is. The one where education for challenged children can make a difference. That the ratio of teacher to student isn't available anywhere else. I agreed.
Around circular tables - across from an open bar, dance floor, and a live band parents, teachers and guests of the Hagedorn Little Village School, Jack and Joel Center for Special Children, celebrated the special education of special children. Awards were given to Doug Bausch and Alicia Gerez-Graczyk for their unrelenting determination to make a difference in the lives of children.
Ms. Gerez-Graczyk accepted the Susan Weshler Memorial Award and joked and cried-still missing the child, her child, that wasn't to be like other kids her age, and loving her so much that she went after all the benefits available for her. Knocking on the doors of donors to get money to support Little Village and not listening to "no," but going back and asking again and again. Even when donors gave, she went back for more. We laughed.
A special film was shown on 2 screens with parents talking about how much their kids have changed because of Little Village-and when you hear a parent talk about how their child couldn't eat-and now she can-it becomes clear how much Little Village does. Frequently, the heroes in our world are invisible. They specialize in degrees that chip away a moment at a time in a kids life over and over -- day after day; year after year --so somebody can lead a better life.
Little Village, founded by Caryl Bank and Barbara Feingold, now over forty-years since its beginning in 1969 with 3 children and 1 class; and after many location changes on Long Island, New York, including Baldwin, Merrick, Garden City and Seaford, capitol money is needed for a growing population. They need more space.
Parents, on this night, drank a little and danced, and had an adult night out while others took care of them. When they leave the Fresh Meadow Country Club they will return to their special children who are in the autistic and neurological impaired classification of the special needs category. Language and speech impaired - and youngsters with emotional and learning disorders will see their parents come home that night or perhaps wake up the next day - a bit more bonded to the Little Village mission...knowing, somehow knowing that it is for them.