On the evening of October 24th, CURRENT, Chelsea Piers welcomed the 2nd annual “Serving Up Smiles” Tasting Event hosted by the enCourage Kids Foundation. Sought-after restaurants and chefs of New York City prepared their famous recipes offering samples for guests to taste-test. More than 250 guests attended in support of the enCourage Kids Foundation whose dedication and passion has inspired children and families for 31 years. NFL Legend Tony Richardson, retired NY Giants player Christian Peter, Olympic Medalist Sasha Cohen, and Z100 Host Shelley Rome were among guests showing their support for the organization. Prizes from Broadway show tickets to a meet-and-greet with Eli Manning were auctioned throughout the night as a contribution to the cause.
EnCourage Kids aims to unify families with similar circumstances, easing the day-to-day difficulties with the encouragement of a community. The foundation brings smiles and excitement to children facing life-threatening illnesses with opportunities to enjoy family outings and programs. Every program is developed with the specific and individual needs of the children in consideration, to ensure a fun but safe environment.
While the night showcased the tremendous dedication of enCourage Kids, the spotlight was shared with the Amodeo Family whose dedication to their family is uniquely inspiring. Frank and Bendetta Amodeo are parent ambassadors who have been a part of the foundation’s bonded community for five years. One of their two sons, Nicholas, is blind, developmentally challenged, and often undergoes seizures, but above all, he is brave. Frank spoke to guests, highlighting the strength of the families within the organization and how much they truly appreciate the programs offered by the foundation. In our interview, Frank and Bendetta described that when their son is happy, there is no greater joy to them as parents, “when he laughs and smiles and is dancing, that’s all we want.” Their hope for the next five years of enCourage Kids is that it doubles in size. “It’s about growth, support,” Frank concludes.
Chef Chris Nirschel, otherwise known as “Culinary Bad Boy”, also prepared a speech, emphasizing the impact enCourage Kids has made in the lives of the families they benefit. He was honored to be a part of the evening and has been inspired by the organization’s efforts. Nirschel has been a partner of enCourage Kids for six years and explains that the tremendous turnout and generous donations are because people truly care about the organization. “When I see the parents and some of the kids that have been through surgeries, going to Jets’ Games, Giants’ Games, met by celebrity chefs, it’s touching,” Chris explained.
The evening raised $225,000, an inspiring total that will benefit children and their families directly. Executive Director, Michele Hall-Duncan said, “Our goal for tonight… is three-fold. We want everybody to have a fantastic time, enjoy all of the offerings of the chefs and specialty drinks. We want to raise their awareness about enCourage Kids and raise funds in support.” Michele was thrilled the night was an overall success. She explained how enCourage Kids supports families at a time that is overwhelming and challenging, “When you receive a diagnosis that your kid is sick, you’re plunged into this world of chaos and confusion.” EnCourage Kids, as Michele also explained, is not specific to a particular illness, something she believes sets them apart from other organizations.
The individuals who have given their time and opened their hearts to the organization have truly brought joy to so many families. Passion has always been at the core of the organization. EnCourage Kids is excited about the future, with plans to expand their reach to many more families faced with medical challenges.
We want to personally thank Frank and Bendetta Amodeo, Chris Nirschel, Tom Murro, and Michele Hall-Duncan for their time in speaking with us.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Veneskey. Special thanks to MJ Pedone and indra Public Relations