When people outside of our tropical scope think of Miami, the first things that usually come to mind are heat and beaches.
Of course, that’s aside from the things Miami natives have come to know. Things like the scrambled commutes on the road (drive with caution), incredibly diverse culture and the fact that we are the only major U.S. city to be founded by a woman — Julia Tuttle. Okay, maybe that last part you didn’t know, but now you do. Within our diverse culture, there is also a diverse population of children and young adults, some that require more special needs than others.
In light of our year-round beach days, a treat lies in store for music lovers and fans of the iconic group The Beach Boys on Saturday evening, May 2. The Alper JCC will host the 19th annual Special Needs Fundraiser “Good Vibrations” featuring the Unexpected ‘Surfer’ Boys in a tribute to The Beach Boys. The Unexpected Boys is a youthful, harmonic four-man band that was a hit when they came to the J in 2011 to perform a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In addition to the performance, there will be a large silent auction, specialty cocktails and a dessert reception.
All proceeds from the event support the Shirley and Chester Paul Special Needs program at the JCC.
There are some key people who were instrumental in how the special needs program came about and continues to blossom. In 1990, when the Dave and Mary Alper JCC first opened, Judy Mezey had a need for her son, Barry. She envisioned a program where children with special needs would be welcomed into a recreational and social program geared toward their abilities. This was the birth of the special needs program that today includes seasonal camps, teen and adult clubs, field trips, fitness programs and much more. Mezey was there at the beginning of this program that has remained a vital part of the center and community for the past 25 years.
“There was an incredible group of people that helped to formulate this program,” Mezey said. Today, more than 70 children, teens and adults attend the JCC Special Needs program.
For the past 19 years, Mezey has been the chairperson for the annual event that accommodates the program, while Lisa Leventhal has co-chaired the event for over 10 years. Their committee is like a family, working together for many years and raising thousands of dollars to help support the JCC special needs programs. Leventhal became involved because she had a sister born with special needs who passed away this past summer. She has a personal connection and feels this is her way to help people similar to her sister.
When you support the fundraising event, you are supporting children and adults that participate in year round programs. Adriana Hernandez discovered the JCC for her daughter, Daniela, now 11 years old. Five years ago, she realized this was the beginning of a life transformation for her and her family. She trusts the program and staff and can’t say enough about the level of care that her daughter receives.
Lauren Hirschberg started in the special needs program in 1994 when she was 14 years old. Her sisters went to camp at the J and her mom, Teri, also wanted her daughter to participate in similar programs. For the past 21 years, Lauren has been a camper and volunteer assistant at the JCC and participates in the Jerusalem Club, an adult program.
These are only two of the many great experiences in the program and we hope to continue influencing, helping and growing.
For more information on “Good Vibrations — Tribute to the Beach Boys” including tickets, sponsorship and auction donations, contact event coordinator Marsha Botkin at 305-271-9000, ext. 272, or go to www.alperjcc.org.