The Christmas spirit was contagious at Brooklyn’s Block Institute on Tuesday, December 16 as cheery students and teachers gathered to greet Santa Claus and receive heaps of donated presents.
The 86th Street Bath Beach Kiwanis Club funded the holiday party for 20 of the Block Institute’s classes, totaling donated gifts for about 200 students. The school caters to children with special needs ranging in age from three to 11 and offers programs for children with a variety of developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention deficit disorders and emotional disturbances.
“It’s amazing to see all the effort that goes into it and the the joy we’ll see in all the kids’ faces today,” said Amy Conforti-Kelly, director of children’s services/principal at the Block Institute. “We had each of the staff members give us a list of the types of things that the kids like because we have a lot of different age groups. We couldn’t just get cookie cutter gifts; we personalized it.
“All of the staff gave input as to what the kids in the classroom would want,” continued Conforti-Kelly. “A lot of these kids sometimes don’t get a lot of gifts at home so it’s really nice for them to get that individualized attention today and a gift that’s catered just to them.”
With donated money from the Kiwanis Club, teachers like Alberta Rehberg were able to go shopping and buy personalized gifts for each student.
“Block Institute has expanded to a new school; we also have Block Academy,” said Rehberg. “The Kiwanis Bath Beach has donated to both schools. I’ve been with the school 26 years and they have been very generous to our school, we appreciate it.”
Stephen Spinelli, President of the 86th Street Bath Beach Kiwanis Club was in attendance at the event along with Vice President Frank Sorci and members Phyllis Carbo, Kimberly Fasano and Mike Napolitano—aka Santa Claus.
“Look around and look at the children, how happy they are,” said Spinelli. “It’s just a way that our organization likes to give back. I personally tremendously enjoy coming here. It’s just a good way to have a holiday season and we like to support the Block Institute.”