BOROUGHWIDE — One of Brooklyn’s most venerable civic groups, the Rotary Club of Verrazano, was among the honorees at the second annual “Sweet Sunrise Gala” held on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at the El Caribe Country Club. The event’s goal was to help raise funds for the Sunrise Day Camp of Staten Island and pediatric cancer.
Along with the Rotary Club, this year’s other honorees were the Meo Family’s Spirit of Life Foundation and Ana Oliveira, senior vice president at Investors Bank.
The Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp is a camp for children suffering from pediatric cancer and their siblings. It’s a unique six-week camp that’s completely free of charge thanks to fundraising, and hosts kids from Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey as well as Staten island.
The goal of the gala was to raise awareness in Brooklyn for the camp because while the camp is located in Staten Island, over 30 percent of the children come from Brooklyn.
“Sunrise is unlike any other camp,” said event Chair Gabriella DeLuca Garrone in her opening remarks. “It’s a family and it’s a place where children, regardless of their illness, can just feel safe.” She related stories of terminally ill children who only ask that they might attend this camp.
Co-Chair Concetta Raineri thanked all the sponsors of the event and New York State Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar for attending the gala. “Tonight we’re here to celebrate individuals and organizations that have made a profound difference in their communities and in the lives of others,” she said.
The camp has two nurses on staff at all times as well as specialists in arts and crafts, music and dance. It has special events and hold two carnivals a year. “What we’re looking for is for kids to have a smile on their faces,” said Sunrise Camp Director Sandy Haft.
“Their siblings are also invited. Siblings are sometimes the forgotten children because mom and dad focus all their energy and all their efforts on the child with cancer,” Haft added.
The Rotary Club of Verrazano is one of more than 30,000 Rotary Clubs in 160 countries worldwide and has been active for 43 years. Members work to help feed the hungry, procure open heart surgeries for children overseas and organize toy drives for the children of soldiers at Fort Hamilton Army Base. They also support a variety of local organizations including Reaching-Out Community Services, the Guild for Exceptional Children and HeartShare Human Services of New York, along with the Sunrise Day Camp.
Bennet Goldberg, co-chair of the event, discussed why the Meo family was being honored. “The Meo family have run a charity for the past 18 years in memory of their son Tommy Meo who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Bergen Beach on Bergen Avenue,” said Bennet. “They started the Spirit of Life Foundation to honor their son and we chose to honor them this evening and thank them for their endless support to the neighborhood.”
Oliveira serves in a number of local community groups and is currently the board chair of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. She previously served on the board of directors for the Queens Theatre, New Jersey City University Foundation and the Portuguese American Chamber of Commerce.
During its first year, the camp hosted 66 children; last year, the number grew to 126. Haft said the organization’s mission was to keep cancer outside the four walls of the camp, “Our goal is for children to just go back to living a normal life,” said Haft. “That’s what their parents are looking for and that’s our goal,” he added.