Ridge Kids Enjoy St. Lucia Day Festivities

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In the darkest days of winter, there was a ray of light as local kids brought to life a time-honored Scandinavian tradition in the lead-up to Christmas.

The Ridge Creative Center, in partnership with the Scandinavian East Coast Museum, presented the annual St. Lucia pageant on December 14, at Redeemer St. John Church, 939 83rd Street, in Dyker Heights.

During the procession that is the centerpiece of the celebration, participants, dressed all in white, sing traditional songs and wear candle-studded crowns in honor of St. Lucia.

St. Lucia’s Day normally falls on December 13. It’s a festival of lights observed in portions of Scandinavia in honor of St. Lucia, a Christian martyr. The traditional observance of the holiday has the oldest daughter in the household lead the procession, as families serve coffee and baked goods, most notably golden saffron buns.

Before the procession, Ridge Creative Center founder Victoria Hofmo hosted a craft-making event for the students. Student Sofia White was chosen as St. Lucia. Other students involved were Alessandro Brito, Ellanor Cornish and Fiona Steever.

The procession started around 6 p.m, with the students singing Saint Lucia’s song, “Silent Night,” “Tip Tip Tap” and “Away in a Manger.” Spectators included families of the children participating.

The evening also included a visit from Tomte, played by Charlotta Amandussom, a mythic being associated with the winter solstice. She arrived at the end of the night to give out candy and toys.

Regina Opera Brings “Hansel and Gretel” to Life

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An old children’s story was brought to life by Regina Opera Company during two weekends in November, when the beloved local troupe staged a version of “Hansel and Gretel” that was as colorful as it was charming.

Set designer Linda Lehr guided the production, which dazzled the audience with a powerful orchestra conducted by José Alejandro Guzmán, compelling performances and music by composer Engelbert Humperdinck.

Kudos to Hansel (Perri Sussman) and Gretel (Elisha Sunshine), who were mischievous and child-like throughout the show. Particularly impressive was the scene in which they fool the witch (Heather Antonissen), pretending Hansel’s finger is a twig, with Gretel taking the magic wand and then both siblings pushing the evil crone into the oven, for the happy ending the audience wants and needs.

Lehr and Wayne Olsen created the perfect ambience. They designed three separate scenes — Hansel and Gretel’s house, the forest and the witch’s candy house, where a bunch of gingerbread children, decorative through most of the performance, come alive once the witch is dead.

Lighting designer Stephanie Lim outdid herself with color shifts echoing dramatic changes in the plot. Blue/green tones are used to showcase happier moments; the use of red intensifies dire situations such as when the witch dragged Gretel into her house. Lim used spot lighting to signify the angel’s presence, with muted side lighting coming into play when the characters pray.

Overall, Regina Opera did an impressive job of telling the story through music, dancing and design.

Coming up next will be a classic opera, “La Boheme,” on March 2, 3, 9 and 10, 2019. Tickets are $25, general admission, $20 for students and seniors (plus $1 fee for credit card charges if purchased on line). For more info, go to www.reginaopera.org.

St. Ephrem Kids Taught to “Champ Up”

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“Champ Up!” echoed through the gymnasium of St. Ephrem’s.

On Thurs., Nov. 15, students learned how to “Champ Up” and overcome difficulties from retired Muay Thai champion Chris Romulo. Contracted by the Program for the Development of Human Potential (PDHP), Romulo gave the middle schoolers an intense speech on bullying, overcoming feelings of self-doubt and creating a better life for themselves.

He emphasized the importance of “Champions Uprising” which means to stand up, accept challenges of life and fight to win.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight,” he told the youngsters. “We all have a fighting spirit buried deep inside of us and all it takes is for you guys to figure out. I’m here today because I want to take you guys on a mission, a mission I’ve been on for a while, and I believe you guys are on right now. So I want to make you guys aware of the mission, and the mission is called Champions Uprising.”

The PDHP was founded in the mid-’70s and operates under the Department of Education and the Diocese of Brooklyn. Its mission is to provide drug, alcohol and gambling prevention services to students attending Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens.

In recent weeks, spurred by National Bullying Prevention Month in October, Romulo has spread the message at several schools in Brooklyn and Queens, including also St. Patrick Catholic Academy, Holy Angels Academy and St. Bernadette School

During his speech, Romulo spoke about his struggles growing up. Being a Filipino kid growing up in Queens Village was rough, he said; he was bullied and discouraged from opportunities based on what other people thought of him, and what he thought of himself.

He found solace, as it turned out, in Muay Thai. Twenty years of his life were spent training, fighting and coaching. He fought in many cities, including New York City, and became the first ever North American Super Middleweight Champion. Romulo now lives with his wife Sarah and their family in Rockaway Beach, where they own a gym called Crom Physical Culture.

Romulo emphasized to the students the importance of believing in themselves, of not letting negative thoughts get to them and of facing their fears.

Romulo also showed off his basketball and breakdancing skills and invited students to play and dance. A surprise Fortnite dance by one of the students took over the gymnasium.

Because some of the students are going to high school in the following year,  the importance of following the advice throughout life’s challenges was emphasized.

Vanessa Ciaccia, booking director of Romulo, reiterated this point.

“Everyday they’re going to be up against different challenges,” she said. “Not knowing what you’re coming up against, if you’re well-educated in that field, it would help you to make better decisions.”

Indian Culture Highlighted at Ridge Diwali Festival

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Flowers, lights and dancing added up to a wonderful start to a new year during one local group’s first ever Diwali festival.

The event was hosted by the Ridge Creative Center on October 25, thanks to the efforts Aeilushi and Paulomm Mistry who shared traditional decorations, dancing, and Indian food. Not only did they preview their culture, they also wanted everyone of all ages in the Bay Ridge community to come out and celebrate.

Diwali begins on November 7.  Known as the Festival of Lights, it’s the start of a new year for the Hindu culture. The festival lasts for five days, and each of those days involves praying to different gods and goddesses. As Mistry explained, those who observe the holiday decorate with flowers, oil lamps called diyas and rangoli, which are colorful designs of rice flour, colored sand and flower petals, as well as fireworks and traditional dances. They also enjoy family feasts.

At the Ridge Creative Center’s event, children of all ages began by decorating the space with flowers, candles and their own rangoli designs. Throughout the night, more people showed up, created more designs, and danced the night away.

Everyone, including the young children, participated. Some of these dances included Garba, which resembles the circle of life. Mistry explained there is no choreography for these dances, and that it’s just a natural flow for everyone involved. During some of the dances, women held the lamps.

“We never danced together before,” said Mistry, adding, “It was all improvising and following and connecting with each other. This is how it works in a community; we are separate but we come together and we understand each other.

“Anyone can dance, younger or older, right or wrong,” she went on. “We’ll help the young generation and help them create that confidence.”

The night concluded with a feast, made by Aeilushi herself. Many in the room spoke about their own Diwali traditions. Although everyone’s tradition is slightly different, they all revolve around the same meaning — the victory of good over evil and brightness over darkness.

With Broad Brush Strokes, Brooklyn Fundraiser Aims to Benefit March of Dimes

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Unleash your inner painter, for a cause that helps millions of children.

On Sat., Nov. 17, World Prematurity Day, Pinot’s Palette in Dyker Heights and Park Slope will paint it forward by hosting Paint to Prevent Prematurity for children two years old and older, as well as adults, from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

In partnership with the non-profit organization March of Dimes, the goal of the event is to raise money for the organization, and to bring awareness of the 15 million babies affected by preterm birth every year.

Tickets for the event will cost $25 each, and include one hour of instructed painting, and a cute penguin piece to take home! A 10” x 10” canvas will be provided and painting will begin promptly at 12 p.m. Refreshments will be served and proceeds will go towards the March of Dimes greater NY Market.

The March of Dimes started 80 years ago, and since then, its goal has been to help mothers and babies prevail in the fight against prematurity. The organization supports mothers throughout their pregnancy and advocates for medical improvements and research for their future children, also educating medical professionals and the public on life-saving research, and helping families in need.

As part of its efforts, the organization sponsors Prematurity Awareness Month, sharing stories, raising funds for babies in need, and lighting the world purple — including Brooklyn Borough Hall and the Parachute Jump, which will light purple around dusk on Nov. 17, in observance of World Prematurity Day. Many landmarks around the U.S, including the Empire State Building, will be doing the same.

“The March of Dimes Brooklyn Committee is grateful for the support the Brooklyn community has already shown for Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day,” said Bay Ridge activist John Quaglione, chair of the March of Dimes Brooklyn Committee. “If we can come together as a community, we can create solutions that support healthy moms and strong babies here in Brooklyn and across the nation, not just in November, but all year long.”

The Park Slope Pinot’s Palette is located at 382 Fifth Ave. The Dyker Heights Pinot’s Palette is located at 7518 13th Ave.

To register for the event, visit https://bit.ly/2K4mPiC.

Image courtesy of Pinot’s Palette

For 12th Year, Senior Idol Crowned in Ridge

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Another Senior Idol has been crowned.

Xaverian High School shone on Saturday night, October 13, the contestants singing their hearts out in Brooklyn’s 12th annual Senior Idol, a competition that was fun, yet fierce.

The event is hosted by state Sen. Marty Golden with the cooperation of Xaverian High School. Following a September audition, 13 lucky finalists were chosen out of 22 hopefuls to perform.

Joseph Loposky, one of the judges, and the head of Xaverian’s music department, emphasized how hard it was to pick the finalists, and how excited he was for this.

“This is a fun night, as you’ll see there’ll be electricity in the air with the contestants, as well as the people in the audience,” he said. “They love it, and to see their friends and family on stage is a plus.”

This year’s 13 finalists included Randy Litz, Anthony Russo, John Fricelli, Elizabeth Silva, Tony Yodice, Sabrina Darby, Nicholas DeCillis, Gianvito Bottalico, Beverly Bennick, Cary Weiner, John Bonomolo, Ernest Carrai and Gagz Danzo.

Bonomolo snagged the Senior Idol title and took home the grand prize – $500. He captivated the audience with his performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.”

The runner-ups were Bennick, who performed “A Secret Love” and Carrai, who performed “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

Before the winners were announced, there was a special performance by last year’s Senior Idol winner, Darnley Browne, who performed “Oh Lonesome Me.”

Senior Idol was judged by Loposky, Alberie Hadergjonaj, Dan Grimaldi and Tony Travis.

Senior Idol is open to all Kings County residents ages 50 and older. The money raised from the event helps fund Xaverian’s music program.


Organ Donor Enrollment Day Marked at Sunset Hospital

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Unleash your inner hero.

On October 11, NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn and the non-profit organization LiveOnNY hosted a day-long organ donor registration event at the hospital, 150 55th Street, as part of their annual Organ Donor Enrollment Day observance.

Joining them was the family of Bryan Trinidad, a young man who lost his own life at the age of 27, but — by being a donor — managed to save three others.

Trinidad signed up to be an organ donor at age 22 in 2012. On September 26, 2018, he was taken to the hospital after being involved in a fist fight. After Trinidad was declared brain dead, his pancreas, both his kidneys and his liver were donated. A 68-year old woman received Trinidad’s liver, a 43-year old woman received his right kidney, and a 29-year old woman received his left kidney and pancreas.

His aunt, Deborah Trinidad, was unaware of his decision to become a donor until a nurse at the hospital informed her. She said how proud she was of her nephew, and urged the public to follow his lead.

“We’re so proud of him of making the decision at an early age.” said Trinidad. “There’s a lot of people out there, young or old, that can use an organ. You never know when it’s your day, and you can help someone out there.”

In fact, every 18 hours, a New Yorker dies waiting for an organ transplant because there aren’t enough registered donors, according to NYU-Langone, whose efforts to encourage more people to register as organ donors led the hospital to win an award last year for its organ donation enrollment outreach programs, which include education events and a flag-raising ceremony to honor past donors, according to Elizabeth Douglas, a nurse and the co-chair of the hospital’s Organ Donor Council.

According to Scott Wohl,  the senior manager of community engagement & activation for LiveOnNY — the federally designated organization for organ donation in the greater New York area which facilitates life-saving transplant surgeries for patients in need — 92 percent of New Yorkers support the idea of organ donation, but only 32 percent have enrolled.

Wohl said the organization wants to close that gap and enroll as many donors as it can. “It’s actually very clear,” he told this paper. “One donor can save up to eight lives, and our job is really to save the 8,000 to 10,000 New Yorkers on the waitlist right now.”

To learn more or enroll as an organ donor, go to https://www.liveonny.org/.

Fundraiser held at Fort Ham for local student battling rare disease

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On Friday night, September 21, the community club at Fort Hamilton lit up with food, drinks, a casino night, and –most important of all — hope, as the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation (FARF) and the Fort Hamilton Spouses Foundation co-hosted an event in honor of Emily Mitchell, a 10-year-old girl battling Fanconi Anemia.

Emily — who lives on the Army base with her family — was just a month old when she was diagnosed with FA, “a rare, inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure,” according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The goal of the event — dubbed “Bet on a Cure for Emily” — was to raise money for the foundation, which has been a wellspring of information and support for the Mitchell family, and which not only educated them about the disease but also connected them to Camp Sunshine in Maine, where Emily, a student at P.S. 264 in Bay Ridge, was able to meet other children who also had the disease as well as adults who have the disease, which gave her a glimmer of hope.

This inspired Emily’s mom Tricia to raise money for the foundation. She started off small with bracelets and garage sales, graduating to a golf tournament when the family was stationed in Hawaii and most recently, the casino night at Fort Hamilton, which not only raised money aimed at combating the disease but also paid tribute to children who have FA, with each table dedicated to a child who has the disease.

Among those present were members of the Wagner Seahawks women’s basketball team, who “adopted” Emily and came to support the cause.

Despite everything Emily has gone through, the countless days at doctors’ offices and in hospitals, Mitchell said she makes it a priority for Emily to have a childhood. Mitchell said they both rely on hope to get through the days.

“Hope is everything,” she said. “We look at life by concentrating on today, we make as many memories as possible, and we’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes.”

Donations can still be made at https://bit.ly/2QmadX7.

Kids Will Strut their Stuff at 52nd Annual Ragamuffin Parade

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It’s that time of year — and kids from Bay Ridge and beyond couldn’t be happier.

The 52nd annual Ragamuffin Parade will once again walk the streets of Brooklyn on Sat. Oct. 13, as neighborhood children don a wide array of costumes as part of a march whose tagline is “Miles of Smiles.”

What began as a small procession in October, 1966, when children donned their parents’ oversized garb and paraded around the block on which Our Lady of Angels is situated, has become a beloved neighborhood tradition in which kids stride along Third Avenue to show off costumes that range from the fantastical to the quirky, and pretty much everything in between.

Now over half a century young, the parade — the brainchild of Father James McKenna of Our Lady of Angels and Ridgeite Cliff Scanlon  — was developed as a safe alternative to trick or treating. The name of the parade stems from the fact that participants, wearing their parents’ clothes, looked like ragamuffins.

This year, the parade will be sponsored by Empire State Bank along with co-sponsors state Sen. Marty Golden, Northfield Bank, Investors Bank, Ferrantino Fuel Oil, the law offices of Peter P. Ferraiuolo, Dime Bank, the Salty Dog and Gangi Plumbing and Heating.

This year’s grand marshal is Leo Lykourezos of Leo’s Casa Calamari. The Men Of The Year are Michael Esposito and Ted Nugent of Cebu.

The parade route starts at 76th Street and Third Avenue, and ends at 92nd Street in the HSBC parking lot. Registration runs from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m in the Holy Angels Catholic Academy schoolyard, located on 73rd Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. Costume judging will take place at the same location from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Prizes will be distributed to every child in costume registered at the end of the parade.