Fundraising event attracts record crowd, continues its mission
Building on its success of the past two years, the Hance Family Foundation (HFF) hosted Family Fun Day on Saturday, May 19. This year’s fundraising event, held in Floral Park Centennial Gardens, attracted an estimated 5,000 visitors and raised upwards of $100,000 to benefit HFF’s educational projects, according to HFF officials.
“The crowd for Family Fun Day was bigger than we had last year,” said Bernadette Smith, HFF executive director. “We don’t charge admission, so it’s a difficult number to [tally], but we go by food sales and auction sales … We’re actually running the numbers right now, but we’re looking at roughly $100,000 taken in with the two events that day,” she said.
The day comprised a two-pronged fundraising effort: the family festival inside Centennial Gardens, which began at 1 p.m., and a trio of races — a Pee Wee Run, Emma’s Mile and a 5K race run in conjunction with the Floral Park Youth Council — which stepped off at 9 a.m. Nearly 1,500 runners and walkers registered for the races, and nearly 1,000 finished the 5K, which began on Floral Parkway just west of Raff Avenue and wound its way through the West End of Floral Park.
The proceeds from the day support EAK Projects, which are original educational programs created and implemented by HFF to honor the memories of Emma, Alyson and Katie Hance, three young sisters who lost their lives in a tragic automobile accident in July 2009 at ages 8, 7 and 5. The projects, which target children between the ages of 5 and 18, include “Beautiful Me,” which focuses on self-esteem for young girls, “You and Me,” which is about making new friends and reaching out to others, and “Grow with Me,” which emphasizes planting, thus implying hope for the future.
The “star” of the EAK Projects is “Beautiful Me,” Smith said. “[“Beautiful Me”] has been everywhere. We’ve been to Philadelphia, Chicago, we work with the PAL of New York City,” which runs an afterschool program for girls September through June, Smith added. The brainchild of HFF board member Kate Tuffy and her colleague, Liz Monroe, “Beautiful Me” has branched out to several school districts, wherein HFF volunteers teach school teachers how to implement the program through a training program tailored to maintain the integrity of the project, she said. Additionally, “Beautiful Me” has also been introduced to the education and social work graduate programs at Molloy College and Fordham University. Most recently, “Beautiful Me” set its sights on Paris. As the Floral Park Dispatch went to press, Tuffy was preparing to introduce the project to an American school in Paris, in conjunction with Marymount College in Manhattan, Smith said.
Expanding the EAK Projects is made possible primarily through Family Fun Day. This year’s event had more than 400 volunteers, 200 of whom were high school students, Smith said. Attractions included live bands, Irish step dancers, arts and crafts, bouncy rides, carnival games, face painting, Zumba for kids, and the debut of the “HFF Mud Slide.” The mud slide itself raised nearly $8,000, Smith said. Sliders had to be sponsored for at least $100, and those who were sponsored for $200 or more received a coveted “I slid the HFF Mud Slide” T-shirt.
Also paramount to the day are generous sponsorships from local businesses, large corporations and individuals alike. Heavy sponsors are highlighted on the back of the 5K race T-shirts. The auction also draws in much of the fundraising dollars. Among this year’s noteworthy auction items were a full set of orthodontic braces and full follow-up care provided by Dr. Joseph P. Ruisi, valued at nearly $5,000, and several Apple products donated by Floral Park resident Doug Vetter, valued at about $4,500.
Planning for the event is essentially year-round. Smith starts to apply for permits from the village in September, but she and other foundation officials have already started to reflect on last Saturday’s event to see how they can make next year’s Family Fun Day even better. Admittedly, it is a “herculean” effort, Smith said, but well worth it.
“The feeling of the day is love, and joy and just compassion. … There’s a positive feeling the whole entire day,” Smith said. “It’s really a testament to the girls and a testament to [their parents] Jackie and Warren Hance that life can go on.”