For the past nine years, The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc. has dedicated itself to helping children and their families faced with the financial and emotional challenges and hardships brought upon by childhood cancer.
To do so, the Long Island-based non-profit, volunteer-run organization established in 2003 by Matt and Marissa Weippert, relies on donations and money raised through garage sales, custom Christopher Radko Heart and Angel collector pieces and special fundraising events, including its recent Night of Laughter.
Held March 23 at the Milleridge Cottage, the 9th Annual Night of Laughter featured a sit-down dinner and three hours of standup comedy delivered by MC Rick Morgan, impersonator John Santo, and comedians Ellen Karis, Rich Ramirez and Pete Michaels.
Close to150 people attended this year's fundraiser and helped support the Foundation through event and raffle ticket sales. Attendees had an opportunity to partake in raffles for over 70 different gift baskets, many containing prizes worth close to $500 each and filled with everything from sports memorabilia, restaurant and entertainment gift certificates to gardening, automobile and photography items.
As in previous years, the Foundation held a 50/50 raffle with $900 in prizes and raffled off four grand prizes. This year's top prizes included a GE Profile Deluxe Wine Center complete with a wine and champagne assortment, four Walt Disney World one-day park hopper passes and $250 Disney Gift Card, a Great Wolf Lodge (Poconos) one-night stay for four with water park passes and a $380 gift card, and a gift package from The Inn at Fox Hollow.
Overall, the 9th Annual Night of Laughter raised almost $10,000, which the Foundation will put toward funding the many programs it sponsors throughout the year, including, but not limited to, holiday parties, meal and transportation allowances, financial aid, toys, games, sporting event tickets, books, etc. In addition, the Foundation also sponsors “The Bead Program,” “The Escape Hatch” and is the Long Island/New York regional sponsor of “Gabe’s Chemo Duck.”
"The Night of Laughter fundraiser is The Sarah Grace Foundation’s largest annual fundraising event and, as such, provides the funding necessary for the Foundation to administer the many programs and events sponsored for the children throughout the year," said Matt Weippert. "All sponsored programs directly benefit the children and as an all-volunteer organization, all funds raised directly benefit the children we serve."
Weippert is extremely grateful to those who have continued to support the Foundation since its inception and help keep Sarah's memory alive.
"In the economic times we live in it is difficult for any charitable organization to raise the funds necessary for their programs. The Sarah Grace Foundation is fortunate to have a solid support base through a well-rounded network of family, friends and community," said Weippert, adding, "The support we have today is as strong as it has been from the inception of our organization – almost 10 years ago. We are extremely grateful for the support continually provided to us as a tribute to Sarah and an honor to her memory."
March was a busy month for the Foundation, which also held its Hugs for Sarah campaign and 4th Annual Hugs for Sarah Memorial Blood Drive. Co-sponsored this year with the East Street School PTA, the blood drive took place at Hicksville's William P. Bennett Community Center on March 31 – a day that the Weipperts hold close to their heart.
"March 31 is Sarah's birthday. She would have turned 22 this year and we cannot think of a better way to celebrate her life then donating blood, 'the gift of life,'" Weippert said.
In the days leading up to Sarah's birthday and at the blood drive volunteers from the Foundation distributed small packages of Hershey Hugs candy with a special message attached.
"The 'Hugs' are to remind people how sweet and short life is," said Weippert. "Our goal is to spread the message about how sweet and short life is. Everyone should spend that extra moment to hug their children or someone they love."
The blood drive brought in close to 50 potential donors and resulted in the collection of 39 pints of blood. “Throughout Sarah’s illness, the blood and platelets she needed was immeasurable. Giving back is what it’s all about and what better way to honor one life by helping another," said Weippert.
For more information on The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc., call 433-9745 or visit www.TheSarah Grace Foundation.org. Donations or requests for information may be sent to the foundation at 217 Plainview Road, Hicksville, NY 11801.