Valentine’s Day 2020

A VALENTINE’S DAY TO REMEMBER

Sierra's table

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Daily activities aren’t usually vivid in my dreams, but last night, I thought of the little girl at our Big Picture Foundation Valentine’s Day event who held her stuffed animal for the whole evening and I reflected on the circumstances of the boy whose birthday was today, who was moving to a new group home. The two were part of a number of unaccompanied children, currently in foster care in New York, who are awaiting unification with their families. Despite challenges that the Cayuga Center kids have already faced in their young lives, upbeat, polite, and enthusiastic attitudes set a positive tone for a wonderful evening. Hopefully, those same qualities will help the kids prevail as they continue on their unusual journeys.
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Thank you to the Rye, Harrison, and Cayuga Center Communities…
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• Thank you to the awesome kids and adults at the Cayuga Center who, by accepting the Rye kids’ invitation, made the event possible, including Rosemary Scheibel, Richard Compton, Jenny Pedrazza, and Alfredo Perez.
• Thank you to the kind-hearted kids in Rye who participate in BPF home base activities.
• In particular, at this event, thank you to Sean and Felicia for sharing your extraordinary musical talent.
• Thank you to Camilla for working as my translator.
• Thank you as well to all the kids who contributed looms and yarn and who learned to loom in order to teach their their partners.
• Thank you to the Rye Rec. In particular, thank you to Sally Rogol for providing game-changing support for Big Picture Foundation.
• Thank you to Rye Country Day School kids and teachers (in particular to Gail Sestito and Joan Kubish) for contributing hand-made pillows (read more below).
• Thank you to our volunteers, Karen Keane (coordinator of Valentine’s Day dinner), Leslie Cooper (Chairman of the Board), Miki Ambrosi, Nancy Pasquale, Jee Yu, Michelle Eaton, Sian Roath, Veronica Bolivar, Kassandra Souply, and Nicky Regan.
• Thank you to Jerry’s Post Road Market, the Harrison Market, the Harrison Bakery, Garden Catering, Pizza Piazza, Nora’s Overworks, and Patisserie Salzberg for organizing the dinner.
•. Thank you to WAG editor-in-chief, Georgette Gouveia, who offered guidance and discretion.
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PRESS RELEASE
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BPF Children of Rye, NY Invite Cayuga Center Children for an Afternoon of Fun
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February 14th, Rye, NY – Unaccompanied children who reside in New York while awaiting unification with family members in the United States, will travel from Bronx County to Westchester Country on Valentine’s Day. The kids, who are part of the Cayuga Centers of the Bronx, which arranges and oversees transitional foster care, health services, clinical services, and educational programs for unaccompanied children, will enjoy activities with peers who are part of the Big Picture Foundation (BPF). BPF, a locally-based nonprofit organization, empowers worldwide kids to use the arts for local, national, and global community-building initiatives. Homebase BPF kids have joined forces with many partners to make this Valentine’s Day one they hope their guests will fondly remember.
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At the event, which will be held at the Rye Recreation Department, kids from the Cayuga Center and from BPF will pair with each other to loom hats, to listen to music, and to share a meal. Each Rye child will give their partner supplies to take away from the event. Several talented Rye City School District students who are also members of Big Picture Foundation will contribute their drawing skills. In lieu of photography, they will use pencils, pens, and the power of observation to capture images of the crowd.
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Dinner has been organized by BPF parent, Karen Keane, and will include contributions from the following local businesses: Jerry’s Post Road Market, the Harrison Market, the Harrison Bakery, Garden Catering, Pizza Piazza, and Patisserie Salzberg. Nora, from Nora’s Ovenworks, will contribute special cookies for all made with the BPF logo.
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At the end of the event, pillows made by students from the Rye Country Day School, will be given as Valentine’s Day gifts to the Cayuga Center children as a gesture of goodwill. Each pillow will have a pocket in which the RCSD kids have inserted hand-written messages of support. Pillows will also feature embroidered Spanish words associated with friendship.
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Rye High School sophomore, Sean Yu and Rye Middle School 8th grader, Felicia Ambrosi, will perform. Yu, who is also a world reknown Juilliard Pre-College Program cellist and Ambrosi, who is an award-winning pianist with the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Program have prepared a special Valentine’s Day program. Both students are longtime Big Picture Foundation student leaders whose commitment to community service extends beyond local initiatives. Sean is the regional manager for Back-to-Bach, a nonprofit that coordinates student-to-student music appreciation events in towns around Westchester. Ambrosi recently traveled to Japan, where she met with educators to discuss ways to link Japanese schools to the global BPF kids’ network.
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When news of the upcoming event was shared among teachers in The BPF network, Gail Sestito and Joan Kubisch, teachers at Rye Country Day School (RCDS), rallied their students to contribute to the festivities, as well. The RCDS students used the school’s Makerspace to sew and embroider pillows for the Cayuga Center kids as signs of friendship and goodwill.
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Creating pillows of love was not new to the RCDS students. Over the past year, they have developed this art form as their signature gesture of support to refugee and displaced children. The idea for The Pillow Project stemmed from two students who combined their voices and talents; one student was impacted when she visited the border as a volunteer and saw the needs of the children, and the other had been sewing and making pillows for children in local hospitals.
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With the recent events affecting Latino children, such as the refugee crisis at the southern United States border and the recent devastation of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Island nations by hurricanes and earthquakes, several upper school Spanish classes took on the initiative of creating unique pillows for The Pillow Project. Each student created a unique machine-sewn pillow complete with a hand-sewn pocket, a digitally embroidered phrase of positivity (en español), and a handwritten note (also en español) to a child who would receive the pillow. Each pillow was thoughtfully designed with the goal of sending children a message of love, courage, strength, and resilience. Through this meaningful project, students learned how to utilize their knowledge of the Spanish language and how to work collectively for a greater cause, embodying Rye Country Day’s motto, Not for Self, but for Service.
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In the spirit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this day of friendship has emerged as a result of partnerships. Together, schools, families, private citizens, nonprofit organizations, government entities, and for profit businesses have worked together to generate joy, to convey messages of support, and to address humanitarian needs.