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Fundraiser melds arts, athletics and more

By Kris DiLorenzo

Irvington Town Hall Theater will be the scene of a ball next Saturday night — but not the kind that requires a tuxedo or gown. The Artist’s Ball on Oct. 8, sponsored by Robert Jacobson Sports (RJS), is a fundraiser for the Ardsley-based organization’s many athletic programs — most of them involving a ball.

Proceeds from the event will be shared equally among RJS, the International Sports and Music Project, and Team KAT, a group that raises money for children’s cancer research.

RJS is named in memory of Ardsley High School graduate Robert Jacobson, who in 1982 was killed in a car accident during his sophomore year at the State University of New York at Brockport. Jacobson’s parents, Audrey, a social worker in Ardsley, and Marvin, a former advertising agency creative director, since deceased, established the organization in 2008 to honor their athletic son.

The RJS program began with 45 young players in a basketball program, and now includes 700 players from pre-kindergarten through high school ages, participating in basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling, and cheerleading. RJS charges a fee (averaging $275), depending on which program a child joins, and also is raising money to pay for coaches, fields, gyms, insurance, uniforms, awards, special events such as band performances on Ardsley Day, and scholarships for children whose families cannot afford the programs’ fees.

While the majority of participants are Ardsley residents, the programs are open to children from anywhere in Westchester and the Bronx. As a result of the experience and encouragement they get, many children then join school teams.

“We’re making such a big difference in our community, and that’s why I love doing this, because we can see it,” RJS president Glenn Leibel said. Leibel, a substitute teacher in the Elmsford public schools, is married to Robert’s younger sister, Lisa Jacobson, who also graduated from Ardsley High School graduate and is now a second-grade teacher in Elmsford. “The sheer scale of what we do is tremendous; it’s an important piece of Ardsley: kids learning about community, teamwork, sportsmanship. It’s beneficial to all the kids, and to parents as well.”

Leibel is on the board of the International Sports and Music Project (ISMP), an organization founded by Jason Steinberg, a college friend and musical partner of Leibel’s son Dan, 23. Steinberg and the younger Leibel will be one of the acts performing at the Artist’s  Ball. Glenn Leibel’s daughter Molly, 20, is a production assistant for the event.

Steinberg, 24, founded ISMP in 2014 after a year teaching English in Micronesia, where he discovered kids’ love of basketball — and their lack of equipment. His foundation raises money to make it possible for those children to play basketball, and has established a second program in Rwanda. Steinberg hopes to expand the effort to a Syrian refugee camp in Greece.

“Dan thought Glenn and I should connect because we had similar goals,” Steinberg said. “He had a wealth of knowledge and experience that I was fortunate to be privy to. He was kind enough to share that with me.”

The third beneficiary of the Artist’s Ball, Team KAT, was founded by Kali and Chris Daskalakis of Riverdale, whose daughter Katerina was diagnosed with a malignant kidney tumor in 2013, when she was 4 years old. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Kat recovered, and is now, at age 7, enrolled in RJS' cheerleading program. Her brothers Theodore, 11, and George Michael, 10, play football in an RJS program. Team KAT participates every May in the Kids Walk for Kids with Cancer fundraiser in Central Park.

“It’s our pleasure to attend such a great event [next Saturday’s fundraiser] for wonderful causes,” Kali Daskalakis said. “We don’t live in Westchester, but they welcomed us into this great organization."

It’s rare that kids are invited to a ball, but this one is family oriented, Leibel explained. Headlining the concert is the Pablo Bencid Trio. Dobbs Ferry resident Bencid is a jazz drummer whose son Samuel, a seventh-grader at Ardsley Middle School, has played in the RJS football program since he was in third grade. Dan Leibel, who plays saxophone, guitar, and keyboards, will perform jazz and original music, with Steinberg on keyboards and guitar. Singer-songwriter, Ardsley High School graduate and Fordham College at Lincoln Center student Emily Blumenthal, also from Dobbs Ferry, will perform her original music solo. Blumenthal’s songs have been featured in commercials, including one for TBS comedy star Samantha Bee’s show, “Full Frontal.” Blumenthal performed most recently at Ardsley Day, held on Sunday, Sept. 18.

In the non-musical portion of the program, students from the Tarrytown-based Rivertown Dance Academy will perform two original pieces; 20-year-old poet John Evans, an Ardsley High School graduate and Manhattan College student who lost his sight at the age of 6, will read from his two published books of poetry; and artist Alison Emmel, a student in Syracuse University's Arts and Design program who is a friend of Molly Leibel, will paint onstage during the performances, “working from inspiration,” as Glenn Leibel put it. Emceeing the show is White Plains-based voiceover talent Nizam Singletary, who has hosted a cheerleading competition for RJS.

Leibel is optimistic about the success of the Artist’s Ball. Though it’s the first time RJS has produced a concert, he’s considering it “an extension of Ardsley Day,” where the organization sponsored three bands and a DJ. “We’re real community-oriented. Anybody that’s in need, we’re there to help. Whatever is needed, we give. That’s why we need to do fundraising.”


The Artist’s Ball is Saturday, Oct. 8, 7-9 p.m., at Irvington Town Hall Theater, 85 Main St., (entrance on North Ferris Street). Tickets are $25; $100 for a VIP ticket, which includes access to an after-party at River City Grille. Tickets may be purchased through www.irvingtontheater.com or at the box office, open Mondays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and Wednesdays, 3-5 p.m.


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


 

September 30, 2016

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