STATEN ISLAND STUDENTS JOIN SOUTH SHORE ROTARY HELP STUDENTS WITH CANCER STAY IN SCHOOL
“South Shore Rotarians are role models who pull off super fetes.”
The high school students at Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School, Staten Island, know at an early age what many take a lifetime to learn. Working toward your personal goal is only half the equation; helping others is not only fulfilling but it makes life sweet.
“They know about the value of giving without expectation or receiving something in return,” said Rosemarie Dressler, South Shore Rotary member. “Each year they work with the members South Shore Rotary to raise funds to help students with cancer continue their education.”
The Gaynor Expeditionary Learning School students under the leadership of Tiffany Reingold, the school’s College Advisor, team up every year for the last seven years with the South Shore Rotary to create John’s Pasta Party, a fundraiser that morphed into a super successful annual special event that unites students, staff and Rotarians with the community.
John’s Pasta Party is a fundraiser in memory of Staten Islander John Dressler, who lost his 15-month battle with cancer eight years ago at the age of 21 and inspired by a handful of “exceptional doctors and nurse who have that something extra that distinguishes them from a pool of dedicated and caring health care professionals,” said Rosemarie.
Each year this event is co-chaired by Tiffany Reingold, a school student chair, and South Shore Rotary member and John’s mother, Rosemarie Dressler.
“Our school mandates that each student completes 100 hours of community service by graduation,” said Tiffany Reingold. “We know that it’s through community engagement and service that teenagers develop their own competencies and the soft skills that will serve them throughout life.”
The popular fundraiser annually attracts more than 200 guests, who enjoy salad, pasta entrees, drinks and desserts donated by more than 30 top restaurants on Staten Island in the high school’s cafeteria. This year they danced to the music of Terrific Tunes Entertainment.
“It’s like a family reunion every year when I get to see the Rotarians who hold this cause dear to their hearts,” said Tiffany Reingold. “We all work toward the common goal of bringing our community together to raise funds for cancer survivors to return-to or remain in college.”
Costumes were provided for McCown students who entertain both the children and their parents. A face painting station, cotton candy and popcorn machines are popular features donated by Dina Lorenzo, owner of Party Bliss/ The Lollipop Shop.
“South Shore Rotarians are role models who pull off super fetes,” said Rosemarie Dressler. South Shore Rotarians Mike Duffy reaches out to restaurants and secures the food; April Cass designs the invitation, banners and promotional materials; Rosemarie Dressler manages the promotion. Brian Benevento coordinates the small army of their club’s Rotary members who leave their offices early to pick up food donations from restaurants from all corners of the borough the afternoon of the event and deliver the trays into the hands of students at the school.
“In addition to volunteering the night of as servers, face painters, costume characters, and at the raffle table, McCown students spend countless hours behind the scenes preparing for the event,” said Tiffany Reingold. “They see John’s Pasta Party as a fun way to hang out with their friends while contributing to their community.”
A lifelong Staten Island resident, John Dressler graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School, in 2006 with high honors. He was also an honor student in Villanova University’s five year master’s degree program in computer engineering and while at college was selected by Lockheed Martin as one of four students nationwide to participate in their top security summer internship in Washington DC.
In 2009, John complained of a stomach ache one month before the internship was to begin. A cancerous mass was found on his appendix which spread to his liver. “There was a period of time my husband and I thought our son who was undergoing treatment he would be able to return to his classes,” said Rosemarie. “A search for resources to ease the financial burden for students battling cancer with escalating medical expenses was sadly non-existent.”
The South Shore Rotary Club embraced Rosemarie’s proposal to support students with cancer and established the scholarship in her son’s name.
“While the scholarship was named in memory of my son, it was motivated by outstanding caring health care professionals who provided care above and beyond. As it turned out they were cancer survivors. One of my prayers is that we give hope to students battling this disease so they continue to work to realize their dreams,” said Rosemarie.
All proceeds were donated to the South Shore Rotary John Dressler Scholarship, aim to help students with cancer return to the classroom.
If you would like to make a donation, send checks payable to the South Shore Rotary Foundation, (Please specify John Dressler Scholarship) and send to South Shore Rotary, PO Box 061068, Staten Island, New York 10306-0011.