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Take a Night Under the Stars at Children’s League fundraiser

PLAY THE NIGHT AWAY — The Night Under the Stars fundraiser will take place at the playground and wooded grove at the Preschool Learning Center on July 27. Photo by Lizz Schumer.
SPRINGVILLE — The playground and picnic grove at The Children’s League will be transformed into a grown-up wonderland, during the second annual Night Under the Stars gala, to take place on July 27. Featuring auctions, live music and refreshments, the event is a chance for adults to experience the league’s facilities, support its programs and spend a summer evening under the canopy of trees, instead of shingles.

Sponsored by the League’s board of directors, the event is a stated effort by the organization to raise money to support the Preschool Learning Center and its programs, including staff training, to provide services for students with unique needs; equipment for the integrated classrooms the facility provides and more, based on a “wish list” the different departments present, detailing what is necessary to carry out the functions of the league’s programming.

Gerald Guild, a licensed psychologist and behavior specialist at the Preschool Learning Center, said that fundraising efforts take place, in order to “decrease the burden on the school” to provide services for students with developmental, physical and multiple disabilities, as well as those who fall on the autism disorder spectrum.

“The budget is tight, but the need [for our services] is great and our small classrooms means there is less revenue generated,” he said. “It has always been my goal to make sure that our program is a comprehensive one and there are not a lot of comparable programs around. But that costs.”

The Night Under the Stars gala will fall several weeks before the Children’s League’s other major fundraiser: the Christine Padasak Memorial Autism Awareness 5K and Fun Walk, which is run by the Kiwanis Club of Springville, to benefit the center’s autism program.

“The major distinction between the two events is that the Night Under the Stars is run by our board of directors and the Kiwanis Club does undertake the lion’s share of the walk and run,” Guild explained. “The gala is really an adult affair, while the run and walk is something fun, for the whole family. They are close together [on the calendar], but they’re also very different events.”

The gala will allow adults to see the playground without the kids in tow, and maybe even win a prize or two, in both live and silent auctions.

The Children’s League Executive Director Christine Lewis said that the silent auction has deliberately been kept small, with many donated offerings’ being combined, to create a less overwhelming, higher-quality auction.

“This is not one of those massive [theme] auctions you sometimes see,” Lewis clarified. “We’ve added the live auction to liven things up a little bit, this year. There is a huge variety of items that have been donated by local businesses and the community at large. We took many items and combined them; some baskets had six prizes. We call them very comprehensive prizes.”

In addition to those opportunities to win prizes, the League will be auctioning off an iPad® in a fixed-ticket auction, to which 100 tickets will be sold.

“There’s only a limited number of tickets available for that one, so your chances are pretty good,” Lewis added. “It raises the stakes, so to speak.”

Food will be catered by Julie’s Pizzeria of Springville, with what Lewis called “heavy appetizers” on offer, as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.

“People were afraid it was going to be pizza and wings, when they heard Julie’s, last year, but they really bring in a very nice spread,” Lewis said. “They have a really lovely variety.”

A trio of classical musicians will set the tone for the evening, as an occupational therapist from the League takes the stage with her two daughters, who are both music majors in college.

“They play this really soft, elegant music, for the early part of the evening. It’s really nice and relaxing,” Lewis added.

After the night gets rolling, a guitarist will take the stage, to entertain the crowd with more upbeat music.

The Night Under the Stars serves the dual purpose of raising money for The Children’s League and showcasing the facility’s one-of-a-kind playground structure, which Lewis said is the only fully-accessible playground in Western New York. That structure will serve as a staging area for the silent auction and will be strung with white twinkle lights, to create what Lewis called “a beautiful atmosphere, for a really special night.”

The playground, which is open to the public, was built by a community build event, four years ago, in which 150 volunteers gathered on a drizzly October weekend, to help erect the structure.

“It was a very exciting weekend, in which our whole community really came together,” Lewis said. “It’s just a magnificent area and was designed as a playground and a garden, by an architect whose child also has special needs, so they were very attuned to that aspect of it.”

The playground area features two play structures, a picnic grove, paths, gardens and a dance chimes area, dedicated to Dale Manchester, the league’s former attorney.

A team of occupational and physical therapists worked with the architect, to build the playground, so that it was designed with accessible ramps and platforms, as well as staircases, slides and other playful equipment that helps the students accomplish their therapeutic goals.

“We don’t really advertise the fact that it’s open, but most evenings, I drive by and see cars in the parking lot,” Lewis said, about the structure. “It really is marvelous, and a huge draw.”

She and the organizers are shooting for 150 attendees, although she said it is always difficult to predict attendance, from one year to the next.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed for the weather to hold,” she added, with a laugh. “And we learned a lot from last year, so we can make this year’s event even better.”

The Night Under the Stars will take place from 7 – 10 p.m. on July 27. There is a charge to attend.

The Children’s League is located at 393 North St. in Springville. Call the office at 592-9331 or visit www.preschoolearningcenter.org for tickets or more information.
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