The Kid from Far Rockaway

I usually describe myself as “just a kid from Far Rockaway.” It’s sort of a salute to the modest beach town on the Rockaway peninsula where I grew up. A few blocks away from our house in the Bayswater area was the Gustave Hartman Orphan Home. The kids who lived there were homeless. They had no parents. Many of them were victims of war. They were our classmates and friends, as were Alice and Kenny Hartman, whose mother ran the orphanage.

These kids regularly stopped at our big old house on their way to school so we could walk together. Maybe those kids felt safer walking in a “pack.” Maybe they liked our breakfast snacks. Maybe they just felt welcome at our home. Recently, I had reason to recall these kids when the folks from St. Christopher’s called to say they wanted to honor ArtsWestchester for our teen arts program. St. Christopher’s is a place where many children live separated from parents who, for various reasons, are unable to take care of them. Some of these kids attend Teen Tuesdays and Thursdays, our teen after-school arts program. St. Christopher’s has embraced the transformative power of the arts. Says Donald Antonecchia, CEO of St. Christopher’s: “Artistic expression helps develop self-respect, self-efficacy, resilience, empathy and confidence, in addition to the collaborative and critical thinking skills requisite for success in life.” For news about St. Christopher’s Starry Night of Art & Fun gala, click here. It’s for the arts but all about the kids.

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