Written by Marilou Giammona Wednesday, 12 June 2013 07:40
Runners came in droves, volunteers topped 300, and partygoers lit up Centennial Gardens with their ever-glowing smiles. Indeed, the Hance Family Foundation (HFF), founded in memory of three young sisters whose lives were cut short in a tragic automobile accident on the Taconic Parkway in July 2009, continues to outdo itself year after year.
“This year’s event was larger than ever, highlighting as usual the HFF’s achievements of the past year and our programs,” said HFF Executive Director Bernadette E. Smith.
The day’s starting gun sounded with a festival of races: a 5K, Emma’s Mile and the Pee Wee run, which collectively attracted 1,861 runners, topping last year’s roster by 400 participants. Following the races, residents from Floral Park and surrounding communities enjoyed live music, games and rides, arts and crafts, and “by far the most amazing auction baskets to date,” Smith said.
Thanks to $175,000 in fundraising, a more than 25-percent jump over last year, HFF co-presidents Jackie and Warren Hance are able to perpetuate and widen the scope of their vision to help other children. Shortly after the tragic loss of their three daughters—Emma (8), Alyson (7) and Katie (5)—donations started to flow in, and the couple launched the HFF to honor the girls’ lives by ensuring healthy, happy and safe children through innovative self-esteem educational programming and supporting children in need. Toward that end, the foundation created and implemented The EAK Projects: the flagship “Beautiful Me…The EAK Project,” “Grown With Me,” and “You + Me.”
This year, the foundation expanded its reach of The EAK Projects, delivered school supplies to hundreds of underprivileged students, delivered supplies for Hurricane Sandy relief and hosted its annual toy drive, delivering thousands of toys to children on Long Island, Queens and the Bronx, according to Smith. Going forward, the foundation will focus its main efforts on the continued growth of the Beautiful Me program.
“We have surpassed the 6,000 participant mark” for Beautiful Me, Smith said. “While local efforts and programs will remain in effect, we hope to grow Beautiful Me nationally and even internationally. All girls and young women can benefit from this important project.”
To date, Beautiful Me has reached girls and young women in elementary and high schools, universities, and after-school programs.
“Beautiful Me went to Marymount School in Paris, France, where it was well-received by students and staff, and we are discussing ways to continue to move it forward internationally,” Smith said.
Locally, the program has been to St. Joseph’s College in Suffolk, St. John’s University and Scranton University. The program is firmly ensconced in the Sachem and Amityville School Districts, as well as many other schools and districts across Long Island and New York City. “It has been modified for different age groups and disabilities,” Smith said.
Aside from finding solace in helping to spread the lessons that Emma, Alyson and Katie exemplified in their daily lives, Jackie and
Warren Hance have found renewed meaning since the birth of their daughter, Kasey Rose, in October 2011. In a recent interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry, Jackie said of Kasey, “She brings a heartbeat to this house again. There was none. She brought us back to life.’’
Jackie also recently published a memoir. I’ll See You Again chronicles the day she received the phone call that her three beautiful daughters were gone forever through her and Warren’s struggle to find forgiveness and hope. Just weeks after it was released, the book landed on The New York Times’ Best Seller list on May 12, Mother’s Day.
“The foundation board is immensely proud of Jackie, who tells her story with honesty, grace and dignity, and reminds us once again why this foundation exists,” Smith said. “She details the lives of the three beautiful sisters we honor through our work, and illustrates the ideals that make life worth living: love and hope.”