Hundreds of people attended the 30th Annual Geraldo Rivera Golf & Tennis Classic benefitting the nonprofit Life’s WORC and The Family Center for Autism on Thursday at The Creek Club golf course in Locust Valley.

Supporters of the sold-out event participated in a day of golf, tennis, lunch and card games followed by a cocktail reception, dinner and silent auction. The guest of honor was Anthony Taormina, Jr., vice president of operations for Rose Mechanical Corp. in Hauppauge. Rivera reflected on the reason for the founding of the nonprofit group that provides support to children and adults with autism.

“If government doesn’t do it, that means the private citizens have to step up,” he said. “And a problem like a chronic disability, it never goes away. So every year you have to raise money to keep the services that you have established running, and then you want to broaden the support, because it’s always needed.”

Long Island Press co-publisher Vicki Schneps founded Life’s WORC in 1971 out of the needs of her daughter, Lara, who was a resident in the baby buildings of the infamous Willowbrook State institution on Staten Island, which deteriorated after government funding cuts. She gave interviews to reporter Geraldo Rivera, helping him expose deplorable conditions there before she and her husband filed a federal class action lawsuit that closed the institution.

“What happens when you have an autistic child?” Rivera continued. “You’re a parent, you work 10 times harder than a parent with an able-bodied kid… What happens when the child is now 20, and you’re 50, they’re 30 and you’re 60, they’re 40 and you’re 70? No one thinks it through – what happens to the autistic child at 50? These are challenges that will last as long as we are here.”

The nonprofit Life’s WORC recently opened The Family Center for Autism in Garden City and offers comprehensive services to more than 1,200 people as well as provide running group homes to over 250 more adults with disabilities in Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as Queens.

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