Golfers at the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club had a chance to tee off with the likes of Geraldo Rivera and Sean Hannity at the 33rd Annual Geraldo Rivera Golf Classic to celebrate Life’s WORC’s 50th anniversary on Monday.
“We’ve had an unusual year or more and we’ve not been able to have any events,” said Janet Koch, the organization’s CEO, “so for people to come together like this and support our cause, we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”
According to the Life’s WORC website, the organization was founded in the 1970s by Vicki Schneps whose daughter, Lara, was diagnosed with severe brain damage when she was a child. Schneps’ daughter was one of the 5,000 residents at Willowbrook State Institution in Staten Island, which was over-capacity and poorly run, with terrible living conditions that got worse after the state cut funding to the facility.
At the time an up-and-coming reporter in 1972, Geraldo Rivera did extensive investigative reporting on the deplorable conditions of the institution where he interviewed Schneps about her experiences as a vocal advocate for the residents’ rights and better treatment for people with developmental disabilities. The story gained national attention.
Since then the organization has opened group homes across Queens, providing educational and skill-building opportunities for kids and teens. In the 2000s its headquarters moved to Garden City and several more homes opened in both Queens and Long Island. Most recently, in 2015 Life’s WORC opened The Family Center for Autism where people can go to participate in classes and programs, among other social activities.
“Fifty homes have been opened with wonderful opportunities in a great environment with humane care and treatment with all the rights of any other citizen of the United States,” Rivera said. “It’s a miracle how far we’ve come. There are so many bad news stories out there, but this is a celebration.”
The daylong event included brunch, golf, and later, a dinner reception with speakers such as Peter J. Klein, chief investment officer and founder of ALINE Wealth, and Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, PC Partner, E. Christopher Murray, to commemorate the non-profit’s 50 years of advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Sean Hannity, political commentator on Fox News, also addressed the turnout on Monday, stating, “I want to thank you all for what you do every day. All of us, we do our thing and hopefully we make the world a better place. [Geraldo Rivera] has done so much for so many and seeing this crowd today makes me so happy.”