31st Annual Awards Dinner Recap
“Sandy may have delayed us, but she couldn’t keep us down!”
That phrase sums up the attitude of the trustees, honorees and the dinner committee who worked to ensure that the Tri-County Scholarship Fund 31st Annual Awards Dinner would take place, despite the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The dinner, originally slated for October 29th, was postponed until November 19th. Despite many setbacks and inconveniences, some 400 people gathered to honor Peter Simon and Darla Romfo and to raise more than $780,000 in scholarship funds for New Jersey inner-city children.
Tri-County, which was begun in 1981, is a non-profit organization that provides financial support to deserving and economically disadvantaged children in Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties. Since its beginning, the fund has raised over $21 million and given in excess of 29,000 scholarships to students in grades K-12.
The dinner, held at the Parsippany Hilton, began with a selection of classic American songs sung by the scholarship students who were present. Guests were also treated to inspiring stories from an 8th grader, Kaitlyn Fana, and a high school senior, Mahogany Godfrey. Ms. Godfrey, who is from Paterson and attends De Paul Catholic High School in Wayne, spoke movingly about loss in her life, including the loss of her first high school due to school closures. That loss, following closely on the deaths of her father, grandfather and grandmother, was extremely difficult. Speaking of her discovery of DePaul Catholic High School, Mahogany said: “They seemed like a family, like they knew what pain I was feeling and they were going to help me get through. Tri-County Scholarship Fund helped me and my family out tremendously because they gave me money to go to DePaul.” Summing up her experience, Mahogany exclaimed: “Who knew that the sophomore transfer could become the Student Council President today?”
Due to the schedule change, Darla Romfo, president and COO of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, was unable to be present. Darla will be given Tri-County’s Making a Difference award in Manhattan in December.
For many, the highlight of the night was the remarks of Peter Simon, who received the Hall of Fame award. Mr. Simon is the co-chairman of W.E. Simon and Sons and an appointed member of the New Jersey Board of Education. Noting the fact that in Paterson 55% of incoming freshmen will not graduate four years later, he spoke passionately about their limited options and the likelihood of jail for many of them. Addressing the crowd, Mr. Simon said: “I am proud of you all because you are here tonight to stop this nightmare. We are giving 600 children another year in a good school where they will be fed and educated. Fed – yes, that’s what I said. Nutrition helps the mind function and 90% of the families Tri-County serves qualify for the Federal School Meal Plan. But the education part of their story is the real triumph: this past year, every Tri-County senior graduated from high school and 99% of them went on to college. A high school education is a game-changer in people’s life pattern for earnings.”
He continued: “I feel privileged because I have been given the chance for a few minutes to tell a crowd about this. Congratulations for being here and helping. I am humbled because of my good fortune of being born in a zip code where I received the education and prospered in the network that it afforded me. I have no idea why me and not someone else. But I know I need to help and thanks to all of you for doing the same. We all live in the most generous country in the world by a long shot. Fiscal cliff be damned!!! My heart is filled with thanksgiving for our blessings enjoyed and shared by the Tri-County family. Thank you.”
Anyone interested in helping Tri-County Scholarship Fund improve the lives of New Jersey’s vulnerable children, please contact us at www.tcsfund.org or call 973 984-9600.