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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Oct 01, 2020

Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation Presents Star-Studded Event

By Lori Draz and Joanne Colella

A fantastic fall fundraiser will shine the spotlight on the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids (AOK) Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to allowing children in need to benefit from creative expression, increased self-esteem, improved academic focus, vital sense of belonging, and positive reinforcement through the performing arts. This October, the AOK Foundation will present its biggest event of the year, the Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition, a fundraiser to assist more children who would not otherwise have the chance to walk through the doors of a vocal, instrumental, acting, or dance studio for personal instruction.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 pm, the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation will present the gala fundraiser virtually, but it will be every bit as entertaining and inspirational as before.

The event will be hosted on Zoom and will begin with children performers, moving toward the adult competition. Contestants will perform before a panel of celebrity judges, each of whom are professionals in their talent area like dance, theater, voice and musical performance. Judges include stars from soap operas, Netflix, ABC, TV/film/live stage acting and more. The evening concludes with a sing-along, and dancing in your living room is highly recommended.

Thanks to the extensive reach allowed by this year’s interactive virtual format, the inspiring fundraiser will be a bi-coastal celebration, with select talent from New Jersey, New York, and California appearing. A range of accomplished adult contestants auditioned for a spot on the virtual stage, where they will vie for the Zzak G. Spotlight Award, the second place award, and the Audience Choice Award. In addition to the talent competition, the evening will also include entertainment by members of the Zzak G. AOK Performance Group, appearances by AOK fund recipient families who will share their personal experiences with the organization, and other surprises.

The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation was started by sisters Jodi and Melissa Grinwald in honor of their father, Zzak. Zzak G. was a singer/songwriter with a lifelong passion for music that started in childhood. He was financially unable to take singing lessons as a child. Zzak finally began studying voice in his 60s. That was also when he tragically was diagnosed with ALS. The disease moved quickly, claiming his life in just six months. He told his daughters that his greatest regret was that he was not able to connect with performing arts throughout his childhood.

Zzak G.

These determined daughters literally took the last $100 bill from their father’s wallet to start the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation which raises funds to pay for performing arts lessons for students with financial barriers. They sponsor students of dance, theater, voice and music, directly paying the teachers, studios or schools so that those who love the arts have a chance to learn and perform. They also provide the articles performers need, including dance shoes, instruments and supplies. Children ages 7 to 18 who meet the financial needs requirements can be funded for up to 11 years.

The need is greater than ever before. Schools and arts organizations have faced severe budgetary limitations. Additionally, many of the arts and theater programs in schools are not being held due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.

To purchase tickets for the Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition, visit aoksoiree2020.eventbrite.com. To see the celebrities on the panel and cast your audience choice vote for a contestant, visit bit.ly/aoksoiree.
If you would like to donate to the performing arts education of a student, email melissa@applaudourkids.org or visit applaudourkids.org.