What a week!
I delightedly celebrated seeing my old friend Geraldo Rivera once again support the group I founded, relished my grandson’s graduation from law school at NYU and then had the bittersweet celebration of my grandchildren’s birthdays on the day of my late daughter Lara’s birthday, too!
The week began and ended with memories of my daughter Lara, who was born on May 23. Lara was brain damaged at birth, but taught me more than any person on Earth.
She was developmentally a 3-month-old and her birth pushed me into a world of helping her — hoping first for a cure and then for care. My late husband and I dreamed that a place on Staten Island called Willowbrook State School with a newly built infant rehabilitation program for babies would offer hope. It did for a short time.
I lived in a high-rise community with other young women who warmly said to me, “There but for the grace of God go I. How can I help you, Vicki?”
And so in my living room we founded WORC (Women’s Organization for Retarded Children). The name has changed to Life’s WORC and the organization provides help and hope to thousands of children like Lara.
Going back to the early 1970s, we sent busloads of volunteers to Willowbrook and raised money for the 5,400 people living there. Within a year of Lara being at Willowbrook, Governor Nelson Rockefeller slashed the funding for the school and the helpless people living there were in crisis due to the lack of staff to care for their needs. After all, my Lara had to be fed, diapered and bathed, needing total care.
My many volunteers and I became marchers and picketers demanding the return of the funds. But no one was listening until a cub reporter named Geraldo Rivera brought his passion and power of the press to our cause through his brilliant TV coverage that shamed and outraged the city.
My late husband Murray Schneps believed that only a federal class action lawsuit could save our Lara and her fellow residents. Thanks to Geraldo’s persistent and persuasive coverage, the parents of the people living at Willowbrook agreed to sign on to the litigation.
The court battle was won and Lara and her “friends” were now provided with funds to move into small group homes with day programs to help with rehabilitation opportunities.
Today, networks of organizations allow others like Lara to live a life of dignity and the ability to be the most they can be.
Lara led me on a path that I would never have imagined for myself and Geraldo inspired me to want to be in the news business — that’s how I started my first newspaper on the same sofa as I started Life’s WORC.
It made my heart sing on Monday when I saw Geraldo and his beautiful wife Erica and their friend Sean Hannity kick off the 33rd Annual Geraldo Rivera Golf Classic at the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club. For almost 50 years now, Geraldo has supported Life’s WORC in their efforts to provide a quality of life to people who desperately need it as do their families.
Yes, Lara, your influence has lived on beyond the years God gave you on this Earth. Happy birthday, my beloved.
But the spotlight for the rest of the week was on my grandchildren and their celebrations.
My beloved, late husband Stu Yunis would have been beaming with pride at his strapping, brilliant grandson Zach’s graduation from law school at NYU, as his dad Jim Broner did a few decades before.
It was a comfortable celebration in the Broner home, with all of us watching the virtual graduation ceremony on the 60-inch TV in the living room. We toasted with champagne as Zach’s photo crossed in front of us. Thanks to the TV clicker, we stopped the graduation and took multiple photos of him on screen and in person! What joy!
Later in the week my 9-year-old granddaughter Addy and 12-year-old granddaughter Morgan shared their birthdays and we relished our Chinese food at our family dinner celebration.
What a way to end a wonderful week! How grateful I am!