NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Thanks to the Yorktown Lions Club, the students at North Salem’s Westchester Exceptional Children’s School (WEC) enjoyed a summertime barbecue on Wednesday, complete with grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, games like hopscotch and leapfrog, a bouncy house and an appearance by SpongeBob SquarePants.
“I’m still in shock that they did this,” said WEC Director Linda Zinn. “They brought all these young men and women, they brought the grill, the bouncy house, the food. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It’s been a tough year financially.”
Al Avitabile of the Yorktown Lions Club explained, “We started a Leo group within the WEC school.” The Leos are the younger members of the Lions Club. “They do the same things that other Leo kids do. They write to soldiers, make Christmas cards, do food pantry drives, et cetera.”
Wednesday’s barbecue was manned primarily by the Leos from Yorktown. Most of the 80 students enrolled in the WEC summer program were on hand to enjoy it.
“WEC is a 12-month program,” Zinn explained. “Most kids go year-round, a few come just for the summer. The students range in age from five to 21. They graduate at 21.
“Most kids travel an hour and a half in each direction to come here. We’ve got kids from the five boroughs, and from Dutchess and Orange counties as well.
“When our students walk through the door, they feel love. It’s a safe haven. They feel they’re a part of something,” she continued. “We have athletic teams and cheerleaders. We even have a prom for the 16- to 21-year-olds. Everyone gets dressed up and they dance the night away.”
An important feature of the training at WEC is its career exploration program. Alumnus Nicholas Scarnati, who said in his June graduation speech that he hoped he would get a job, returned to the school for the barbecue. “I was here for 14 years,” he said. “I miss it.” Did he get the job he hoped for?
“I got a job at ShopRite,” he said with a smile. “It’s a janitorial position. I start in September.”