Therapeutic Nursery at the Kaplen JCC celebrates 20 years
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Therapeutic Nursery at the Kaplen JCC celebrates 20 years

The JCC’s president, JoJo Rubach; honoree Kelly Sptizley; Therapeutic Nursery director Lois Mendelson; honoree Amber Sabathia; the JCC’s CEO, Sue Gelsey, and its CEO, Jordan Shenker. (Photos courtesy JCCOTP)
The JCC’s president, JoJo Rubach; honoree Kelly Sptizley; Therapeutic Nursery director Lois Mendelson; honoree Amber Sabathia; the JCC’s CEO, Sue Gelsey, and its CEO, Jordan Shenker. (Photos courtesy JCCOTP)

Amber Sabathia and Kelly Spitzley, local leaders and longtime supporters of the Therapeutic Nursery at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, were honored before a crowd of more than 200 people at a celebration marking the program’s 20th anniversary. Lois Mendelson, PhD, the school’s co-founder and director, also was honored with the Visionary in Education award, which recognized her contributions to this program. Nina Pineda, anchor of “Eyewitness News’ 7 On Your Side,” was the evening’s master of ceremonies.

The celebration, held at the JCC, included hors d’oeurves, wine, and food stations, and featured classical guitar music, as well as video and award presentations. Proceeds from the night will support the newly established Doris Allen and Lois Mendelson Therapeutic Nursery Scholarship Fund.

Geraldo Rivera, gala co-chair Erica Rivera, Lois Mendelson, Jordan Shenker, and Sol Rivera, in the front. Sol is Geraldo and Erica’s daughter, who spoke at the event.
Geraldo Rivera, gala co-chair Erica Rivera, Lois Mendelson, Jordan Shenker, and Sol Rivera, in the front. Sol is Geraldo and Erica’s daughter, who spoke at the event.

“This program has been providing children and their families with life-changing experiences for two decades and serves as a national role model for other institutions to emulate,” the JCC’s CEO, Jordan Shenker, said. “Participants have relocated from as far away as California and Israel to attend, and we couldn’t be more proud of what Lois and her incredible staff have achieved for these children — many of whom have gone on to attend typical public and private schools and earn advanced degrees. Amber Sabathia is the creator and designer of Candy ClothingTM, a clothing line for children. As an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and published columnist, she is a staunch supporter of the Therapeutic Nursery. Amber and her husband CC Sabathia, six-time All-Star and Cy Young award-winning pitcher for the New York Yankees, also co-founded the PitCCh In Foundation, whose work is to enrich the lives of at-risk youth in inner cities. Kelly Spitzley, whose second son was diagnosed with autism when he was 2, is a passionate autism activist. Grateful for the successful assistance her son received at the JCC Therapeutic Nursery over the years, Kelly has supported the school ardently and referred many families to it. Kelly also is the founder of her own company, KISS — Kelly’s Interior Staging and Style — which combines her decorating and real estate skills.

The Therapeutic Nursery is for bright 2- to 6-year-olds who have developmental difficulties. The program is unique because of the extent to which it includes parents, who attend classes on a daily basis and play a central role in their child’s treatment. Students may enter the program any time during the school year with director’s approval. For information, call Gineen Weiss at (201) 408-1439 or email tn@jccotp.org.

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