I admit, Ken and I were greatly anticipating meeting actor Denzel Washington Saturday night at the Rye Town Hilton in Rye Brook, N.Y., as hubby was slated to receive the 'Denzel Lifetime Achievement in Sports' award from the Boys Club Girls Club (BCGC) of Mount Vernon. And, I admit, I feel much disappointment 24 hours later.
Turned out Denzel didn't show up to host the gala for reasons which event organizers are unsure. And it turned out Ken was rewarded in more distinctive ways Saturday evening than receiving the beautiful glass trophy or hobnobbing with Hollywood. He mingled, and reacquainted, with many of his childhood friends from his (and Denzel's) hometown of Mount Vernon - some of whom he hadn't seen since he left to play pro ball. He was touched particularly when folks approached him to say they knew his parents, the late Joe and Lucille Singleton.
"That made the whole night worthwhile," said Ken.
Actors Danny Glover and JB Smoove (of Curb Your Enthusiasm) provided the glitzy Hollywood component as they stepped on stage to stand in for Denzel. Learning about the mission of BCGC - and seeing so many alumni among the 600 guests - provided the inspiration.
"Our town was like the perfect place to grow up," said Ken. It was a melting pot ... one-third Jewish, one-third Italian, and one-third black. People worked together. The schools were excellent, the recreation opportunities were wonderful, and it was close to New York City."
The mission of this national nonprofit organization is to fight juvenile delinquency by helping youth, especially from high-risk neighborhoods, to make the most of their lives, with objectives to build self esteem, nurture talent, and contribute to society on personal paths to success.
When Ken was growing up, the club was situated a half mile from the Singleton's house on Seneca Avenue (the house was sold to them by former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca). The BCGC facility was a place Ken and his brother Fred sometimes utilized as boys; a safe place in which to play in a weekend basketball league and socialize with their neighborhood peers.
Decades later as it celebrates its 100 year anniversary in Mount Vernon, on South 6th Street, it offers even greater and more intricate programs and growth opportunities for kids than it did in the 1950's.
Little did the Mount Vernon BCGC founders know they would churn out Hollywood actors, pro athletes, entertainers, senators, and a New York Yankees announcer. And little did the young boys and girls of Mount Vernon families know they possessed the potential to grow into fine people who could achieve impressive careers.
"Every child follows a path in life," said Lowes Moore, executive director. "For many, that path will lead them to a door that gives them a place to grow, to learn, to belong, and a place to forge their future."
It's Sunday around supper time. Ken, the teens, and I just arrived home from N.Y. and lugged our suitcases upstairs. As I stopped to blow a kiss to my in-law's' smiling photograph kept in my walk-in closet, I thought about how much they would have enjoyed attending the gala last night with us ... yes, because they were always so proud of Ken and Fred, yet also to greet old friends, and to be in New York near where they raised a family and set fine examples of how to make a life successful instead of wasteful.
And I know for Joe & Lucille, a.k.a. "Ma" and "Pop," the evening would have been superb - with or without Hollywood.
The Singleton family acknowledges and appreciates:
1) The incredible support of the YES NETWORK, particularly John Filipelli, Ashley Fugazy, and Eric Handler, who attended the gala in support of their co-worker Ken, and arranged YES' involvement with the gala by sponsoring a table and program ad.
2) The other five honorees who received Denzel Lifetime Achievement awards: NY State Senator Malcolm Smith; Mount Vernon Kiwanis member Rosemary Cornacchio; the late John Branca (educator, coach, commissioner); WCBS-2's meterologist Elise Finch; and the late Butch Lewis (boxing and entertainment promoter).
3) The Boys Club Girls Club of Mount Vernon, its staff and the gala committee, for choosing Ken to receive this award and hosting our family that evening. Thank you.