The omelets swooshed in the pans, old friends embraced and golfers took the course at the Seawane Club in Hewlett Harbor for the 31st annual Life’s WORC Geraldo Rivera Golf Classic on May 24. It was the first time that the celebrity journalist’s charitable event came to the Five Towns.
Hewlett Harbor resident Tariq Khan, a WORC board member for the past seven years and Barry Koff, of Long Beach, and an involved supporter for five years, were the Guests of Honor.
“A friend of mine invited me one year and the next year I came with a foursome, and then I got involved, what they do is a great job,” said Khan, who admitted to being a 16-handicap golfer. “We have forty-two homes and help people with physical challenges. We have a very productive board.” Fittingly, there were 42 foursomes this year.
Proceeds benefit Life’s WORC and the Family Center for Autism in Garden City. Life’s WORC is a nonprofit that offers comprehensive support and services to people with developmental disabilities or autism to help them face their unique challenges and propels them toward a positive lifestyle.
For Koff, it’s somewhat personal as his daughter, 27, is on the spectrum, he said, but high functioning and holds a job. “I donate to them and they asked me to help and I support what they do,” said Koff, a lifetime Long Beach resident who was born in Long Beach Hospital. “It’s a great charity that helps many, many people. And it’s a difficult road for any family that has a situation like that.” The 11-hndicap golfer, who was once as low as a 2-handicap was ready to play on the picture-postcard perfect day.
Spurred by his journalistic triumph, when, in 1972, he gained national attention and won a Peabody Award for his WABC-TV report on the neglect and abuse of patients with intellectual disabilities at Staten Island’s Willowbrook State School, Rivera has raised money for Life’s WORC for 45 years. Vicki Schneps, the mother of a former Willowbrook resident, founded the agency in 1971.
“This is near and dear to me,” said the native Long Islander, who graduated from West Babylon High School. “Willowbrook had historic ramifications and began to change the grim reality. This is the most important work I do. To see the progress that has been made is very gratifying.”