- What began as a masters thesis project some 31 years ago for Kathy Bishop
has now grown into one of the East End's most successful and well respected early childhood institutions, The Children's School at Stony Brook Southampton. Hundreds of supporters gathered at Hampton Hall for the school's annual fundraiser and to celebrate the achievements of the school, its founding director Kathy Bishop and dedicated staff whose unconditional support has allowed the school to thrive for over three decades.
Though the temperatures were chilly and rain spurted every so often, scores of parents and their friends put on their best resort looks and joined in for "Cruising Into Spring," a festive party with a cruise ship theme featuring a martini bar, copious hors d'oeuvres, a buffet dinner and a massive Chinese Auction chaired by parents Tanya Luss
and Cynthia Filipelli
Each year the committees for the event outdo themselves in creativity, transforming the hollow shell of Hampton Hall into a fantasy setting. This year, upon entering one crossed a bridge much like the ones seen on cruise line ships to step "Aboard" where they were greeted by hosts in sailor caps bearing armfuls of leis to bestow on attendees.
The bridge was made by the Plush
family - Alan
with the help of their children and students at the school. Alan Plush explained, "The Children's School is all about building bridges and we were happy to do our part." He also stated, he had designed it so that it could be moved into the school playground where the all the kids will be able to "climb aboard."
The Chinese Auction took up literally half of the hall and was filled with over 300 offerings from a jaunty sailor cap on an oversized Teddy bear to numerous gift baskets of wine to handcrafted goods from dollhouses to jewelry to ladies accessories donated by local merchants and the families of the school's students. Parent Diana Esposito
was seen proudly showing off her skills with a lovely dollhouse that would make any little girl's heart sing.
Welcome sign for "Cruising Into Spring" at the Children's School, hosted by Kathy Bishop.
In another corner, Krissy Mielenhausen
was setting up the jeweled creations she had fashioned from found objects. "It's really a family affair," she commented, "I take my children Max
for walks along the beaches of Peconic Bay searching for shells, interesting stones and beach glass. The kids love to help because they know that Mom is making gifts to raise money for their school."
Over at the Ketel One Vodka
Luge Bar, parent Teague Cameron
was shaking up martinis but was clearly a little preoccupied. Cameron, the father of students Carla
, said "We're having another baby - and I hope it's not tonight." Cameron's wife was at home with family and he was praying he wouldn't get a call while he was pouring cocktails!
The Plushs bought a "new home."
Indicative of the dedication of the parents is Kelly Pike,
who with the co-chairs, manned the welcome table. Kelly's five children attended the school and though all of them are now in elementary
school she continues her support. "It's the least I can do to say thank you to all these dedicated teachers and staff who have educated my children so well," she offered.
That was a sentiment heard throughout the evening as parents sang the praises of Kathy Bishop and her team. Pike spoke of "The incredible sense of family here and absolute caring that comes from the director and the staff." New parents Lisa
and John Haley
whose son Luke
, almost three, just started at the school were "delighted to meet the other parents and become part of the Children's School family." Chrissy Phillips
who attended the school 20 years ago and now has a child in the school explained what sets the school apart from others, "They recognize that each child is different and each has its own needs."
Guests continued to pore over the enormous array of gifts in the Chinese Auction where one wall had at least 50 bags offering dinner packages at area restaurants. Still another was lined with health and beauty treatments, and spa packages. Gift certificates were not simply laid out in a row but artfully displayed - the Hampton Jitney
book of tickets was affixed to an oversize apple emblazoned with the New York skyline and a family package for Atlantis World Aquarium was pinned to a cute plush tropical fish. Adding further personal touches were the Porthole Portraits created by Rachel Bishop
of each of the students peering through a porthole that lined the walls like a real ocean liner.
The highlight of the evening was the live Art Auction conducted by Tim Burke
which featured signed "masterpieces" by the Children's School students which was to raise funds specifically for the nursery school. There were enormous paintings and tiny step stools all hand-painted by the kids. Bidding on all the items was fierce as the room was filled with many proud grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents. Several pictures went for over $400!
Debby Ward, Lindsey Ward, Debbie Brooks, Linda and Brian Cook.
Following the auction DJ Chris kept the beat going and raised the party quotient up a notch as the dance floor filled. Still others piled plates high with pasta and salad and a tempting array of sweets courtesy of Tim Burke of 75 Main
. All the while Children's School director Kathy Bishop was seen darting around the room accepting congratulations and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves while her husband Congressman Tim Bishop
watched bemusedly knowing that she was totally in her element. Chrissy Phillips
and Amy Cerullo
, the 2010 co-chairs were already enlisting support from Amy's husband Joe Cerullo
of Vanguard Funding Mortgage bankers. "Never too early to start lining up the corporates," quipped Joe.
As guests departed event organizers passed out little parting gifts of boxed scented seashell soaps courtesy of the Rego Family
. Allan Plush who had purchased Diana Esposito's dream doll house had a hard time balancing the house so one of the helpers popped his gifts into the tiny living room!