I was annoyed that I hadn’t been invited to the previous two, especially if they were as spectacular as this one.
The purpose of the event is to bring together community leaders; community business organizations; community-based organizations and elected officials; organizations with which the Aquarium has partnered; and organizations and individuals who have lent support to the Aquarium.
In attendance at dinner were elected officials, community leaders and business owners, many of whom I mentioned in the first column: schools and individuals that were supportive of the Aquarium’s petition and letter-writing campaign to restore its state and city funding.
The honorees in the three different categories were Edward Willensky, principal of Rachel Carson HS, for education; Charise Lawrence, of the Department for the Aging, for community;and Deno’s Wonder Wheel family for business.
The Vourderis family, which owns and operates Coney Island’s iconic Ferris wheel, is one of the Aquarium’s wonderful Boardwalk Buddies. The fabulous Wonder Wheel is a towering 150 ft tall, 200,000-pound wheel designed in a unique fashion, with both stationery and swinging cars. Three generations of the Vourderis family have taken great pride in developing the business since 1920.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel is named after Denos Vourderis, a Greek immigrant and father of current owners Dennis and Steven Vourderis and grandson Mat. Denos had the foresight to landmark the Wonder Wheel to preserve it for future fun-seekers.
Over 30 million rides have been given since it was opened in 1920 and the Wonder Wheel has been in continuous summertime operation since that time.
The family’s many accomplishments include the installation of LED “green” bulbs and solar panels for lighting on the Wonder Wheel, as the family anticipates entertaining generations to come.
Deno’s is deeply entrenched in the Coney Island community and committed to giving back — it has hired from the community for over 30 years. After a nearly 30-year hiatus, Dennis and the family were instrumental in the return of the beloved summertime Friday night fireworks in Coney Island. They have supported many Coney Island organizations, including the Salt and Sea Mission and the Aquarium. Dennis has been a long-standing member of Community Board 13.
In addition to her extensive background as a city government liaison to community boards, aging committees, community-based organizations, civic groups and local elected officials, Charisehas worked on a variety of special projects within and outside the agency as a chairperson, co-chair or committee member. Lawrence has such a huge amount of activities, honors and events she is credited with that the list is endless, and much too long to put in this one column. Her good works abound!
Ed has been in District 21 for a ton of years and was recognized as an educator who exemplifies excellence in their field and has made an outstanding contribution to the students of Brooklyn. He has been the principal of the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies, since 2006. The Aquarium was instrumental in the school’s opening in 2005. Rachel Carson HS provides under-resourced high school students with an opportunity to learn about and experience marine biology while promoting academic rigor and excellence across the curriculum. Founded in 2005, the school graduated its first class of seniors in 2009. The school’s graduate rate was about 10 points higher than the average for city public schools.
Ed’s affiliation with the Aquarium and love of things marine goes back much further however.
As a teen, Ed was a docent at the Aquarium, interpreting exhibits and educating visitors about the wonders of the seas. Some of his students participate in that program today.
Through his tireless efforts, he has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to furthering people’s interest in marine biology and conservation. Ed is committed to providing his students with the highest quality educational resources and is helping to create the next generation of conservation stewards. He was the 2010 winner of the Building Partnership Award in Education.
Congratulations to the honorees and kudos to the Wildlife Conservation Society for the very successful and glorious event!
Screech at you next week!