Luna Park donated $25,000 to a Coney Island youth charity group, adding yet another the group has done as a part of their annual tradition.
Alessandro Zamperla, president and CEO of Central Amusement International Inc., at their annual awards ceremony on April 29, presented the gift to the Coney Island Sharks, a community-based sports program for young Brooklynites.
The money comes as a result of Luna Park’s annual Donation Day tradition (falling this year on April 2) in which the park donates all its wristband proceeds from a single day’s park sales to charitable organizations.
“We’ve been blessed to partner with great organizations, one of which is the Coney Island Sharks, an amazing local charity youth dedicated organization that really has invested for more than 33 years in the community, especially in the developing social skills, educational skills and the youth of the community,” Zamperla told Brooklyn Paper.
He says the park is happy to support local groups that positively impact the community and the nearly 25,000 people who live on the peninsula.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “ I do believe that if you have the privilege to be able to help, it’s a responsibility so that is something I think is specific when it comes to Coney Island because we are completely ingrained and rooted in the community. That’s something that we’re very proud of.”
According to Zamperla, the park has partnered with the Coney Island Sharks for a couple years. Alessandro and his father, Alberto, the late theme park patriarch, initially stepped in to support the group after someone broke into their trailer and stole their football equipment a few years ago.
“Having that opportunity to help in different ways — their growth, their development, to help them reach their potential — I think is really amazing,” he said. “We believe in supporting the organizations that are really doing the work to make sure youth can really develop and can take paths that actually have a good future.”
As a sign of their growing relationship, the Coney Island Sharks surprised the amusement park president by naming one of their leadership awards after Alberto Zamperla, who passed unexpectedly in 2022.
“It was really a huge honor for us,” Zamperla said.“They obviously embraced us. They gave us so much love on Saturday.”
Priscilla Santos, president of the Coney Island Sharks, says funds from this donation support various aspects of their organization.
“Our program it’s a very special program because we take in all children and it’s free,” Santos told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s important that people understand that we live in a community where violence is prominent. So we give kids an opportunity to be more effective in the way they’re doing things.”
The 60th precinct, which patrols the southern peninsula, reports a total of 387 crimes year-to-date with grand larceny and felony assault as the leading crimes.
Organizations like the Coney Island Sharks works to combat these growing rates by giving young Coney Islander’s a chance to explore their talents and excel in their academics.
“We wanna make sure that our kids have the same opportunity that everybody else has and tell them there’s more to our community than just violence and once they see that they’re not stuck in a hole [but] you have possibilities,” Santos said.
The first year the Luna Park team stepped in to support the Sharks, the team won their football championship, which couldn’t have been possible without the help of the Zamperla family, according to Santos.
“That was the first year Luna Park gave us their donation and they basically saved the football program because we were able to buy equipment again,” she said.
The Sharks plan to use this recent gift to pay for their upcoming season, travel needs and their tutoring material. They also hope to begin an art program soon so that children who aren’t athletic still have an opportunity to participate in an initiative that enriches their growth and better prepares them for the future.
“That’s what pushes us,” Santos said. “The entire purpose of this program is to save our kids and show them that there’s something that’s better for them out there.”
Luna Park also donated to Operation H.O.O.D., a cure violence initiative in Coney Island that aims to identify and mediate conflicts among high-risk youth and Give Kids The World Village, a nonprofit resort in Florida that provides critically ill children and their families with week-long wish vacations at no cost.