One of the projects that I was working on as the Junior Friends Chair of another Friends group two years ago was the holiday event, “Teens, Tots & Toys: the Holiday Festival” an all day event that was filled with movies, craft making and celebrity visits all to raise funds and collect toys for the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Midland Park, NJ. It had all been planned and then got cancelled. It was an omen too as it snowed the entire day that year and all holiday events had to be cancelled.
It was time to put the event into motion. As my holiday activities were in full swing, we had just finished Christmas tree sales selling 240 trees through our Men’s Association, Christmas Decorating judging with the Mayor’s Celebration Committee, visits to help out in the Soup Kitchen, the fire department’s Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ and volunteering for the Sinterklaas parade, ‘Teens, Tots & Toys’ was the last big event on my list of holiday events.
We invited US Champion, World Champion and Olympian Elaine Zayak to join us for a book reading, Q & A and then an autograph session to be followed by two movies and then lastly gingerbread house making. I knew it was going to be a long day. It had taken six weeks to plan.
Even though the crowds were low (I never understand the patrons of this library that don’t appreciate a really great free event), the event went off nicely. Elaine showed up with her son, Jack and could not have been friendlier. She had just come back from teaching at the Hackensack Ice House and was dressed in her US Figure Skating jacket. She was a true professional.
Elaine Zayak in 1994 when she came back at the United States National Champions
I felt embarrassed by the turnout but Elaine was like don’t worry about it. She had been through this before at book signings. She had been at ones where there were five people and some where there were fifty. She told me she wanted to have something where she and Jack could spend the day with each other and she could involved him. The afternoon was perfect for that.
We started the afternoon with a warm welcome to the crowd that was there and wished everyone a Happy Holiday season. Then I went on to talk about the Legend of ‘Tinker Street’, the magical elf, who the event was honoring and then I introduced Elaine.
‘Tinker Street, the Elf’
A lot of the audience did not know of the contributions to figure skating that Elaine had done. She had introduced so many triple jumps into her skating program when she was starting out that the famous ‘Zayak Rule’ had been created to limit the amount of jumps that you could have in a program. She also brought a sense of athleticism to the sport by encouraging skaters to not just use a sense of style but a sense power to the sport. This gave it a strong point after the ‘figures’ went away in the judging.
Elaine read along with her son, Jack, from the book the “Skating Shoes’ by Noel Streatfeild. This book was made famous by the movie, “You got Mail” when Meg Ryan mentions the book to a bookstore patron. It was a very uplifting book about two friends and fellow skaters who were starting to compete against each other. The two of them took time to read from the book.
Elaine Zayak and her son, Jack
During the Q & A, there were some interesting questions that many of the Friends members had such as her competitions, what it was like to be in the Olympics, many of the famous skaters that she competed with and against, the Tonya/Nancy affair that was taking place at the same time at Nationals in 1994 and what she was doing today. She took a lot of pride in what she was doing with her teaching and encouraging young skaters.
Ms. Zayak with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
We filmed the entire event and unfortunately the Mayor had been a little late because of a mix up in the time so we were able to refilm this segment of the program. We as the Friends, lead by our President Judy Schroeder, presented Elaine with an honorarium making her a member of the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library, the Library Director Siobhan Koch presented Elaine with her own copy of the book, “The Skating Shoes” and then the Mayor made his presentation.
Lodi, NJ Mayor Emil Carafa with Ms. Zayak
Lodi Borough Mayor Emil Carafa presented Elaine Zayak with an official medal from the Borough of Lodi, New Jersey and then placed the medal on her and read a proclamation from the Borough of Lodi honoring her many accomplishments. It was very touching to both her and the audience. Another nice thing about it is that the Mayor remembered when she was still skating as a teen and helping raise money for her to compete. Elaine also donated her fee to her two favorite charities, which we thought was very nice of her.
Mayor Carafa with Ms. Zayak
Everyone then joined us for a reception in honor of her visit. We had a beautiful spread of food donated by Inserra Shoprite of Lodi, New Jersey. The reception included a six foot Italian hoagie, a platter of fresh cut fruit, three trays of assorted cookies, assorted chips and assorted juices, bottled waters and sodas that the patrons could enjoy. Elaine’s son, Jack, really seemed to enjoy himself, first helping his mom with the book reading and then enjoying the good food.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library presenting Ms. Zayak with a membership to ‘The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library’
After Elaine and Jack left for the afternoon, we showed the film ‘Arthur Christmas’, the story about one of Santa’s two sons who helps save Christmas for one little girl whose gift was left behind in the North Pole. It is a very uplifting movie about the true meaning of the holiday and the spirit of giving.
After the movie, about fifteen families with about thirty children participated in the first annual making of Gingerbread houses, in which everyone looked like they had a lot of fun. You should have seen some of the creations that came out of that afternoon, made of icing and candies.
Although we did not have the crowd that we thought we would, everyone who came had a very nice time with the event. There is still a lot we have to learn about running these events, the patrons who came had a nice time meeting Elaine Zayak and her son, watching the film and creating the gingerbread houses.
This is what I read from the Legend of Tinker Street, the Magical Elf:
‘The Legend of Tinker Street’
Teens, Tots & Toys Mascot, the holiday elf, Tinker Street, is a lovable little prankster, who lives in the valley of the Catskills Mountains in which the downtown Main Street of Woodstock, NY is named after.
Tinker Street is a gregarious, generous elf who represents the happiness, generosity and thoughtful charity during the holiday season. Tinker Street does not represent one holiday but all holidays celebrated where love, family and get-togetherness are found.
Coming out of his home only on December 1st of each year, you can never truly see Tinker Street. You can only feel him when good thoughts pass through you, when a good deed is done and when helping another person is done with great kindness.
Tinker Street is an elf of great kindness and tolerance and where you find him is in the understanding that no two holidays are alike so respect for them is very important. The true meaning from a visit from Tinker Street is the generosity to charity, the thoughtfulness of a distant family member or friend and looking back to the kindness and remembrance of someone who is gone but not forgotten.
When we receive a visit from Tinker Street, we see only the best in ourselves and others around us. When you see a big smile on someone’s face or happy laughter in a gathering, you know Tinker Street has been there.
So to be part of the very first celebration of “Teens, Tots & Toys”, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and experience the magic in the days ahead.’
This event also raised the awareness of the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Midland Park, New Jersey and the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library donated the next week around fifty toys and forty children’s books from the library that were donated to the charity, which helps families with children with cancer. It was a big plus to the Foundation of our donation and it helped so many children in a tough holiday season.
For all you patrons who attended the event or donated toys to help, thank you all from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library for making such a big difference in a strangers life. You all show the true meaning of the holidays by giving of yourselves and commitment to charity.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Please enjoy this two part video of Elaine Zayak’s visit to the Lodi Memorial Library and her ‘key to the city’ presentation by the Mayor of Lodi, Emil Cafara!
Elaine Zayak’s Reading at the Lodi Memorial Library’s “First Annual Teens, Tots & Toys”
Elaine Zayak being presented Honorariums from The Lodi Memorial Library and the Mayor of Lodi, NJ presenting her the medal from the Borough of Lodi, NJ.
Elaine Zayak receiving a “Key to the City” medal to Lodi, NJ
Elaine Zayak at the U.S. Nationals
Elaine Zayak in the 1994 National Championships
Articles on the event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:
Our full page coverage in The Community News December 2015