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Parents/Providers Annual Party

Spirit of Bonding in the Air Once Again at Annual Hamaspik Parents’ Party

Guest Speaker Wendy Runge Wows Crowd with Message of Personal Triumph

With its community of mothers of children with special needs served by its various program being among the best in the field, it’s no wonder its annual Chanukah party for such parents is also one of the most sought-out Hamaspik events.

But at the annual and much-anticipated event, which hosts parents whose children benefit from various programs offered by the network of agencies, “crowd” was the word again this year.

Hundreds of mothers of children with special needs filled the reception room at the Hamaspik Terrace this past Sunday, November 24, mingling and catching up with old friends and making new friends, too.  On hand to personally greet each new arrival was beloved long-time Hamaspik stalwart and Project Coordinator Mrs. Brenda Katina, and equally stalwart Hamaspik mainstay Mrs. Leah Klar.

By the time the main event began at 8:00 p.m., the Terrace’s reception hall at 58 Rt. 59 in central Monsey was brimming to near-capacity.  At that appointed hour, Mrs. Katina took to the podium with her trademark style to serve once again as Master of Ceremonies.

Before her was neatly arranged several rows of tables, each festively adorned with themed decorations invoking the upcoming Chanukah.

Opening up with a crowd-warming joke, Mrs. Katina quickly set the event’s tone—and didn’t stop there.  By the time the event’s guest speaker was introduced, everyone was relaxed and in just the right mood.

The event’s “keynote speaker” was Mrs. Wendy Runge, an Orthodox Jewish director and producer falsely convicted of defrauding an Iowa state film program.  Mrs. Runge spent six months in prison before her conviction was vacated, allowing for her release in August of 2013.

In her fascinating, heartfelt and personal talk, Mrs. Runge opened up and connected with the crowd, taking them along her journey from initial arrest and accusation to prolonged court deliberations, and through conviction, incarceration and the uncertainty of a bleak prison future to the day that word came down that she’d soon be free and reunited with her family.

While the main course was served during the talk, more than a few plates could be seen virtually untouched during her speech.

The moral of her story, later said one event-goer, was that “No matter what situation you’re in, you could make it positive.”

Gracefully piloting the crowd down from its inspirational “high” in the immediate wake of Mrs. Runge’s moving experience, Mrs. Katina next led a whimsical interactive game in which participants born and/or raised in various foreign countries had to compare various homeland descriptors with contemporary American conditions, to oft-times hilarious effect.

The amusing pastime was capped with a delicious dessert.

But most important of all, said another parent, but rather, the bonding, camaraderie and identification with other mothers who also have children with special needs—and who “get it” like no one else does.

“It’s not only about the speaker,” a mother of a child with special needs later said.  “What we like the most is that we get together with all the parents we know.”

Added another, “Nothing like getting together with a bunch of women who are in the same boat as you and who understand you.  It gets you going for the next short while.”

You mean until next year?

No, she explained.

“Until the next Hamaspik weekend retreat.”