Joan Greenspan is another step closer to having her freedom back.
On June 3, the Seaford High School alumna, who has multiple sclerosis saw about 150 of her friends, fellow alumni and locals at a fundraiser held in her honor at the Sunset Grill in Seaford. The afternoon reunion raised $10,000 for Greenspan’s potential purchase of a handicapped-accessible vehicle, which she could use to do errands and see friends without assistance.
“Let’s put it this way: I cried every time I said hello to somebody,” Greenspan said when asked about the community’s support at the fundraiser. “It’s amazing to know that people can be so caring and loving and giving.”
Greenspan was diagnosed with MS, a disease that disrupts messages in the central nervous system, in 1984, after experiencing symptoms while attending Buffalo State University. Her condition worsened to the point that she could not leave her Copaigue apartment, let alone cook and do basic chores, without assistance from an aide or friend.
For the fundraiser, everything, including the venue, was donated. Sunset Grill closed its doors for the afternoon to host the event and opened its kitchen to food brought in from area restaurants. Local businesses and organizations, such as Governor’s Comedy Club and the Seaford Fire Department, donated most of the fundraiser’s raffle prizes and baskets.
Some participants also pitched in more than the price of admission, contributing a week at a Florida timeshare and tickets to the Giants’ season opener as raffle prizes. Rena Sharon and Debbie Schreiber, two friends of one of the event’s organizers, Helaine Scope Teuschler, gave a motorized chair previously used by Sharon’s late mother, who suffered from MS.
The fundraiser was like a Seaford High class reunion with a higher purpose. Vikings from Wisconsin, the Carolinas and Long Island caught up on the four decades since they had left the high school. While sipping beers and cocktails at the bar, they talked about retirement, settled old quarrels and shared stories about how they knew the woman of the hour.
Dan Santanello, a 1981 graduate, knew Greenspan through a mutual friend in high school and as a fellow commuter on the LIRR when she worked as a paralegal in Manhattan. “Her not being able to be free and go places is horrible,” Santanello said, “so we all want to help her out.”
Virginia Clark, who went to the Manor school with Greenspan and graduated from high school with her in 1979, said the event demonstrated how the community could rally for a Viking in need. “She needs her freedom back,” Clark added, “and we’re here as a community to get her a van so she can do what she wants to do.”
As former and current Seaford residents mingled, J.D. Leonard, a country musician from Medford, covered songs on his guitar while Greenspan sang and danced in her chair next to the bar. Leonard found out about the fundraiser through Teuschler, and gave up another gig to play for free in Seaford.
“My grandmother has MS,” Leonard said, “so I get what it’s like to have family or friends down on their luck, and I want to just play it forward.”
Before the raffle winners were announced, Teuschler thanked all who donated to Greenspan’s cause. She coordinated the fundraiser’s social media efforts from her home in North Carolina, and traveled to Seaford to help the other organizers run the event.
“They say it takes a village to raise someone,” Teuschler said, “but my friend is going to have her life back because of all of you.” The venue erupted in applause.