Bailley Fernandez, 15, said she did not know what to expect when she walked into the Little Sugar Shop on Rockaway Avenue on Sept. 20.
Her mother, Martiza Fernandez, picked her up from Holy Trinity High School and told her to look nice, but did not tell her why. “I just kept asking her all these questions and she wouldn’t tell me,” she said.
Several minutes later, two Radio City Music Hall Rockettes walked in the shop to greet her. The Rockettes then announced that Fernandez was being honored “because she brings joy to others in her community despite facing hardships of her own,” according to Rockette Courtney Rottenberger.
Fernandez said that when she was in Valley Stream South High School, she was the vice president of the Center Stage Club, which teaches special needs students how to dance and perform a show. “It was very special because a lot of people like that don’t have those opportunities,” she said. She now attends Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville.
But Fernandez’s father, Det. Luis Fernandez, died from a cancer he acquired from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Oct. 16, 2014. Luis was 44. Since then, Fernandez has been a beneficiary of the New York Police Department’s Widow’s and Children’s Fund, an organization that provides financial aid and assistance to widows, widowers and eligible dependents of police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
That organization works with the Garden of Dreams Foundation, an organization sponsored by Madison Square Garden that seeks to help children facing obstacles. So, the Garden of Dreams Foundation decided to honor Fernandez with a certificate, Rockettes merchandise and opening night tickets to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”
Vyancka Kilimet, co-owner of the Little Sugar Shop, said that she told the representative that they could use the location and was happy that chose to. “It seems like the kids are having fun, so that’s pretty cool,” Kilimet said.
The event drew the attention of Joanne Calastro, whose 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, announced at her pre-school graduation last year that she wanted to be a Rockette when grows up. Joanne let Olivia miss dance class that afternoon to meet the Rockettes, but unfortunately she was too shy to take a picture with the dancers.
Others were not as shy, such as 21-year-old Christian Hannah, who saw the “Christmas Spectacular” when he was younger.
“I was a huge fan of them when I saw them, so it’s pretty cool to see them in person and take pictures with them,” he said.
Fernandez was also grateful for the surprise. “I’m really thankful for this opportunity and it was very unexpected but throughout the hardships in life, there were some positives and good things that come out of being a good person,” she said.