Volume 79, Number 29 | December 23 - 29, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by George Robertson

From left, Marijke Briggs, Preston Simpson and Carla Johnston at The Laugh Lounge.

Lily Fund effort unites neighbors for a good cause 

By Fred Soffa

Recently East Villagers gathered twice to mark the beginning of The Lily Fund, Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to providing hope and happiness to families living with pediatric brain tumors. The Lily Fund was started in response to a local family  — residents of the Christodora House on Avenue B — experiencing the trauma and uncertain future of having their young daughter diagnosed with a nonoperable brain tumor. What began as a group of friends and neighbors providing informal yet critical help has morphed into a full-fledged foundation with the ultimate aim of providing funds for research that, for whatever reason, are remarkably scarce. 

The first event was a comedy show at The Laugh Lounge on Essex St., Nov. 20. The fundraiser was the brainchild of Lily Fund board member Marijke Briggs and Carla Johnston. Johnston, a comic and actress, organized the lineup that was emcee’d by Preston Simpson and headlined by Brad Zimmerman in addition to hosting a slew of wonderful New York comics. An eclectic crowd gathered inside and out.

“It was great to see such an extended community sharing a great time, united for a great reason,” said Briggs.

On the next day, 45 families, from the East Village and beyond, streamed through the Bathhouse Studios on E. 11th St. for a “holiday family photo shoot” fundraiser. 

Beyond fundraising, the events had another aim. Said Mud Coffee owner and board member Nina Berott: “The activities The Lily Fund produces to raise awareness and funds for pediatric brain tumor research are an example of what can happen when a community gets together to support a cause. The energy of love the friends of The Lily Fund have for each other creates an unbeatable strength that can change anything. The East Village is the critical mass in our case to spread the word and the good vibes to make a difference for all children and their families that are affected.” 

Various communities were represented: Little Missionary Day Nursery, the East Village Community School and, perhaps most strongly, the Tompkins Square Playground. 

In addition, Pastor Phil Trzynka, from Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish, participated with his partner, Brett, and their son, Joey.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we signed up for the photo shoot,” Trzynka said. “We just knew we believed in supporting The Lily Fund. The photo shoot was outstanding, but the real prize was that so many people were giving so much of their time and effort to help make a difference in pediatric cancer research. We made some new friends and realized again why we love the East Village so much.”

Also participating was Carin van der Donk, with her husband Vince and her sons Elias and Luca.

“We had a great time,” said van der Donk. “Elias loved the food!” (Thanks to Gnocco and S’MAC — Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese.) “It was nice to see the neighborhood faces again,” she said. “Moving just a few blocks north out of the East Village was a true culture shock.” 

It took an outpouring of support from many East Villagers to organize and staff the events, including the generous support of Bathhouse Studios, The Laugh Lounge, K&M Camera and all the contributors, supporters and participants. 

“I’m very excited about our future,” said Briggs. “We have strength as a group and I expect us to do great work helping families through such a difficult time.”

Added Berott, “The Lily Fund needs ongoing help and support, not just financially: We need man-and-woman power during events, your creativity, your expertise, your locations and spaces to help our cause move forward.”

To find out more and get involved, contact the thelilyfund@gmail.com.

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