LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston’s Senior, Youth and Leisure Services (SYLS) recently received the Daniel M. Gasalberti Award for Excellence in Recreation Programming for last year's 30th Annual Intergenerational Prom held at Livingston High School (LHS) in conjunction with the LHS Key and Leo clubs, Livingston Board of Education and the Township of Livingston.

After receiving the award during the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) awards dinner held in Atlantic City, those involved in the April 2018 event were also honored by the Livingston Township Council on Monday to acknowledge this achievement.

"It was a very exciting and humbling moment to be recognized by our honor,” said Liliana Branquinho, adult and senior enrichment and township special events supervisor for SYLS. “This is of course a team effort with many individuals involved in making this event so special…

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“The Intergenerational Prom is a meaningful event because it allows for two completely different generations to come together and enjoy an evening where they can interact and learn about each other in a fun and friendly environment. With this event, we are trying to bridge the gap between two generations that tend to be foreign to each other. The Intergenerational Prom provides that opportunity, which is so important."

The Daniel M. Gasalberti award for excellence in recreation programming is presented in memory of the former NJRPA president, who served from 1982 to 1983. Gasalberti, who was also the Director of Recreation and Parks in Rutherford, is remembered for being “dedicated, creative and passionate, especially about recreation programming and was beloved by citizens for the programs and events that he implemented,” according to the NJRPA.

Livingston SYLS received one of 23 awards, and was selected out of nominees from throughout the state to receive the Excellence in Recreation Programming award.

“Every single town has a recreation and parks [department] and every single town had a nomination for their event, and we won—Livingston won in the State of New Jersey, so that is a big accomplishment,” said Livingston resident Bunny Ratner, who has served as the Intergenerational Prom event chair for more years than she was able to count.

Branquinho and Ratner each spoke about the event during Monday’s township council meeting, where Mayor Al Anthony and members of the council presented committee members and several of the LHS students involved with a plaque acknowledging this recent accomplishment. Also acknowledged was Ashley White from the SYLS office, who submitted the application to the selection committee at NJRPA.

For more than three decades, Livingston’s Intergenerational Prom dinner/dance party has been bringing Livingston students and senior citizens together to get to know each other as members of the same community. This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, April 9, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at LHS and will serve as a celebration of “the red, white and blue” with the theme, “You’re a Grand Old Flag!”

“If one thing is consistent, it’s that our country is grand," said Ratner. "We are going to be honoring our veterans by having our three different veteran groups present their flags and we’re going to have the kids come up and join the Livingtones in singing, ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth,’ which always causes my eye makeup to come drooping down. It’s a fabulous event, it’s a town event…so if you’re old enough to join us, please do.

“The prom is really an exciting event for seniors 62 and older, but the part that’s really fun is the kids. First of all, they raise funds for us, which is terrific—but second of all, they do the setting up and decorating, they do the serving of the food and help the people who can’t carry their food to the table, but the best part is they dance with the people. There’s a lot of line dancing going on and a lot of fun in that arena.”

Ratner also explained how the king and queen of the prom are selected, stating that if the committee selects a senior citizen as Prom King, a female student is selected as Prom Queen and vise versa.

To better understand why Livingston was selected to receive this award, click HERE to read coverage of the 2018 Intergenerational Prom.

In addition to thanking all of the volunteers and the school district for their involvement, Branquinho thanked the mayor and council for their unwavering support, stating that the township’s support is why the SYLS is able to “be creative and use our imagination and the resources that we have in town to host an event like this.”

Ratner and Anthony both specifically acknowledged Branquinho for her involvement in this event and other programs hosted throughout the year in Livingston, with Anthony saying that “whenever [he says] Liliana’s name, everyone cheers.”

Anthony reminisced on his experience attending the event over the years as both the mayor and a council member, donning an apron each year to help serve food to the hundreds of residents who participate.

“This is a tremendous event that really separates Livingston from a lot of differently towns,” said Anthony. “It just gives the council here another thing to brag about for why Livingston is so great.”

Pictured at the awards ceremony are (from left):

Karen Zimmerman, NJRPA Awards Committee Chairperson

Ron Barbella, SYLS Sports and Aquatics Program Supervisor

Jennifer Quirk, SYLS Adaptive Recreation, Program Supervisor

Nancy Verniero, SYLS, Marketing and Finance

Liliana Branquinho, SYLS, Adult & Senior Enrichment and Town Special Events Program Supervisor

Ashley White, SYLS, Facilities and Operation Coordinator

Corinne Olson, SYLS, Camp, Youth and Teen Program Supervisor
William Foelsch, NJRPA President

Also shown above are the following members of the Intergenerational Prom Committee during their first 2019 planning meeting:

Standing (L-R): Trish Mattia, LHS prom coordinator; Michelle Bent, the school district’s communications and community outreach coordinator; and Nicole Cooper of Aramark Food Service.

Seated (L-R): volunteer Bunny Ratner; Liliana Branquinho, the township’s Senior and Adult Enrichment and Special Events Supervisor; and Michael Fassbender of Aramark Food Service.