Billy Crystal performed Saturday at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre, and a pre- and post-event reception was held as a fundraiser for the new Jonathan’s Dream playground in West Hartford.
Film and comedy icon Billy Crystal stole the show twice on Saturday night, March 25. Following a sold out show at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Crystal joined his cousin-in-law and Jonathan’s Dream co-founder Amy Jaffe Barzach of West Hartford at the “Spend the Night with Billy Crystal” fundraiser for Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined.
On a night about comedy, Billy Crystal’s loudest words were about the drama of rebuilding a community playground where children and families of all abilities could celebrate life together. The original Jonathan’s Dream was built in 1996 in memory of Amy and Peter Barzach’s son Jonathan Peter Barzach, a sweet little boy with old soul eyes, and was one of America’s very first inclusive playgrounds.
“Tonight this dream is being re-dreamt,” Crystal said.
The new Jonathan’s Dream will have revolutionary new experiences that will enable new generations of children and families of all ages and all abilities to discover the joy of playing together. Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined will also include Kevin’s Kourt, an inclusive basketball court donated by UConn men’s basketball Coach Kevin Ollie and the Kevin Ollie Charity Golf Classic.
In honor of Crystal’s recent 69th birthday, he was presented with a Yankees-themed birthday cake and guests sang him happy birthday. After he blew out the candle, he said, “My wish is that more playgrounds just like Jonathan’s Dream will be built around the country, and I know it’ll come true.”
“My cousins Janice and Billy Crystal put our dream closer to the finish line, helping us raise close to $25,000 through this event to support the rebuilding of Jonathan’s Dream,” Barzach said as she welcomed Billy Crystal. “We are thrilled that so many people came out to help bring Jonathan’s Dream back to life. We want to thank our sponsors: Companions for Life, Dr. Louis and Trudy Brown, Great American Donut, Inc., iHeart Media, and Elkinson and Sloves Marketing.”
Barzach added, “We also want to thank Ronit Shoham, volunteer project manager for the Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined project, our other sponsors, everyone who purchased tickets, and the volunteers, especially Sara Cerruto, event chair, for making tonight such a success.”
Jonathan’s Dream is being rebuilt with the support of the community, the PAC Group, which is donating construction management services, and Shane’s Inspiration, which donated design services. Jonathan’s Dream will be rebuilt this spring and summer on the Zachs Campus in West Hartford – adjacent to the Mandell Jewish Community Center.
One hundred volunteers are needed to assemble and install the playground equipment. For the June 8-11, 2017 Community Build, the playground equipment will be put together like an “erector set” with direction from professionals.
“Each day of the community-build, we are looking for 10-15 team captains to lead small groups of volunteers and 20 volunteers. To learn more, become a captain, or reserve a volunteer spot, please contact Frank Day at [email protected],” Barzach said.
Additional funds are needed to reach the fundraising finish line. Play areas, playground equipment, and benches are available for sponsorship. Donations of all sizes are needed and appreciated.