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Despite pandemic, Sylvan Place neighbors continue to give back

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Each year, the neighbors on Sylvan Place raise funds throughout the holiday season to donate to the Camp ANCHOR Program Fund and Sunrise Day Camp, and they finish it off with a unique twist: a Christmas block party fundraiser.

Like so many traditions disrupted by the coronavirus in 2020, however, the block party was no different, and for the second time in roughly 25 years, the group was forced to cancel.

Despite it all, the neighbors were still able to raise $2,200 split between two organizations, a testament that despite the challenges of the pandemic, there’s still room for charity.

“It’s tough times right now, but you know, the charities and people need as much help as they can get so we figured anything is better than nothing,” Sylvan Place resident Alex Carr said.

While the loss of the block party made a dent in fundraising, Carr said, residents still frequented the donation box the neighbors placed outside during the holiday season, enough to raise $700. Carr recounted seeing parents with their children — drawn to the elaborate holiday decorations the neighbors place outside their homes — stopping by to donate, and even a village plow driver, who stopped for a few moments during a storm in mid December to drop off a donation. The remainder was raised through a pair of company sponsors, he said.

Since shortly after its inception, the block party has benefitted ANCHOR, a camp for special needs in Lido Beach, and starting in 2013 donations to ANCHOR began going in the name of Sylvan Place resident Michael Smith, who died that year at the age of 44. Smith, who had Down syndrome and was an attendee at Camp ANCHOR, was a well-known and beloved figure on the block.

MaryAnn Hanson, coordinator at Camp ANCHOR, said she was well aware of the holiday tradition on Sylvan Place, and came to visit a number of times herself in past years. The donation, she said, was particularly welcome this time.

“They do an amazing job,” she said of the neighbors. “Every year they donate to ANCHOR and all year we’ve had no fundraisers, and we haven’t gotten donations from the parents so this was so wonderful and so unexpected … I can’t thank him enough.”

In addition to ANCHOR, Sylvan Place began donating to Sunrise Day Camp, a camp for children with cancer, in 2013 in the name of Sylvan resident Christopher Schroeder. Schroeder died that year of leukemia at age 18.

Nicole Faber, program coordinator at Sunrise, said the donations — particularly needed this year — go to the camp’s programs, which have had to go virtual this past year due to the pandemic, and are designed to lift the children’s spirits in their own trying times.

She said it was appropriate the money comes in honor of Schroeder, who had dreamed of becoming a counselor at Sunrise, but became too ill before he was able to do so.

“It’s nice to be able to keep his memory alive by bringing joy to other kids,” she said.

“He was incredibly special,” she said recounting how the two would often play Othello together while at the hospital. He would always win, she said, despite her efforts to improve.