Step into the spotlight soiree & talent competition

You are Invited!

On Saturday, December 1, 2018 the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation will be hosting the Step into the Spotlight Soiree and Talent Competition at La Bove Grande located at 800 Route 70, Lakehurst, NJ from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. You will enjoy a wonderful dinner, open bar, silent auction, talent competition with celebrity judges, a lip sync battle and dancing. Scroll down to meet the judges and contestants.


The Step into the Spotlight Soiree will be a night filled with inspiration and entertainment as adults with a passion for the  performing arts  vie for the Zzak G. Spotlight Award, Audience Choice Award, and Lip Sync Battle Championship. Contestants consist of people from local area businesses that have a talent. Celebrity judges will decide on the winners. Proceeds will help to fund existing and future scholarship recipients. For tickets please log onto https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com or call 732-773-8970.


Can’t make the event or want to help your favorite contestant get off to a good start for the Audience Choice Award. You can choose to place an audience participation vote online even before they perform. 


Go to https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com click tickets, find your favorite contestant and for a $5 donation place your vote. All of your electronic votes and night of event votes will be tallied and the contestant with the most votes will be the Winner! You can vote as many times as you would like. You can also call to place your votes at 732-773-8970. Everyone who attends gets one free vote the night of the event. Help your favorite contestant be the Audience Choice Winner! 

You Can Take the Mic Too!

Gather some co-workers, friends, family or go solo and sign up for the lip sync battle. Winner will receive the Zzak G. Lip Sync Championship Mic Trophy and bragging rights! Songs may only be 2 minutes in length. Limited space available! Pre-register for $5.00/person at https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com. Register upon arrival at the event for $10/person in your group.

Sponsorships Available

Interested in making a difference for kids in the community and sponsoring a fun and unique event?  If so, please call Jodi at 848-333-2819 or email jodi@applaudourkids.org 


Special thank you to the Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation for being the Orchestra Sponsor of the Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition

"Celebrity Judges"

Jeremy Grunin

Jeremy Grunin is President, Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation.  Jeremy has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the private sector where he managed teams of 1000+ employees responsible for over half a billion dollars in revenue.  Since 2013, Jeremy has been actively engaged throughout the community as President of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, a proactive grantmaker focused on economic growth at the Central Jersey Shore. Jeremy is a Partner of Grunin Holdings, LLC., a New Jersey Partnership specializing in the development and management of commercial real estate, as well as investing in third party commercial ventures. In addition, Jeremy is the host of Topic A talk radio show every Sunday morning on 92.7 WOBM from 7AM to 11AM.

Colleen Finnegan Kahl

Colleen Finnegan Kahl, President, Actors Connection in NYC. 

Colleen is an experienced theatre arts educator, entrepreneur, consultant and community engagement leader.  Colleen has a well-rounded theatrical skillset having worked a professional actress, stage manager, producer and educator in both the NYC and regional theatrical markets. In 2017, her company, Enspirited Projects, was nominated as a top 3 innovative company for work in arts education and self-esteem along the Jersey Shore. Earlier this year, she was honored as a nominee for the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award at Ramapo College for her direct impact on aspiring performers.

Anna Mastroianni

Anna, stunt person, actress, entrepreneur.  Anna performed as a stunt person for 13 years in film and television doubling stars like Kate Winslet (Cigarettes and Romance), Goldie Hawn (First WIves Club), Drea Di Matteo (Adriana/Soprano's), Lauren Velez (NY Undercover). Movies, Independence Day, Spider Man 2 and Spider Man 3, Analyze That, Unconditional Love, The Rebound and earned a SAG AWARD for Stunt ensemble in Bourne Ultimatum. She has performed opposite Rita Moreno, Paul Sorvino and Mira Sorvino. Anna opened SOLE SHOES in 2001 in Westfield, NJ. Sole Shoes is an upscale boutique importing from Italy children's, women's and men's  shoes and accessories.

Tony Nation

Tony  Nation has been a partner in Actors Connection, NY's leading networking/acting studio for actors for over 18 years and in Reproductions, the leading printing, imaging and video services company serving actors and performing artists nationwide for the past two years. His work with clients has led to hundreds of actors signing and freelancing with talent agencies, getting auditions and booking work as well as making huge progressions in their own acting careers. Currently, he has a recurring role on the CBS top 10 series BULL! A professional actor as well, he has thrilled audiences throughout his performing career from Off-Broadway to numerous regional theaters across the country, to film and TV, concerts and recordings.    For two years, he hosted the national entertainment show PREMIUM TV airing across the United States and in Canada.  Some of his other television credits include AS THE WORLD TURNS on CBS, the NBC TV series CONVICTION as well as ABC-TV's ONE LIFE TO LIVE.  Off-Broadway, he was one of the original cast members for FORBIDDEN BROADWAY 2001:  A Spoof Odyssey which was awarded the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical Revue.  Tony can also be heard on the original soundtrack for FORBIDDEN BROADWAY 2001 on DRG Records.

Felicia Finley

Felicia is an award-winning Broadway performer who has appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway and many top regional theaters. Broadway: Original Linda in "The Wedding Singer"*, Amneris in "Aida", "Smokey Joe’s Café"*, Tanya in "Mamma Mia!", "The Life"* by Cy Coleman. Off-Broadway: "Forbidden Broadway"*, "The Wild Party" (MTC)*, "Bubbly Black Girl"*...(Playwrights Horizons), City Center "Encores!" National tours: "Happy Days"* as Pinky, "Jekyll and Hyde", "Jesus Christ Superstar". Most recently she was apart of the NY Times Critic's Pick called "Songbird"* as Tammy Trip at Two River Theater. Notably, her debut album, “Great Mood for a Tuesday” was hailed by critics, "reminiscent of American Classic Rock, Finley's album is evocative with blistering vocal sincerity and the artistry of a rock veteran!' She sends her love to her amazing and talented husband, Paul Stancato. (* denotes original company / cast recording.) Direct link to Felicia Finley on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/great-mood-for-a-tuesday/id304141849#see-all/top-songs)

Anthony Patellis

Anthony Patellis is an actor, director, and acting coach, with over 30 years of experience in all three disciplines. As an actor, he has worked all over the world. Most recently playing the role of Lt. Shrank, in an extended worldwide tour of the 50th Anniversary production of, West Side Story, premiering at La Scala Opera house, in Milan Italy, before moving on to 15 countries, on 3 continents. He has acted extensively, on stage, in New York City, as well as throughout most of North America. He has guest starred in national television shows including; Gotham, The Sopranos, Law & Order, New York Undercover, Crime Story, Family Ties, The Guiding Light. His films include; One Last Thing, I Think I Do, The Grift, and Team Marco, which will be in theatre’s in 2019.  Anthony is a national director for the hit Off-Broadway comedy, Tony ‘N Tina’s Wedding, and has directed it across the country. He has also directed the successful Off-Broadway productions; Totie, Lobster Tales, Waiting For My Man, as well as many regional productions, including an encore production of Lobster Tales, in London, England. On-camera, Anthony directed 40 episodes of the successful web-series, Patty And Patty, and just completed directing 8 episodes of a new web-series, along with a 30 minute pilot episode, of Brittany Portman’s, Hooked.  Anthony has been an acting teacher, and private coach for 20 years, working with many talented professional actors on Broadway, motion pictures, and television. His extensive training includes working with famed acting teachers, Lee Strasberg, in his master classes, Stella Adler, as an actor, and for script interpretation. He was a professional observer at the Actors Studio for many years.

Adam Binder

Adam Binder is in the business of helping entrepreneurs succeed online. He is the founder of full -service digital marketing agency Creative Click Media, where he uses his multidisciplinary background in business, education, marketing, and design to develop winning strategies for clients. Adam used this same entrepreneurial spirit to launch Apeiron, an eco-friendly and artistically designed yoga and lifestyle brand just last year. In addition to running his businesses, Adam is also a lifelong artist and musician, an active member of several organizations throughout the community, and father to his six-year old son, Miles.

Janine Molinari

Janine Molinari is an artistic director of Dance Molinari NYC/Chicago/Los Angeles. Now in their 19th year, Dance Molinari (DMO) is a company that trains young professional artists for Broadway, National Tours, Films, TV and the music industry. Some Broadway shows that Janine’s students are currently in and have been seen in include School of Rock, The Bronx Tale, Frozen, The Ferryman, The Hard Problem, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Finding Neverland, Annie, A Christmas Story, Anastasia, Lion King, Matilda, Annie, Mamma Mia, People In the Picture, Les Miserables, Newsies, Chaplin, Oklahoma, Fiddler On The Roof, West Side Story, Seusical, Finnian’s Rainbow, Billy Elliot, Annie Get Your Gun, Mary Poppins, and many more. Her students can also be seen starring in movies,tv and commercials, and alumni include pop artists Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas. She represented the USA in Broadway Dance/Tap in Italy’s  televised National Talent Competition  Copa Italia 2018 and will do so again this summer, the Taipei International Dance Festival and at Tokyo’s Broadway Music Theatre. Last spring DMO was honored to choreograph UNICEF’s Kids Power Month in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago, with Pink as their ambassador. They also created the “Munster Stomp” for Cozi TV, NBC’s Today Show and a flash mob in Times Square with 50 Broadway dancers.   Some NYC, LA and National Tour Credits as a director/choreographer include: Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, The Totally Tubular Time Machine(starring Debbie Gibson),Blessings In Disguise, Above Hell’s Kitchen, Sub-Terrain at La Mama ETC, The Fantastikids, The Fantasy Party, and regional equity productions of Footloose, Legally Blonde, Jesus Christ Superstar, Next to Normal, Spelling Bee, The Producers, The Taffetas, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Hair, Buddy Holly, Godspell, last spring’s The Fantastiks, and the world premiere of the original musical, Rock n’ Roll Redemption-the life and music of Dion and the Belmonts. In 2019, Janine will direct and choreograph Tommy, the Rock Opera at the Seven Angels Theatre In CT.  Janine has been and continues to be a choreographer/dance consultant for Disney, multiple commercials, films and music videos. She is also co-creator and producer of an upcoming web series “ Tap Out Of It”, a funny and fictional look at what it takes to train and coach young performers for Broadway.  Janine is a proud member of Actors Equity, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of TV and Radio Artists and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Vote For Your Favorite Contestant

Kayla Caffrey

Kayla Caffrey is the Owner/Operator of Idol Time Vocal Academy in Brick, NJ.  Kayla began singing at age seven.  She has received over 20 years of vocal training and has a diversified range of performance experience.  She toured NJ as a lead in the original rock opera “Day After Day” and produced solo benefit concerts for autism awareness; receiving special recognition for her composition of the single “In Her Smile” about her younger sister who has autism.  Kayla has performed at  the Stone Pony, The Strand Theatre, The Count Basie, and The Algonquin. Performing as the opening act for KC and The Sunshine Band, and winning many local and regional titles such as “Rock N’ Idol”, WNEW Vocal Star, Ocean Star, and Beyer Ford Idol have been fun highlights in her singing career.  Kayla received a full scholarship to study vocal pedagogy with a professor from Columbia University.

To vote for Kayla – www.applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Carolyn Hester - Vocalist

Carolyn Hester lives in Manchester, NJ, but is originally from NY. At 3 years old Carolyn sang on stage at an Italian festival and at 7 she won a scholarship for singing lessons and ballet lessons at the Old Metropolitan Opera House. Carolyn appeared on the Bruce Marrow Show (Cousin Brucie).  At age 18 she recorded for Kama Sutra Productions under the Jubilee Label. Her songs, “Who are You” and “Funny Face” made the top of the charts on Billboard and Cashbox. After having her two daughters, Carolyn went back to school and became a registered nurse at Lutheran Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering.  After losing her second husband to ALS, she began singing again with a performer at restaurants and other venues. She feels she is now getting back into the love and part of the life where she belongs.  

To vote for Carolyn - https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.


EL - Vocalist

Originally a Jersey girl, EL currently lives in NYC making music happen! Her latest performance was on Minetta St. in Greenwich Village, where she sang alongside guitarist, Greg Askins. There, she sang everything from jazz to pop to classical. She is a graduate of IAR (Institute of Audio Research) in NYC, where she studied Music Entertainment and Management. EL is also an alumni of OCVTS PAA (Performing Arts Academy). At this time, she is working for a music publishing company in lower Manhattan. EL has three different CD’s, all originals, available on the major digital platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc). She is grateful and excited to give back in a way that allows young people to follow their calling in the arts—it’s a beautiful thing that Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids helps make possible. Big hugs to her ever-supportive parents and her love, Jesse.    

To vote for EL-  https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Danielle Bagdzinski & Mike Henrich -Dance Duet

Danielle Bagdzinski lives in Toms River and is the Marketing Manager for Cowan, Gunteski & Co., P.A. She is trained in ballroom dance, and has participated in several competitions and showcases throughout the tri-state area. She also taught part-time at Shall We Dance Ballroom Studio in Toms River, NJ. She was recently a member of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s 2017 Dancing with our Monmouth & Ocean County Stars committee. Danielle received the 2017 Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore Phenomenal Women Under 40 Award. 

Michael Henrich, is an Accountant at Cowan, Gunteski & Co., P.A. He is also co-chair of the firm’s internship program and attends various career fairs around the state. Community involvement is an important attribute in Michael’s career. When asked just five days before the Applaud Our Kids Foundation’s Step into the Spotlight Soiree audition to dance a Cha Cha with his colleague, he went full force knowing that if selected he would have a chance to make a difference in the lives of children in our community. 

To vote for Danielle & Mike - https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Tara Eccles & Leigh Emery - Vocal Duet

Tara Eccles-Frye is the owner and director of Emotion In Motion Dance Center in Middletown, NJ. She has over 25 years of dance training with over 18 years teaching experience. She is a Five-time Count Basie Theatre nominee for Outstanding Choreography in a Musical. Tara has also received countless choreography, creative concept, technique and overall scoring awards at both regional and national competitions, including choreographing for the winner of the All American Cheer and Dance Awards in Hawaii for two consecutive years. She has served as an Education Board member at Phoenix Productions in Red Bank, NJ where she is a teaching artist for their triple threat musical theatre summer camps, one day workshops and adult tap classes. 

Leigh Emery is the Chief Compliance Officer at a network of 50 investment advisors across the country. By night, Leigh is the proud co-founder & Creative Director of Broadway Lights the Night, a non-profit that produces musical performance events for charitable causes. 

To vote for Tara and Leigh - https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Coming Soon

Kelly Servodio - Vocalist

Kelly Servodio is from Toms River, NJ. In 2015 she began working at CG Healthcare Solutions, a medical billing and profitability consulting firm, as the Credentialing Coordinator. Kelly is currently a Board Member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County and for The Salvation Army Ocean County Citadel.  She was also recently named one of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s “Phenomenal Women Under 40”.’ Being born into a family of musicians, music has been a passion of Kelly’s since she was a young girl. She began singing around five years old, along with playing the clarinet, and xylophone through high school.  Kelly sings locally at community events, with the Toms River Municipal Concert and Jazz Band every summer, and sang the National Anthem for the 2018 Toms River Halloween Parade. To vote for Kelly - https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Darien Staxx

Darien is a young, plant-based multi-instrumentalist, music producer, recording artist, writer, sound engineer, videographer, editor, and more. Darien believes that one can accomplish anything he/she puts their mind to - and he definitely lives and breathes this notion. Although he is a hip-hop artist, he considers himself a messenger above anything else. Using his music, he hopes to spread the message of conscious awareness, self-love, self-belief, and learning the art of being happy. Darienstaxx, has a history of performing within LA festivals, and events held at the Combine Kitchen in Rancho Cucamonga and is now performing in many venues and events here on the east coast, being a proud performer at Hip-Hop is Green in both New Jersey and New York, Urban Vegan Kitchen in Manhattan , and even Recently at the Silver Factory in Brooklyn ,New York. In his last self-written, self-produced, and self-engineered song titled, "Misery," Darien talks about observing the misery we unconsciously create within ourselves as being the first step towards freedom from suffering.

To vote for Darien – www.applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Ricky Stevens - Vocals & Guitar

Ricky Stevens currently resides in Margate City, NJ, but was originally from Boston, MA. Lead singer for the acoustic based act known as “Throwing Horns”.  The 1993 debut release of their self-titled CD “Superstition” was mixed and produced by long time Neil Young producer, Tim Mulligan. It was received well in New England and became a staple on local radio stations and was even featured in 1994 in WCGY’s Local Music Showcase.He is currently employed in the Manufacturing Sector as a Plant Manager in Hammonton, NJ. His musical hiatus lasted until 2016 (with the encouragement of his wife Gena) he began to attend local Karaoke and Open Mic events around New England before relocating to South Jersey for the birth of their first Grandchild. This year Ricky began to host an Open Mic Night in Atlantic City, which led to his new project Throwing Horns. A cover-based group that plays rock, blues, country and pop songs throughout South Jersey.     

To vote for Ricky – https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Don Sweeny - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica

After a 30-year hiatus while he raised a wonderful family of four, Toms River resident Don Sweeny (originally from Quincy, Massachusetts) has picked up where he left off – songwriting and performing voice, guitar and blues harp.    His song “When I Come Home” was inspired by and is dedicated to the victims and survivors of Parkland Florida and to all other victims of senseless gun violence.    “I am honored to help celebrate ApplaudOurKids.org and its devotion to teaching our children. But I think we need to especially keep in mind that our children teach us, and we need to listen.” He also devotes much of his time and administrative skills in helping families stay in their homes. His passion for people is reflected in his music. 

To vote for Don - https://applaudourkidsstepintothespotlight.eventbrite.com.

Opening Night Concert

Children were a part of every aspect of this production, from those performing on the stage, to those managing backstage, to those in the lighting and sound booth, to the volunteers that ran the ticket booth and concession stand.  These children donated their time in order to help the foundation raise money, so that their peers who are benefiting from our foundation have the same opportunities.  We believe kids being role models for other kids is vital.  Our organization will teach children the importance of community service and provide them with an outlet to showcase their talents.

Opening Night Concert Finale