BY TEQUILA MINSKY | A trendy restaurant lounge on the far West Side in the 30s actually sports a mini-basketball court. When it’s Walt “Clyde” Frazier’s place — Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine — that’s what you get, and it was an appropriate venue for the 2015 benefit for Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth.
Healthy Youth focuses on the mental and physical health of underserved middle school students, partnering with more than 10 programs that include basketball, dance, space education, tennis and performing arts.
The foundation, named for the late Village activist Sophie Gerson, continues her legacy as a New York City public middle school phys ed and health teacher and president of Community School Board 2.
Along with the crowd of supporters at the tony lounge were a slew of middle school boys served by a Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth partner, Team First, who shot hoops on the mini-court.
The boys are coached by Ty Grant, whose Team First is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping academically underperforming children with a passion for basketball reach their full potential.
For the second year, the benefit brought community-minded Villagers, physical education advocates and local politicians to an “All-Star” award ceremony that recognized New Yorkers who work tirelessly making this city a better place to live.
Honors this year went to Steve Ashkinazy, an early pioneer in the L.G.B.T. rights movement; Pastor Pedro A. Cardo Jr., a labor movement worker and vice president of Teamsters Local 210; Michael Fortenbaugh, founder of the Manhattan Yacht Club; Virginia Kee, a community leader in Manhattan’s Chinatown community and, for more than three decades, a junior high school teacher; and Harry Malakoff, the founder and commissioner of the Malakoff Girls Basketball League at Greenwich House.
A lifetime achievement award was presented to former NBA great Frazier. The point guard led the New York Knicks to two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Dr. Manny Boxer, a member of the event’s host committee, who works with the city’s Department of Education to bring star athletes into the schools as role-model speakers, made the connection between the restaurant and Healthy Youth.
This year’s benefit raised money to send more kids to camp this summer — 20 children to one-week sleep-away camp and 40 children to day camp.
“We’re providing opportunities for sports and healthy activities,” said former Councilmember Alan Gerson, Sophie’s son, who is board president of Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth. “And some of these children have never been out of the city,” he noted.
“Even our summer program is fully integrated into the school for year-round continuity,” he said. “Teachers report that students who participate have greater confidence, more motivation and are better students all around.”