Foundation Turns Artistic Dreams into Reality for Children in Ocean, Monmouth and Mercer Counties

Posted on October 19, 2018 By

What if you were a child who desperately wanted to take dance, acting, instrumental, or vocal lessons but your parent or guardian could not afford them for you? The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, was created by Jodi and Melissa Grinwald to provide funding for children ages 7-18 in Ocean, Monmouth, and Mercer counties to take free vocal, dance, acting, and instrumental music lessons from September through June, making children’s dreams a reality.

The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation works through local schools and community organizations to identify students with financial needs and then pairs scholarship students with local performing arts studios to take free weekly or bi-weekly lessons for an entire school year. If a student needs supplies, such as dance shoes or instruments, the foundation makes every effort to provide these items depending on available funding.

To help support the works of Applaud Our Kids Foundation, sponsors are needed for the Step into the Spotlight Soiree and Talent Competition, an inaugural gala fundraiser that will pay for current and future scholarships, on Saturday, December 1, 2018, from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. at the La Bove Grande Restaurant, 800 Route 70, Lakehurst, N.J. 08733.

The Step into the Spotlight Soirée features local adult talent, ages 21 and older, vying for the Zzak G. Spotlight Award, the Audience Choice Award, and the Lip Sync Battle Champion. (See contestants below.)

Local “celebrity” judges for the Soirée are Jeremy Grunin, Toms River, president, Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation; and Colleen Finnegan Kahl, Brick, president, Actors Connection, NYC; Anna Mastroianni, Westfield, a stunt woman in such movies as Independence Day, Bourne Ultimatum, and TV shows the Sopranos and Owner of Sole Shoes, among others; and Tony Nation, who has a recurring role on CBS’ series Bull, and is partnered with Actors Connections and Reproductions both in NYC; Felicia Finley, an award-winning Broadway performer, among others.

Sponsorship opportunities are available, ranging from $5,000 to $250. All sponsors will have their names listed in the digital program, along with many other amenities according to the sponsorship level. A Cocktail sponsor is $250; Dinner and Dessert sponsors are $500 each; the Talent Competition Contestant sponsor and Gift Auction Sponsor are each $1,000; Swag Bag and Spotlight Entertainment sponsors are each $2000; and the Mezzanine sponsor is $3000. The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation donated $5000 to be the Orchestra sponsor.

Tickets are $100 each and include dinner, open bar, dancing, and competitions. For tickets and more information, email or call 732-773-8970. To purchase tickets online visit

For more information, email visit or call 848.333.2819. Donations can be mailed to Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation Inc., P.O. BOX 994, Barnegat, NJ 08005.

Contestants : Danielle Bagdzinski and Mike Henrich, Toms River, Ballroom Dancers; Ricky Stevens, Margate, Vocals and Guitar; EL, originally from Toms River , now from NYC,  Vocalist; Don Sweeney, Toms River, Vocals, Guitar and Harmonica; Darien “Staxx,” Howell, Vocalist; Carolyn Hester, Manchester, Vocalist; Kelly Servodio, Barnegat, Vocalist; Kayla Caffrey, Bayville, Vocalist

How Applaud Our Kids Began: Jodi and Melissa Grinwald’s dad loved to sing; but when he was a child, no one could pay for young Zzak Grinwald to take voice lessons. Finally, he took his first lesson when he was in his 30s. His teacher said he had the voice of an operatic tenor! He sang, he wrote music, and he composed songs, and was passionate about the performing arts until his death in 2015 from ALS.  To honor his legacy, his daughters created the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation in 2017, which now has 15 creative performers in the program.

Grinwald’s passion in life was music, the performing arts and watching his grandchildren as they performed on stage. “We know that he is so proud of each child that comes through this Foundation,” said Jodi Grinwald. “He is yelling ‘Fantastic’ just like he did for his own grandkids at every performance. Some students receiving lessons are dealing with difficult situations, such as a loss of a parent among other problems. The only constant they have in their life is the lessons Applaud Our Kids funds.”

Jodi Grinwald said, “We are a kids-helping-kids organization. The Applaud Our Kids Performance Group performs at corporate and non-profit events to bring awareness about how important the performing arts are to kids. These talented kids help fundraise for their peers who want to take lessons just like them.”

Some facts: Students who take four years of arts and music classes average almost 100 points higher on their SAT scores than students who take only one-half year or less. Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education. Arts students are percent more likely to attend secondary schools than those who do not participate in the arts. Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.

Visit for more information about the Foundation. Visit Facebook at

About Applaud Our Kids: The Zzak G. Applaud our Kids Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides performing arts scholarships in vocal instruction, dance, acting, and instrumental music to children age 7-18 with a financial need. Scholarship recipients take lessons at local performing arts studios from September through June. In many cases these lessons are the only constant that the children have in their lives.

Performing arts education contributes to the proactive development of an individual on many different levels. It provides children with the opportunity to find their own voice, increases self-esteem, gives them a sense of belonging, and provides an outlet for them to openly express themselves.