Soiree and Talent Competition to Raise Funds for Free Performing Arts Lessons for Children

Posted on October 2, 2019 By

The parents of many talented children simply cannot afford performing arts lessons for their children. Through The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation talented children have a way to take free ongoing lessons.

The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, was created by Jodi and Melissa Grinwald to provide free ongoing vocal, dance, acting, and instrumental music lessons for children with financial barriers, ages 7-18, in Ocean and Monmouth counties, making children’s dreams a reality.

To raise funds for the free lessons, The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation is holding its 2nd Annual Step into the Spotlight Soiree and Talent Competition, Friday, November 1, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. at Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty, 83 Channel Drive, Point Pleasant, NJ 08742.

Sponsored by the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, Investors Bank, and other supporters, The Step into the Spotlight Soirée features local adult talent, ages 21 and older, vying for the Zzak G. Spotlight Awards, and the Audience Choice Award. The contestants to-date are Brian Siekerka, Emily Eleton, Justin Daniels, Rashad Davis, Domenick Carino, Somasonder Dance Project, Hasseim Bey, and Divinity.

For the major impact they have had in helping children and the Foundation in its first two years, Heather Barberi, executive director of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation will be honored with the 2019 Spotlight on Kindness; Shawn Michaels and Sue Moll from Townsquare Media’s Ocean County Breakfast Show on 92.7 WOBM FM will receive the 2019 Media Spotlight; and Investors Bank will receive the 2019 Corporate Spotlight.

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

For students who have no way to get to lessons, this year the Foundation will provide funds through a new Community Outreach Program so performing arts teachers can teach a group of students in a community center or in an after school program.

Jodi Grinwald, co-founder and CEO said, “We are so proud to honor the incredible people of our community who have had such a profound impact on our Foundation. In addition, we have amazing individuals who will perform in front of ‘celebrity’ judges and share their talent for a cause that means so much to them. This is a night you don’t want to miss.”

Local “celebrity” judges to-date for the Soirée are 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; Topaza Watkins-Edmond; and honorees Heather Barberi, Shawn Michaels, and Sue Moll.

Tickets are $115 each and include dinner, a two-hour open bar, a silent auction, dancing, and talent competitions. Call 732-773-8970 or email for sponsorships, digital ad opportunities, tickets, or more information. 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.
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 at age 68 from ALS. To honor his legacy, his daughters created the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation in 2017.

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 nonprofit 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 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