In tonight's episode, I couldn't be more proud of my daughter Christine for choosing to have her sweet 16 based solely upon giving back to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). She gave all of her birthday gifts directly to CFF. Everyone donated generously, some well beyond the suggested amount going directly to Robin, the head of the Hackensack Division for CFF. Thank you, Robin for all of the time you spent with me and my daughters, helping collect for a mutually important cause, one that us especially near to my heart because of my late adopted mother. May she rest in peace. Plus, six of my brothers, her sons. I want to thank Christine for doing this without hesitation or suggestion on my part. A special thanks goes to Christine's little sister, Jillian Marie (my youngest daughter) for writing and performing two of her original songs - one of which you heard this episode, "We Are Sisters," and the second of which you did not hear, "You Are Not Alone." Jillian had one month to prepare and rehearse, and then she performed these songs in front of 350 people plus all of you watching at home. I could not be more proud of both of my daughters. When Jillian took the stage, her sister Christine, in her way, asked everyone to "pay attention." Jillian, you did an amazing job. I know you were nervous and everyone will soon see how much you've grown in all the months since this episode aired. I just want to say thank you to Christine for allowing me to learn from you, not just with this, but with everything you do. You are both amazing daughters and my biggest gifts in life. I have a lot of people to thank, so pardon me for being informal, but I am going to list your names, because I couldn't have done this without each and every one of you. You donated your services and your time and went above and beyond what was asked of you. I certainly did not have a party planner. LOL!
First, I'd like to start with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Kathy Innoncenti, her husband Emil, and daughter Patrice, for designing the invitations and hand delivering them, helping to make certain that all 350 kids checked in on buses and arrived at the same time by personally checking them in and putting safety first. Special thanks to Cynthia Capone for helping and organizing and keeping in close contact with Robin from CFF. Very special thank you to Brian Nash (Jillian's vocal coach and friend) and musical director for the night. I think it's safe to say that none of this would have been possible without the extremely generous donation of the entire venue and hotel from David Weiss and Ed & Leslie Reagoso of The Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange, NJ. You stopped your world for this Sweet 16 and we are forever grateful for the memories made on Dec. 4, 2009, for your generous donation of the entire menu, food and drink, for adults and children. All of the catering was by Billy Zonia of Wilshire Grand Catering. The food was amazing! For all of the furniture and decor that you see (and don't see)- Jersey Street Furniture. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Thank you Steve Novich, so very, very much. Thank you David Roberts for your help with security. Special thanks to Eric Alt (Eric Alt Salon) www.ericaltsalon.com and "the princesses" were treated to an entire spa day from RED CARPET SPA by Jacqui Phillips and Pasquale! Thank you for this amazing treat for the girls! Victor Martinez, Mr. Olympia, thank you for carrying Christine on your shoulders. You may be the strongest man in the world, but you are our teddy bear. Thank you, Sarai and your husband for flying in to share this event. Congratulations Christine! Happy sweet 16!