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James Earl Jones Honored by YMCA

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New York

The YMCA of Greater New York hosted its annual Arts & Letters auction and reception in October, and raised $400,000 to support the award winning Virtual Y program -- a pioneering after-school program operating in more than 90 public schools across New York City.  James Earl Jones, star of stage and screen and Verizon spokesperson, was honored with the Virtual Y Excellence Award for achievement in the creative arts.

The annual Arts & Letters benefit, held at the Rainbow Room, also honored Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt and Jon Scieszka, author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Grammy-and Tony-nominated star of the Broadway musical, Movin’ Out, Michael Cavanaugh, was recognized for his excellence in music. The event was emceed by Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden.

Jack Lund, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, said “James Earl Jones has mesmerized audiences with his singular voice and the deeply moving and powerful performances that have defined his extraordinary career.  But it is his commitment to the written word, to literacy and to the youth of America that set him apart from all the rest.  The YMCA of Greater New York is so very proud to present him with our Virtual Y Excellence Award for his lifetime of achievements.”

“I thank the YMCA for recognizing me as an Honored Reader, said Mr. Jones. “It was through a love of reading, that I was able to overcome the speech impediments that I struggled with in childhood, and from there to pursue a career in which the ability to speak would become so important. I am also very proud to be associated with a company, such as Verizon, which is a champion of literacy and supports programs like the Virtual Y to give children the necessary tools to pursue their dreams."

The Virtual Y is a free, literacy-based after-school program that has served more than 50,000 elementary school children o­n a daily basis in over 90 New York City public schools over the past eight years.  The program was designed to help meet the needs of thousands of lower income families and to provide a safe and stimulating environment that reinforces school learning and cultivates qualities not explicitly developed in school.  Activities include homework help, physical activity, a snack, and experiential learning activities aligned with New York State academic standards.

Mr. Lund added, “We also salute Frank McCourt, Jon Scieszka, and Michael Cavanaugh for excellence in literature and music and for their unwavering support and dedication to youth and YMCA programs.”

The highlights of the evening included a reading by Mr. Jones of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, written by co-honoree, Mr. Scieszka; Mr. McCourt reciting passages from his new book to be released o­n November 15th, Teacher Man; a piano performance by Mr. Cavanaugh; and special musical and sign language performances by children from the Prospect Park YMCA.

Among the auction items up for bidding were a weekend stay at a fabulous beach house in Hilton Head, South Carolina; a trip for two to Rome, Italy; tickets to the New York City Opera; an autographed New York Jets jersey; beauty for a year from SkinKlinic; a safari to South Africa, tickets for two to a Kanye West concert and a meet and greet with the star, baseball clinic with New York Yankee Derek Jeter, and other magnificent prizes.

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