FTK’s Annual Gala Celebrates 21 Years of Giving

FTK’s Annual Gala Celebrates 21 Years of Giving

At the For the Kids Foundation’s 21st annual Black Tie Gala, East Islip administrator Dr. Lisa Belz was honored as Educator Advocate of the Year, and Mary Finn, Cathy Lemon and Suzanne Zembrzycki were honored as Community Advocates of the Year. This year’s “The Castle on the Green”-themed Gala, held on March 17, saw a return to Land's End in Sayville. It is the FTK organization's primary fundraising event to benefit East Islip students, and has donated well over $1 million for educational programs since its formation. 

Belz earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Dowling College, then obtained a master’s degree in liberal studies from Stony Brook University and a professional diploma in school leadership from Dowling. In 2008, she earned a doctorate in education from St. John’s University. She began her educational career as a teacher, spending 14 years in the classroom in the South Country and Brentwood School Districts before being named assistant principal for William Floyd Elementary School in 2002. She joined East Islip two years later as principal of the Early Childhood Center, Connetquot Elementary School and eventually Timber Point Elementary School, which earned a National Blue Ribbon School award during her tenure. In 2014, she became the district’s executive director of special education/pupil personnel services 6-12. She has also served as the vice president, president and current co-president of the East Islip Association of School Administrators; and for a three-year term as a Board of Education trustee for the Bayport-Blue Point School District. Belz and her husband Rob have three sons, Austin, Zachary and Dylan. 

Finn, FTK’s treasurer, was born in Bay Shore and graduated from Brentwood High School. After earning master’s degrees from Hofstra University in audiology and speech-language pathology, she embarked on a career as an audiologist and cochlear implant specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. She currently holds a private audiology practice and teaches the field as a professor at Hofstra. Finn has volunteered with FTK for 13 years, including stints as John F. Kennedy Elementary School representative and FTK Carnival chair, and served as recording secretary for East Islip’s PTA Council. She and her husband Bobby have two children, Jillian (a 2017 East Islip graduate) and East Islip Middle School eighth-grader Bobby.

Lemon, who was unable to attend the Gala, is a member of the FTK Board of Directors and longtime advocate for volunteer work since her days growing up in Hawaii. She owns the local business Tire Express with husband Robert Lemon, with whom she has three children, Gabrielle, Bobby and Olivia. Lemon also donates her efforts to the Islip Breast Cancer Coalition and Poppy’s Angels.

Zembrzycki, a West Islip native and Farmingdale College alumna, operates Yellow Dog Lawn Care with her husband Jim. She has resided in East Islip for 19 years, and has a long history of community service. Zembrzycki has been a member of FTK’s Board of Directors since 2011, and serves as its secretary. She has two children, Kayla (a 2017 East Islip graduate) and current high school freshman Tyler.

“Congratulations to all of our amazing honorees, four women who have contributed so much to the success of FTK,” said President Pat Blair. “We are grateful for our community that supports FTK and continues to do so after 21 years. Here’s to 21 more!”