Honoring Sophie Gerson and those who continue her work

From left, Henry Buhl, Borough President Gale Brewer and former Councilmember Alan Gerson at Buhl’s stunning Soho loft at an event to fete both the late Sophie Gerson and the Healthy Youth Program Foundation, founded in her honor by her son, Alan.  Photo by Tequila Minsky

From left, Henry Buhl, Borough President Gale Brewer and former Councilmember Alan Gerson at Buhl’s stunning Soho loft at an event to fete both the late Sophie Gerson and the Healthy Youth Program Foundation, founded in her honor by her son, Alan. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY  |  The evening was frigid, but the good feelings were very warm. Friends, family and a diverse array of those who worked with Sophie and Alan Gerson through the years found sanctuary in Henry Buhl’s Soho loft. They were there to pay tribute to Sophie Gerson and her championing of physical education, sports and dance.

New Borough President Gale Brewer was among the myriad local politicos and educators who turned out to show support.

Access to physical-fitness programs was a mission close to the heart of Sophie Gerson, who was Community School Board 2 president for seven years. She died in December 2012 at age 88.

Sophie grew up poor in the Bronx and taught herself tennis with a hand-me-down racket. She went on to teach physical education for 36 years in public school, first in the South Bronx, then at the old LaSalle Junior High School on W. 48th St.

Established in her memory by her son, Alan, the Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth Program Foundation provides city schoolchildren with scholarships to summer dance and sports camps, including the National Dance Institute, the Julian Krinsky Tennis Camp and Hoop Group Camp.

The program also supports P.E. programs in local schools, specifically targeting middle school students, particularly girls, with school-year-long programs. The foundation supports these programs in tennis, provided by the New York Junior Tennis and Learning organization; dance, provided by National Dance Institute — 10 weeks of dance workshops, culminating in an advance performance; plus volleyball, basketball or softball, with participating schools funded for at least one sports team.

Still in the planning stage, scholarships will be provided for Space Camp, a two-week, hands-on program at the New York City Center for Space Science Education, again, with a focus on recruiting girls.

At the celebration at Buhl’s loft, awards were given out, acknowledging individuals’ service to New York City youth. But first, a flat-screen TV showed one of the students’ high-energy dance productions in the National Dance Institute-led program.

Jacques D’Amboise, founder of the world-renowned, Harlem-based dance institute, humbly accepted his award, also acknowledging in the audience Ellen Weinstein, N.D.I. artistic director.

Po-Ling Ng, Sophie’s close friend and ally on Community School Board 2, also received an award. Rebbetzin Karen Wald Cohen was honored for founding with her late husband, Rabbi Bruce Cohen, Interns for Peace, a group that brings young people of all backgrounds together.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, who was not present, received an award for founding the Children’s Health Fund.

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