Frank Compoccio strode onto the stage of the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on Sunday morning, mic in hand, and beamed out at the hundreds of people waiting patiently in the audience.
“What do you say people, are you ready to rock this house?” he shouted, as the crowd burst into applause.
Hundreds of Long Islanders came to Patchogue on Sunday to watch dancers from 26 Long Island studios perform at the inaugural Dancing for Diabetes All Star Show. The event was organized by the Suffolk County Lions Diabetes Education Foundation as a fundraiser for the organization.
More than 350 dancers ages 4 to 18 performed during the five shows featured throughout the day. Attendees paid a one-time fee of $15 dollars for all five shows and could come and go as they pleased.
“I’m just excited to get on stage,” said Julia Riccobono, 16, of Medford, before performing for her studio, the Dance Arts Development Center in Islip Terrace. “It’s a rush, it’s so much fun.”
The idea for the all-day dance extravaganza originated with Compoccio, of Ridge, who spent years working as a professional videographer with local dance schools. He felt that putting on a show featuring dance studios from across the Island would be an opportunity to showcase talented young dancers as well as to raise money for the Suffolk County Lions in their mission to help Long Island children.
Andy Viola, co-chairman for the Suffolk County Lions, said the organization works primarily with Brookhaven Memorial Hospital and Stony Brook University Hospital to educate and treat Long Island children with diabetes.
Last year, the organization presented lessons on diabetes to more than 4,000 elementary school children and provided free diabetes screenings for more than 6,000 students. The organization also works with LensCrafters to provide children who suffer from diabetes with free glasses.
“What we do is help people who are blind and deaf,” said Viola, whose daughter was born deaf due to diabetes. “One of the major causes of blindness is diabetes. We help people who are really in need.”
With the dance performance, the group was hoping to raise $10,000 to go toward various goals, including a mobile diabetes screening van. By the end of the evening, the Suffolk County Lions had exceeded their goal, raising more than $14,000 in donations and ticket sales.
“Our hope for doing this today is that we can start our own summer camp for kids with diabetes,” said Compoccio, 64 who also has diabetes.
All of the dancers in the show had to sell two tickets in order to be able to participate in the performance. Rachel Civale, 17,of Medford, who danced with the Dance Arts Development Center in Islip Terrace, said she was not only glad to be dancing, but to be helping.
“Today we’re dancing to help kids with diabetes,” she said. “We’re here today to perform in honor of them.”