Nonprofit To Host Unique Step Into The Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser

Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation Removes Financial Barriers That Limit Children's Creative Expression

By: Sep. 21, 2020

Nonprofit To Host Unique Step Into The Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser Nonprofit to Host Unique Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser with Celebrity Judges from Two Coasts

A fantastic fall fundraiser will shine the spotlight on the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids (AOK) Foundation, a non-profit organization created by Jodi and Melissa Grinwald and dedicated to allowing children in need to benefit from creative expression, increased self-esteem, improved academic focus, vital sense of belonging, and positive reinforcement through the performing arts. On Thursday, October 22, 2020, the AOK Foundation will present its Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition, a fundraiser to assist more children who would not otherwise have the chance to walk through the doors of a vocal, instrumental, acting, or dance studio for personal instruction.

The foundation provides 100% direct funding for children living with financial barriers to take ongoing lessons at local performing arts studios close to their homes. Children ages 7-18 who meet the financial needs requirements can be funded for up to 11 years. Proceeds from this year's event will support those students and also help fund the AOK Performance Group, where youth volunteers can showcase their talents at various events, and a Community Outreach Program that brings qualified performing arts instructors to facilities where multiple children can attend ongoing lessons in one location.

Thanks to the extensive reach allowed by this year's interactive virtual format, the inspiring October 22 fundraiser will be a bi-coastal celebration, with select talent from New Jersey, New York, and California appearing before celebrity judges from TV, film, and Broadway. A range of accomplished adult contestants auditioned for a spot on the virtual stage, where they will vie for the Zzak G. Spotlight Award, the second place award, and the Audience Choice Award. In addition to the talent competition, the evening will also include entertainment by members of the Zzak G. AOK Performance Group, appearances by AOK fund recipient families who will share their personal experiences with the organization, and other surprises.


Awards will be presented to key supporters of the Zzak G. AOK Foundation. These include the 2020 Corporate Spotlight on Kindness Award to Design 446; Media Spotlight Award to News12 New Jersey; Community Partner Award to Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County; Kids Helping Kids Kindness Award to Gianna Minardi, AOK Performance Group member; 2020 Rockin' & Rollin' Cultivator of Creativity Award to Tara Frye, owner of Emotion in Motion; and Daniel Repole Scholarship Fund Recognition Award to Adam & Michelle Repole.

The 2020 Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition is generously supported by Presenting Sponsor, the Grunin Foundation; Mission Moment Sponsor, OceanFirst Foundation; Making a Difference Sponsor, Investors Bank; and other fabulous donors. The AOK Foundation also receives assistance through partnerships with performing arts centers, music and dance academies, music studios, musical supply stores, conservatories, theaters, Boys & Girls Clubs, corporations, and community and charitable organizations.


Event attendees may choose from three different ticket options, with the virtual curtain rising at 5:30 pm for VIP and Orchestra Level ticketholders who may attend a pre-event reception and at 6:30 pm for Mezzanine Level ticketholders. Backstage and VIP Pass tickets are $120, Orchestra with Stage Door Access tickets are $60, and Mezzanine Viewing tickets are $40. Each level of support comes with various amenities and Zoom links will be provided after purchase. For more details and to order tickets, go to Attendees and supporters may cast their Audience Choice Award votes for $5 per vote, with all proceeds benefiting kids in the AOK program. For more details about the judges and contestants and to place your early vote for your favorite performer, go to


Lending their support for this virtual extravaganza event will be a team of popular celebrity judges - including, for the first time, young celebrities - with professional experience in various performing arts. They include:

Lindsay Arnold is a 21-year-old actress from New York who is currently residing in Los Angeles, where she is working in the role of Allie Horton on Days of Our Lives.

Kristina Henderson, the CEO of Henderson Promos in Red Bank, NJ, was recently crowned 2020 Mrs. New Jersey American in the Mrs. America Pageant. She is co-founder of the non-profit Giving Back Forum and works closely with Fulfill, the food bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, as well as Tigger House Foundation, an organization dedicated to combatting drug addiction.

Diane Raver is the co-founder, with actor Robert Pastorelli, and executive director of the Garden State Film Festival, which welcomes more than 30,000 attendees each year, including notable celebrities such as Glenn Close, Frank Vincent, Paul Sorvino, Budd Schulberg, Kurtwood Smith, James Gandolfini, Celeste Holm, Ed Asner, and Clarence Clemons, among others. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding work in filmmaking and television production.

Anna Mastroianni, a longtime stunt person, actress, and entrepreneur, has appeared in numerous hit films and television series as a double for stars like Kate Winslet, Goldie Hawn, Drea DiMatteo, and Lauren Velez. She has worked in multiple blockbuster movies and series, Off-Broadway, and in independent films. She boasts 50+ theatre credits opposite stars such as Rita Moreno, Paul Sorvino, and Mira Sorvino, was a recurring character on As the World Turns, and appeared on David Letterman, Another World, and Loving. She is also a voiceover artist and founder of an upscale NJ boutique.

Joanne Nosuchinsky is a popular podcast host, actress, and proud Actors Equity members living in New York City. A fine arts theatre scholar, she is a former cable news personality and Miss New York USA 2013 and has performed in Off-Broadway productions.

Devin Trey Campbell, best known for his role as Rory on ABC's comedy, Single Parents, is currently working on a project with Disney. He began his professional acting career as Young Lola in Kinky Boots on Broadway and was Entertainment Tonight's kid correspondent at the Kids Choice Awards. In addition to acting, Devin loves to sing and dance and has been trained in ballet, jazz, musical theater, and tap.

Ja' Siah Young is a hardworking child actor best known for his role of Dion in the Netflix original series Raising Dion. Wise beyond his years, he decided to pursue acting at the age of three and has been putting his all into it ever since. He played the role of Andre Fuller on two episodes of NBC'S Law & Order SVU and appeared in the virtual play Richard the II, which aired live on WNYC and on The Public Theatre podcast and website. He's been in several commercials, cartoons, and advertisements and loves mentoring other kids.

Tony Nation, a Broadway actor and singer, has also worked in film, TV, commercials, and voiceovers. Recent TV credits include co-starring on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime Video and the hit CBS TV series Bull. For two years, he was the host of Premium TV on STARZ and the CEN Network in the U.S. and Canada. He starred Off-Broadway in Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey. For the past 20 years, he has also been a partner in Actors Connection, New York's #1 networking/educational facility for professional actors.


The lineup of talented contestants for the AOK Spotlight Soiree includes:

Angel Vigier, of Elizabeth, NJ, earned first place in the McDonalds Gospel Festival at The Prudential Center in Newark, NJ at the age of 20. In 2015, he began partnering with Los Angeles singer/songwriter Jacob Bunton, who introduced Angel's talent to famed songwriter Jeff Pilson of Foreigner and others in the music industry. Angel's collaborative project with members of Foreigner is set to be released soon.

Blake Bergman has been a gifted pianist since an early age. He later began acting, taking classes with some of the best in the industry. He lives in Los Angeles and has appeared in many movies and network shows.

Jack Davis Griffo is an American actor and musician who starred as the lead antagonist-turned-anti-hero Max Thunderman in Nickelodeon's hit show, The Thundermans. This superhero live action comedy, with over 100 episodes, was created by three-time Emmy Award-winning producer and screenwriter Jed Spingarn and ran through May 2018. Jack then began a recurring role as Dylan on the twice-Emmy-nominated show Alexa and Katie on Netflix and has completed various film roles in 2018-2020, including Butter and Don't Log Off.

Noah Wang is a San Francisco, CA native with a deep connection to movement and performance since the age of three. He trained for nine years with a scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet School and for three years in jazz, modern, and contemporary dance at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. Noah recently received his BFA in dance from Juilliard.

Danielle Brindisi, a singer and actress with more than 25 years of experience, owns the elite BeYou Arts Performance Training Academy in New Jersey. She trained and performed extensively in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles until witnessing the tragic events of September 11. She left New York and took a hiatus from the joy of performing before reviving her passion for directing and performing arts education. Her students are found at leading universities, working with top agents, and performing in local, regional, and national productions.

Briana Aponte is an 18-year-old aspiring Broadway actress, performing since the age of four, who recently appeared in Open Hydrant Theatre Company's production of In the Heights as Nina and was expected to play Fantine in Les Miserables this April. She plans to continue her training in singing, dancing, and acting while pursuing an early undergraduate degree.

Amanda Conti is a 21-year-old New Jersey singer/songwriter whose first original piano compositions, written at the age of five, were later sent to the Juilliard School of Music. She performs original music all over the New Jersey/New York area and has released three EPs on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and all streaming platforms. She has appeared solo and with bands since the age of 12 and sang backing vocals for Jon Bon Jovi with the Rockit Live Foundation at the age of 16. She has written songs for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, often performing at charity events, and is studying to become a music therapist to share the healing powers of music.

Jahliely Salcedo is a dancer who has participated with the Kips Bay Performing Arts Team for five years, danced with the famed Rockettes, performed in Puerto Rico, and appeared with the Orlando and New York Salsa Congress. Skilled in salsa bachata, hip hop African, tap, ballet, baton twirling modern, and jazz, she has also appeared in numerous musical productions.

Divinity Montijo has been singing her whole life, performing from a young age at school, outside venues, and community events, including those for the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation that are sponsored by her employer, Investors Bank. She is pursuing a degree in music business.

Daniel Lipata is a multi-instrumentalist from New Jersey. He graduated this year with an associate's degree in music from Bergen Community College, wowing audiences with his musical talent.

Julia Scott is a proud Army/police wife, mother of seven, and grandmother. A New Jersey native, she was a music and education major at Rider College before going on to work in healthcare for 21 years, becoming a registered nurse in 2020. Through the years, she kept her love for the performing arts and music and entered the 2019 Adult Idol competition at Laurita Winery before appearing at the AOK Foundation's Open Mic Night and now participating in the 2020 AOK Spotlight Soiree.

Rudy's Jukebox is a five-person vocal group specializing in a fusion of folk, rock, blues, cabaret, and just about any style that fires their imaginations. Formed in the late '80s, they have played all over the greater New York area in venues ranging from bars to radio stations and colleges to magic clubs and have a sold-out album. Rudy's Jukebox members are Greg Alexander, JB Barricklo, CLJ3 [Clifford Lee Johnson III], Marie Mastrangelo, and Jackie Ross.

Denzel "Zel" Rodriguez has been performing since preschool and gives a shout out to the Open Hydrant Theatre Company in Bronx, NY. Now 18, he's been rapping for three years, acts, and loves everything from the '90s era. He aspires to combine music and acting as his lifetime career to give back and provide hope to others.

Nonprofit To Host Unique Step Into The Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser Nonprofit To Host Unique Step Into The Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser Nonprofit To Host Unique Step Into The Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition Virtual Fundraiser


Businesses, groups, and individuals are invited to lend support by becoming a partner for the AOK Foundation Spotlight Soiree and Talent Competition. In addition to making a difference in a child's life, sponsorships and digital ads for this spectacular, one-of-a-kind virtual event will put you and your business in the spotlight alongside national talent and celebrity judges with a coast-to-coast audience.

Sponsorship opportunities include:

Orchestra (Presenting) Sponsor - $7,500 (SOLD)

Making a Difference Sponsor - $3,000 (SOLD)

Mezzanine Sponsor - $3,000 - sponsor logo shared on social media and website, full page digital program ad, name recognition on event night, eight viewing links for VIP room and main event

Mission Moment Sponsor - $2,500 - (SOLD)

Backstage VIP Sponsor - $1,500 - join judges, honorees, and special guests at an exclusive pre-show reception, with sponsor logo shared on social media, event night virtual signage, and website, half page digital program ad, name recognition at both VIP and main event, four viewing links for VIP room and main event

Contestant Sponsor - $1,500 - sponsor logo shared on Audience Choice website, all separate contestant vote pages, social media, and website, name recognition at both VIP and main event, half page digital program ad, four viewing links for VIP room and main event

Vocal/Instrumental/Acting Sponsor - $1,200 - sponsor logo shared on social media and website, quarter page digital program ad, four viewing links

Scholarship Sponsor - $1,000 - sponsor logo shared on social media, information about your organization shared with AOK Foundation scholarship families, quarter page digital program ad, four viewing links to the event

Dance Scholarship Sponsor - $600 - sponsor logo shared on social media and website, quarter page digital program ad, two viewing links

End of Event Dance Party Sing-along Sponsor - $500 - name recognition before dance party begins, sponsor logo shared on social media

Gift of Music Sponsor - $250 - quarter page digital program ad, two viewing links to the event

Digital program ads, with your logo and message, will be shown on the night of the event and on social media. Ad opportunities include: Full - $125; Half - $100; Quarter - $75; Supporter - $50

To learn more about the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation and updates on the 2020 Step into the Spotlight Soiree & Talent Competition, please visit Follow the foundation on Facebook for updates at and Instagram @applaudourkids.

For media coverage, interviews, sponsorships, and digital ad opportunities, contact Jodi Grinwald at 732-773-8970 or email


West End Theatres To Dim The Lights For Michael Gambon On Friday Evening Photo
West End Theatres To Dim The Lights For Michael Gambon On Friday Evening

WEST END THEATRES TO DIM LIGHTS IN HONOUR OF MICHAEL GAMBON. The West End will pay tribute to the late Sir Michael Gambon by dimming their lights for 2 minutes at 7pm on Friday, September 29th. Gambon had a remarkable career spanning six decades and was a member of the Royal National Theatre.

Review Roundup: MELISSA ETHERIDGE- MY WINDOW Opens On Broadway! Photo
Review Roundup: MELISSA ETHERIDGE- MY WINDOW Opens On Broadway!

Rock icon Melissa Ethridge celebrates opening night of her new one-woman show Melissa Ethridge: My Window tonight! Read the reviews!

SOME LIKE IT HOT Announces Broadway Closing Date Photo
SOME LIKE IT HOT Announces Broadway Closing Date

The most award-winning musical of the 2022-2023 season, SOME LIKE IT HOT has announced a closing date at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre before it launches a national tour and West End production.

Christina Aguilera To Produce BURLESQUE Stage Adaptation Photo
Christina Aguilera To Produce BURLESQUE Stage Adaptation

The big screen movie musical Burlesque is headed to the stage courtesy of the film's star, pop icon Christina Aguilera. 



Recommended For You