November 08, 2006

North Fork Teen Gives Back

When 15-year-old Riverhead High School student Jyl Ristau was in second grade, she wanted to do something to help needy East End residents. The little girl asked merchants if they would like to donate to a worthy cause. After she procured a number of plush, stuffed animal offerings, Ristau held a raffle and raised $150 to benefit families in need.

One Christmas, Ristau asked that Santa skip her house and bring all her presents to less fortunate little ones. And in fourth grade, she organized a bake sale for children with cancer.

Today, Ristau is Lieutenant Governor of Division 1, New York District Key Club. She is putting her philanthropic talents into play once more by organizing a fundraising event. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Riverhead in conjunction with the Key Club will present a holiday fashion show, Chinese auction and silent Eastern Long Island Artists' Auction on Tuesday, December 5 at The Inn at East Wind in Wading River.

Proceeds from the event will benefit SAVES (Spay, Alter, Vaccinate Every Stray), a North Fork volunteer humane organization, and the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center, servicing the northeastern United States at Tufts Medical Center. A portion of proceeds will also be used to allow members of local Key Clubs to attend a New York State district convention in March.

Ristau's good work has already gained tremendous momentum: In one month, she has garnered over $6000 in donations.

The Key Club is directly involved in assisting local communities with funds raised at past events benefiting the Salvation Army, children's charities, local food pantries, homeless programs and research in diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Ristau's missive touched the heart of Southampton pop artist Michael Perez, who donated the hallmark piece of a series of paintings he created for a recent Cover Girl cosmetics campaign.

Perez's work, influenced by Picasso and infused with his own unique flair, integrates vibrant colors of nature to bring his canvases alive.

"Most artists don't realize that when you sell a painting for money, it's not the same as donating it for a worthy cause," said Perez. The artist believes that donating a painting can spark immeasurable good — the pay it forward approach, said Perez, "snowballs."

Bids for the Perez painting are being accepted and will begin at $1000.

The artists' auction will feature jewelry, pottery and framed art. Renee's and Chaps Corner of Mattituck will sponsor the holiday fashion show. A long list of area merchants and restaurants on both the North and South forks have stepped up with donations and gift certificates.

Eastport Key Club President Janine Payne also received a donation of a watercolor still life painting by artist Richard J. Goss.

The event has taken on a life of its own, with Perez's donation the crowning glory of her efforts. "I wasn't expecting anything of this magnitude."

And the experience has taught Ristau an invaluable life lesson: "One person really can make a difference."

Advance sale tickets are $32, including dinner and fashion show; tickets are $35 after November 30.

For more information call (631) 779-3094, or email mrsristau@gmail.com.

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