Besides being well-known news broadcasters, Geraldo Rivera, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity also have a deep respect for, and willingness to help Life’s WORC (www.lifesworc.org), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism through its residential, community and trust services. The organization, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary, recently received $50,000 each from these prominent media professionals.
According to Victoria Schneps-Yunis, it was Geraldo Rivera, who made the first contribution. It was Geraldo’s riveting investigative report in the early 1970s, which exposed the atrocities of Willowbrook State School, then the largest institution in the nation serving children with developmental disabilities. Victoria’s daughter was a resident there and she had long been fighting for better conditions. Geraldo’s report, which won him a Peabody Award, and Victoria’s fervent advocacy, ultimately led to Willowbrook’s closing. Victoria then founded Life’s WORC and opened its first group home in Little Neck, Queens 50 years ago. Geraldo has been by Victoria’s side since – a longstanding friend and supporter.
It was a visit by Geraldo, his wife Erica Levy, and Victoria to Bill O’Reilly’s home in Montauk where Bill learned more about Life’s WORC. Over lunch, Victoria and Geraldo shared the history of Life’s WORC and the amazing progress it has made over the past five decades. Talk turned to the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, during which Victoria, Geraldo and Bill will all be honored. That led to Geraldo announcing his $50,000 donation, which Bill then matched. Sean Hannity, who had just hosted Geraldo and Erica at his East End Long Island home the previous night, made it a triumvirate and together, the “Three Musketeers” as Victoria fondly referred to them, helped create a new legacy fund for Life’s WORC.
Victoria noted that the three broadcasters were all brought up on Long Island and they are supporting a cause in their own backyard adding that, “Life’s WORC is an organization that helps more than 1,000 people with developmental disabilities and on the autism spectrum in warm, loving group homes and day programs supporting them and their families.”
More About Life’s WORC
Life’s WORC was founded 50 years ago after the closing of Willowbrook State School back in the early 1970s. As a young reporter, Geraldo Rivera exposed the deplorable conditions that existed within the then largest institution in the nation serving children with developmental disabilities. Rivera first learned about these conditions from Life’s WORC founder Victoria Schneps Yunis. Her daughter, Lara, diagnosed at an early age with severe brain damage, was a resident at Willowbrook. When cuts in state funding caused the institution to fall into extensive disrepair, Schneps Yunis, along with other concerned individuals, picketed to fight for the rights of Willowbrook’s more than 5,000 residents. Rivera’s report, which earned him a Peabody Award, ultimately forced the closing of Willowbrook. Schneps Yunis started Life’s WORC and opened its first home in Little Neck, Queens. Its first residents were former Willowbrookresidents.
Today, Life’s WORC provides beautiful homes located across the region, from Nassau and Suffolk to Queens and Manhattan, in addition to community services, financial and trust services, and the programs and services of its Family Center for Autism.