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Achievers of America celebrate the holidays with party

Holiday cheer came in the form of an Elvis impersonator named StingRay and a secret Santa Claus bearing gifts for The Achievers of America baseball team, a nonprofit program for handicapped and mentally challenged individuals, at the team’s 11th annual Christmas party at the Palace Diner in Flushing.

Founder Steve Biondo and Howard Beach resident Randy Novick, the team’s head coach, held the party to bring the team together for a time of bonding through song and dance.

The Achievers of America have been hitting home runs and having fun for the last 10 years at Kissena Corridor Park on Main Street in Flushing. Their games are held every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. starting in May and running through October.

This program works with agencies, schools, coordinators, parents and group homes to help improve the quality of life for people of all ages who are handicapped or have developmental disabilities.

In spite of the icy conditions, on the day of the party, some team members still wanted to play baseball and said that the low temperatures would not stop them.

“It gives me great pleasure to see them enjoy themselves at this party, and they are truly team players because baseball is always on their minds,” said Novick. “New members came to this party and they can’t wait to play ball. Even their parents have baseball on their minds.”

Elvis got the crowd swaying to the music with the songs “Hound Dog,” “The Impossible Dream,” “That’s Alright Mama” and “Sweet Caroline.”

Claudia Wood, one of the Achievers, got up and did the twist with Elvis, then hugged him and told him she loved him. Others participated and sang the golden oldies with Elvis.

Novick, who also has another talent as a Rodney Dangerfield impersonator, said he gets no respect during his comedic act.

But the Achievers were in for the biggest surprise of all: Santa Claus.

Santa came in with a big “ho ho ho” and a large, fuzzy red sack filled with gifts. Stuffed toys and candy canes were handed out to everyone. Everyone had to take a photo with Santa to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.

Matthew Harley, a 21−year−old Richmond Hill resident who has been playing on the team for the last 10 years, could not get enough of the music or Santa.

“This baseball program, gatherings and the holiday parties really gets The Achievers to gain self−esteem and improves their quality of life while having fun,” Novick said. “I see parents and guardians of these Achievers sacrifice so much and they are so excited when they see these people come out of their shell when playing ball or attending a party.”

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