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Western Youth Network Joins with Temple of the High Country for an Afternoon of Fun for Dozens of Children at Sandi Solomon’s Backyard Park

By Suzanne Lasky-Gerard

On July 28th, two exceptional groups came together to transform our community and make the brightest futures possible for our youth.

Seventeen children, 5-23 years old, of all religions, ethnicities and economic stations were joined by Rabbi Alty Weinreb and his wife Elizabeth from Boone’s Temple of the High Country at the magnificent children’s park, part of the home of Sandi Finci Solomon.   This is not just a backyard, it is 2 1/2  acres, down 130 stairs from her house, to a wonderland of adventure and pure fun.  There you find basketball, badminton, horseshoes, and volleyball with basketballs, soccer balls, swings, a gazebo, hammock and the piece de resistance, the Watauga River runs along the property.  

Sandi Finci Solomon and Rabbi Alty Weinreb

The children swam, snorkeled, fished and did what children do best, laugh. This entire day would be fun for anyone, but this was different. Rabbi Alty, as he likes to be called, came prepared with percussion instruments, one for each child. He then led them in creating music, laughing games, jumping and games which I’ve never seen before. Everything had absolutely no religious connotation. In fact, if you were not told he was a Rabbi, you’d think he was just an extremely talented and creative camp counselor. The Rabbi’s wife, an artist herself, came prepared to paint their faces in any character they chose.  You cannot imagine the fun the children had!

Sandi Finci Solomon had delicious, nutritious sandwiches and Gatorade and water waiting for them.  Home made cupcakes, cookies and tootsie pops, were not so nutritious but certainly enjoyed by the children and the adult-counselors and guests alike. 

I couldn’t resist just one chocolate cupcake.

It was an experience of a lifetime for the children, the Rabbi and his wife, for Sandi and her significant other, Tony Luis, and for the author of this article and her husband, Bill Liebman, who, by the way, photographed and videoed the event to be used by the WYN organization.  What? Who? and Why? is WYN?  Read on:

Growing up is never easy, but for some it’s extremely difficult. 

Reason?  Broken homes, too many children in a single parent environment, children with emotional problems, school problems, and so many others. In Western North Carolina, however, children in these circumstances have an opportunity to find a better way for themselves…WYN, The Western Youth Network.  If you haven’t heard about it, you’re in for some wonderful information.

WYN Is an organization that helps children, all nationalities all ethnicities, and at all stages of growing up.  They provide mentors to teach children the ways of the world, to help with their homework, to overcome any problems at home and with getting along with people.

They provide after school activities and summer camp when school is on summer break. They introduce children to new experiences that might not have been available to them before WYN, such as learning to fish, sports, hiking, in short, learning how to succeed in anything they tackle.

Couldn’t we all have gained from a program like WYN?  I know I could have, and my growing up was quite happy and “normal,” whatever that is.  WYN is raising money now to build a Teen Recreation Center in Boone near the Watuaga Hospital

This entire event which Sandi has been doing with the WYN youngsters for many years in addition to taking them to see live theater at Lees McRae College , and dancing in their talent show, is a labor of love. Ask her and she’ll tell you that nothing can give her more pleasure than seeing children smiling and enjoying each day she can provide for them.

Sandi Finci Solomon is a very special person.  This is just one of the many charities and programs she supports.  Some others are the Appstate Youth Film Festival, Appstate Summer Festival Advisory Board and the Advisory Board for Theater and Dance, the Lees McRae Summer Theater Advisory Board and so many others.

But this annual event is different. It brings together the two organizations closest to her heart, her Synagogue, the Temple of the High Country, and WYN, the Western Youth Network.