Livingston, NJ/ Tapinto —After not being able to invite their family members to last year’s 4thof July barbecue due to the pandemic, residents of Brandywine Living at Livingston and their loved ones enjoyed a special visit from actors Al Sapienza from “The Sopranos” and Deborah Rennard from “Dallas” on Sunday afternoon.
Working alongside Arlene Brief Entertainment to make the connection with the two special guests, Brandywine at Livingston Escapades Producer Sheri Brino organized an event that she hoped would be special for the residents after such a tough year.
“Being able to connect with actors that they have personally seen was amazing to watch,” said Brino, noting that these two actors stood out because many Brandywine residents grew up watching these particular shows and many are also natives of New York, where Sapienza is from. “We are getting back to our normal lives, and I thought what a better way than to surprise them with some famous faces?”
Sapienza, an American actor best known for his role as Mikey Palmice on the HBO series “The Sopranos” as well as his role as Marty Spinella in the Netflix series “House of Cards,” and Rennard, an American actress, writer and producer best known for her role as Sly Lovegren in “Dallas,” sang and danced for nearly two hours while the residents enjoyed refreshments.
The actors also spent time speaking with residents individually and in groups at their tables, taking photos, handing out autographed photos and meeting family members and staff who were in the building.
“Their presence was special to the residents because it made them feel like mini celebrities themselves,” said Brino. “They got the chance to ‘fan girl’ and really talk to the guests on a personal level in which many people do not get the opportunity to do so.
“Al and Deborah perform on huge stages in Vegas and Los Angeles, so having the opportunity to have such huge stars in our building was really special to them…They were so personable and genuine. They were very energetic and engaging with the residents. They would take suggestions from the crowd and tell stories from their other shows and performances etc.”
Brino added that the highlight of the event was seeing the residents “laugh, smile, sing and dance during the performance.”
“Watching them light up when they remember the song and could sing along was so special and brought a smile to my face,” she said. “Music is such an important thing for many of the residents here. It soothes them, it excites them and it can bring back many memories for them. Watching some of the residents who haven’t been able to attend many things dance at their table was a special moment.”
As an “escapade producer,” or activity director, Brino explained that it is her mission to “bring new and exciting things” to Brandywine for residents to enjoy.
“I think it is important to Brandywine to host such an event for its residents because it just means that nothing is impossible,” she said. “We want to bring the best possible entertainment and programs we can to make our residents happy and separate us from the rest. We always want to go above and beyond for our residents, so we will always be looking for the next best thing or next big star to entertain and engage with our residents.”
In the face of the pandemic, Brandywine at Livingston was able to host a few clinics that Brino said were “a huge advantage to our residents, staff and families.”
Brino added that she was :overcome with joy with the amount of enthusiasm and gratitude from the staff and families at Brandywine to create such a successful and fun event for everyone” when the facility recently teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Association for an event that “completely beat all [her] expectations.”
“Some difficulties of hosting such events is making sure that we can still keep everyone safe and distant, but still bringing vibrant and engaging programs for our residents,” said Brino. “We have completely adjusted our common areas, activity spaces, moved tables, chairs, couches, etc. to make sure we can still keep residents safe but involved in everyday activities & moving daily. It has been challenging; but, ultimately, the results of this past year have been most gratifying.”
Brandywine Living at Livingston, located at 369 East Mt. Pleasant Avenue, provides assisted living and memory care to seniors as well as stimulating educational programs and exciting activities that keep residents engaged.
Brino and her team are already working to organize future events, including one in September to celebrate Grandparents Day and National Assisted Living Week.