Forty children board a bus from The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Newark Ironbound, expecting an adventure. Like many working-class children, they rarely experience life outside their immediate neighborhood. But these kids are members of the ZClub, a music and theatre performance group founded by Zee Oliviera. Zee, in collaboration with Brenda Levitt (The Barry Levitt Foundation), Scott Barbarino (Ellen’s Stardust Diner) and the Newark City Council, take them beyond their dreams to their first Broadway show!

The bus rolls out of The Ironbound, where most residents are immigrants from one of ten countries around the globe where Portuguese is an official language. The gaping mouth of the Holland Tunnel swallows the bus. This is miraculous to children who have never crossed under the Hudson River from NJ to NY. It’s a portal to a future that could be theirs.They emerge amid towers and long corridors of traffic, approach neon lights and giant video screens. ZClub arrives on Broadway, at Ellen’s Stardust Diner.

Lunch at a Broadway restaurant is exciting, but Ellen’s talented singing waitstaff make it an event. Performing in high gear, they bring the young performers to their feet. Waitstaff and ZClubers well-versed in show tunes and pop songs, sing, dance and rock out. Some children think they’ve seen their Broadway show! Most remember they are bound for Disney’s Aladdin. By the time ZClubers board the bus for home, we could hear their hearts sing!

Thank you, Newark Councilman Augusto Amador and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin for securing funding. Thank you Zee Oliviera, her daughters, Caitlyn, Melanie and Kelsey and Emily Gafanhao for your dedication to ZClub. You provide constant hope and support to children who struggle with complex realities. You replace fear, doubt and anger with music, dance and drama. It’s a simple formula, but it works.

The Barry Levitt Foundation seeks to provide access to music and performing arts training and artistic experiences for children. Twenty-one percent of American children live in poverty. The arts are pathways to achievement and happiness. Thank you to our donors for making our mission possible.  Everyone deserves a dream.

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