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My View: American Idol and America’s Got Talent Finalists Join Forces For First Responders

American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin recently headlined a concert at Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale which honored that communities first responders. Also performing was American’s Got Talent Finalist Carmen Carter. The event was hosted by Every Kid Swims, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower foster/at-risk youth through swim lessons, water therapy, and mentoring programs.

Wesley Stewart, organizer of the event explained it’s conception and mission to start off the evenings entertainment and special presentations.


Over the last decade, my wife and I have been tremendously fortunate to serve 10’s of thousands of foster youth and volunteers through our programs. Along this journey, we’ve come to learn a sobering truth. Oftentimes the last interaction a foster or at-risk youth had with a First Responder was the removal from their home/parents. 

Because of this traumatic experience, as an organization, we have strived to become highly intentional by creating programs that create a positive environment and help bridge the gap between these two demographics (who, ironically enough have the two highest rates of mental illness). A few of these programs have included: Surf with Cop, Paddle with Cop, Jump with Cop, and more. 

As we built relationships within the First Responders community through these powerful events, we have deepened our love for these brave men and women who courageously serve our community.

Which ultimately led to a simple decision by us: Provide a standalone event to honor these heroes amongst us. For the last 5 years, we have proudly hosted a special night just for First Responders. It’s a simple gesture that is organized by those within the community who care.

This year we were fortunate to create a star-studded musical lineup including up and coming artist Sammy Rose from Tallahassee (she is only 19 years old), Ryan Brolliar from the Music is Medicine Tour, Carmen Carter, lead singer on Dancing with the Stars, and viral audition from America’s Got Talent (she made it to quarterfinals!) and finally American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin.

Truly as amazing as the music was, the chance to highlight a few local First Responders was what made the event and night inspiring. The concert gave special recognition to:

Foster Care | Social Services

NBC 6 Forever Familiy | Gia Tutalo-Mote & Roxanne Vargas

Don & Alissa Silvestri | NFL Alumni & Foster Parents

Cali Simek | Human Trafficking Survivor 

Law Enforcement

Al Eskanazy | Community Police Relations Foundation

Deputy Mike Francis | Broward County Sheriff 

Major Aimee Russo | Broward County Sheriff

In closing, this event provided the empowerment to see people from different walks of life responding to the critical needs around them. A very sincere thank you to each of our sponsors for providing the chance to make this special night happen. | NFL Alumni Association | Community Police Relations Foundation | Bahia Mar | Miami Dolphins | Miami Heat | Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove | Adventure Sports Miami | Broward County Sheriff |

Elliot Yamin, Craig Neier, Wesley Stewart
Elliot Yamin
Carmen Carter
Carmen Carter
Sammy Rose
Ryan Brolliar
Carmen Carter & Eda Sorokoff
Craig Neier & Wesley Stewart
Elliot Yamin


Stephen studied at the Manhattan School of Music. Besides being a pianist, Stephen’s business career was in the Fashion Industry. He was CEO of a textile manufacturing facility and President of an international textile machinery company. Stephen was on the Board of Directors of the “First All Children’s Theatre” which brought the Stephen Schwartz musical The Trip and Captain Louie to the Kennedy Center in Wash DC. His wife Eda, an interior space designer and classical pianist was on the Board of Barrington Stage Company and is still active at BSC. Stephen’s photographs, videos and articles appear on, and The New York Observer. He is active in the entertainment events at the Friars Club, where he is a member. Stephen is also an Honorary Board Member of The Society For The Preservation of The Great American Songbook. Stephen

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