Benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of Lodi @ The Elan

Announcing:  On Thursday, August 18th, a special event will take place at the gorgeous Elan in Lodi.  There will be food, drinks, music, and dancing!  The event will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Lodi.  Have a great time and support a great cause.  Check it out!

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Advertisements

Spring Lake Five (May 2011)

And they're off...

For many New Jerseyans, summer begins with the Spring Lake Five, a five-mile run held in Spring Lake, NJ on Memorial Day weekend.  This race is over thirty years old, but still maintains a non-commercial and community feel.

About 500 runners participated in the first race in 1977, and then just a few years later, over 1000 runners were participating.  Those numbers continued to grow over the years, and this year, there were over 8,000 people – of various running abilities – running in the race.

My sister was one of them.

The first to cross the finish line.

Though she’s been running for a few years now, this was her first race.  She was a little nervous at the start, but she had been training, and I knew she would be great.  She was going to be running with friends and knew that by being there, she was helping to support a good cause.  Several good causes, actually.

The first woman to cross the finish line.

Proceeds from the race fees go to support Spring Lake recreation and local charitable organizations.  Since 2002, over $500,000 has been raised for recreation programs and charitable projects.

With my sister right before she ran the Spring Lake Five.

This year’s charity partners included The Sharing Network Foundation, The Wellness Community, Arthritis Foundation, Holiday Express, Charity House Foundation, The Front and Center Fund, Ocean of Love, Team in Training, The JT Foundation 4 Autism Awareness, Covenant House, and Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign.

My sister did do really well, just as I expected.  And though my role at this year’s race was simply as a spectator, a photographer, and a supporter, I could feel the contagious excitement of those who participated, and perhaps next year I’ll run in the race too.

But I’ll have a lot of training to do before I’m ready!

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Spring Cleaning for a Good Cause – Mothers and More

Do you have a purse or wallet you aren’t using any more?  I bet you do.  And I bet you have several.

They might be a few years (or more) old, gifts from someone who didn’t know your taste very well, or purchases that seemed like “a good idea at the time.”  There’s no need to feel guilty about keeping those bags stuffed away in a drawer or collecting dust on a high closet shelf anymore – instead, you can donate them to a local New Jersey organization and help working moms who need a little assistance getting on their feet.  Though they aren’t your style anymore, they may be just the thing that a hard-working mom is looking for!

This spring, in conjunction with Mothers & More National, the Greater Mercer Area Chapter is sponsoring The Power of a Purse, a month-long program where they collect gently used purses and donate them to the Mercer County Dress for Success.  This is a great way to raise both personal and community awareness of the financial vulnerability women face during motherhood – during the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day.

Greater Mercer Area Chapter is collecting purses, wallets and items that are often found in handbags, now through May 2nd.  If you have these items and would like to help women are who just getting back on their feet or returning to the workforce, the location for drop off is at the Dance Expo on Route 130 in East Windsor Mon. thru Fri. 5pm-7pm and Sat. 10am-12pm.

Christina Fowler, Greater Mercer Area Chapter leader, says, “Moms Helping Moms is how I was able to achieve what I achieved. It’s time to pass it forward.  Join Me.”

Look around, see what you can find to donate; it’s time for spring cleaning anyway.

And hey – if you don’t find anything to donate, there’s no rule that says you can’t go out and pick up something new for this drive.  I’m sure that would be just fine too.  🙂

For more information, visit: Mothers and More, Greater Mercer Area, New Jersey.

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Milltown Mel and His Shadow

February 2, 2011 – Groundhog Day

by Jeffrey Morris
Jeffrey Morris

Jerry Guthlein and Milltown Mel (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

MILLTOWN, NJ – Milltown businessman, Jerry Guthlein, was surrounded by his team of groundhog wranglers this morning, attempting to coach Milltown Mel out of his den and predict the weather.  Mayor Gloria Bradford read a proclamation declaring that Milltown Mel would be the official weather forecaster for Milltown. Guthlein, sponsored the event to benefit  Elijah’s Promise, a food bank located in nearby New Brunswick, and attendees were asked to bring a canned food item for donation.

Jeffrey Morris

A brightly dressed crowd looks on while Milltown Mel determines when spring will arrive. (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Despite the icy weather, many Milltowners showed up for the event and were treated to hot coffee and donuts at the American Legion hall.  This is the third year that Guthlein has put on this event, and everyone seems to enjoy it, as well as the star of the show, Milltown Mel.

Oh! by the way, Mel’s prediction was for an early and warm spring. Let’s hope he’s right.

Jeffrey Morris

Milltown's groundhog wranglers included Ralph Jasionowski and Anthony Fama (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Cream Ridge Winery Benefit for TACA

Cream Ridge Winery (photo by Melissa Morris)

Cream Ridge Winery (photo by Melissa Morris)

As a teacher of students with special needs for the last five years, autism is a term with which I have become very familiar.  Though autism affects about 1 out of every 110 children today, there are still many things we don’t know about this developmental disability – including what causes it.   Researchers are looking at both genetic and environmental factors as possible causes.   And to compound our confusion, there is a great range in the symptoms and severity among people with Autism, so we refer to it as a “spectrum disorder.”

“No one wants to think or believe that anything could be wrong with their child,” says Karen Nardelli of Robbinsville, NJ, “but I knew in my heart that something was different about Tommy. In July 2009 at the age of three Tommy was diagnosed with autism. There have been many challenges over the past year and many times I felt alone and helpless. After I discovered Talk About Curing Autism I knew I would not be alone anymore and that there was someone who was able to help me in my journey. TACA has helped me in so many ways. I feel that I need to give back so TACA can continue to help those who are affected by autism.”

Melissa Morris

With my mom and good friends at the Cream Ridge Winery benefit for TACA in July

Nardelli, whose family owns Cream Ridge Winery in Cream Ridge, NJ thought that having a fundraiser at her family’s winery would be a good way to raise awareness and give back to those affected by and living with autism. On July 10, 2010 Cream Ridge Winery hosted An Evening for Autism, benefiting the organization Talk About Curing Autism.

I ordered my ticket for the event as soon as I heard about it.  And having only ever visited wineries and vineyards in Italy, I was also excited about experiencing my first New Jersey winery.  The Cream Ridge Winery is rustic and fun and the night of the event was packed with people.  In addition to wine tastings, vendors, and raffle prizes to keep everyone entertained, music was provided by Allison Laine who performed songs from the show, Day After Day, a rock opera written by Steven Allen about a child with autism.

Karen Nardelli and Sandra Saponaro at An Evening for Autism at the Cream Ridge Winery (photo courtesy of Sandra Saponaro)

Also happy to show her support the event was Sandra Saponaro who is familiar with autism as well.  “I am the proud mommy to a wonderful 8-year-old little boy who has autism,” Saponaro says.  “I have been raising him myself since diagnosis at 2 1/2 years old and have become involved in many different Autism Foundations, TACA being one of them.”  Saponaro learned about the event at the Cream Ridge Winery through her friendship with Nardelli.   She says, “I wanted to help out with this raising monies for this much-needed cause. As the owner of How Sweet It Is Cupcake Company, I myself invented my Autism Ribbon of Cupcakes that I have done for many Autism Fundraisers, Autism Speaks walkathons and various school awareness rallies.”

Beautiful cupcakes on display, inspiring music, plenty of gourmet snacks, and unique New Jersey wines made this event one full of positivity and hope.  And it was quiet successful too; just under $5000 was raised for TACA!

Nardelli and her family  are planning another fundraising event for TACA at the Cream Ridge Winery this April.  The upcoming event will take place earlier in the day and include a 5K run through Walnford Park as well as wine tasting and a tent and vendor event at the winery.  Check back to our site or visit the winery’s site closer to April for more details.

Though we still have a long way to go in fully understanding autism, we are a little closer because of organizations such as TACA and special people like Nardelli and Saponaro.

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Sources and Related Links:
Cream Ridge Winery
Autism Society
Autism Speaks
TACA (Talk About Curing Autism)

New Jersey Musicians Support the Wildlife of the Gulf Coast

The organizer of the event, Billy Hoffman, and I take a quick break for a picture. (photo courtesy of Billy Hoffman)

Having a good time while you’re supporting a good cause is pretty much the best kind of win-win situation there is.  And that’s exactly what occurred this summer at Buddies Tavern in Sayreville, NJ on August 7th.  Bands from all around New Jersey came out to perform in a special show to benefit the National Wildlife Federation and their efforts in helping the wildlife of the Gulf Coast after the oil spill.  A large and enthusiastic crowd came out to show their support as well.  (And I had the special honor of emceeing the event!)

Chelsea Gohd on her ukulele. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

Chelsea Gohd
Opening the show was South Brunswick, NJ resident and recent high school graduate, Chelsea Gohd.  The only ukulele player of the night (and probably the first I’ve ever seen perform live), Gohd was whimsical and fun and set the tone for the evening.  When asked about why she plays the ukulele, she said, “I’ve been singing all my life, and started guitar at around 12 or 13.  A couple of years ago I asked for a ukulele for the holidays, and picked it up and completely love it!”

Gohd is starting at Rutgers University this fall to major in environmental science and is a vegetarian and animal lover, so the show benefiting the National Wildlife Federation was a good fit for her.  Of the work that the National Wildlife Federation does, and is doing for the animals of the Gulf Coast, she says, “I’m glad they’re there to help!”

Rene Avila and Jay Renda from Clash of Influence. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

Rene Avila
Having played music most of his life and been in many bands through the years, Rene Avila has recently become a solo, acoustic act.  He plays gigs and open mics in New Jersey and New York, and is looking to put a band together for his original, hard rock songs.

“I found out about the benefit through my girlfriend,” Avila says.  When he learned that the show would benefit the National Wildlife Federation, he immediately wanted to do what he could to help out.

Don Guerrazzi and The Greater Kudu
Already booked for another gig earlier in the day, Don Guerrazzi couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the stage with other dedicated musicians helping out the National Wildlife Federation.  Guerrazzi says, “I was really excited we were asked to be a part of the show – we knew it was going to be a long day but what a better way to close out the night than playing music, meeting new people and raising money for a great cause.”

Guerrazzi even added a verse to his cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” to pay special tribute to the night’s cause: “Kudu makes a habit living up to the hype / And every chance we get – We support the Wildlife / ‘Cause it’s a Wild Life / And it’s a Wild World / I see some Wild Girls / I like your Style Girls…”

Don Guerrazzi and The Greater Kudu. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

The Greater Kudu’s collective focus is currently about gaining exposure and growing as musicians and as a band. They are always on the lookout for new venues and this was the first time they performed at Buddies Tavern.  “From that show,” Guerrazzi says, “we have booked two additional shows and have made some great relationships with fellow musicians.”

Clash of influence
Headlining the benefit show was Clash of Influence.   Guitarist, Billy Hoffman, felt that, “This is one of the worst environmental disaster our country has ever seen, and it seems that nobody from our government, corporate America, or our sports & entertainment superstars are doing anything to help.  We are the first nation to rush to the aid of other countries, yet we basically ignore the needs of our own, I wanted to show that it is the common man and woman who can really make a difference in this world.”

The oil spill devastation is vast, but Hoffman and Clash of Influence wanted to specifically help the wildlife of the area.  “I think we all felt that The National Wildlife Federation was the best choice to receive the donation because we wanted to be sure the money was used to help benefit the animals and environment, and they are a very reputable organization. We all feel bad for the people that have been affected by the oil spill, but ultimately it is the animals and environment that have suffered the worst from this disaster.”

Clash of Influence rocking out at Buddies Tavern. (photo by Christina Rudczynksi)

Clash of Influence has performed at Buddies Tavern in the past and felt that it was a logical venue for the benefit.  Buddies owner, Mike Grau supported the event wholeheartedly and donated 10% of sales that night to the National Wildlife Federation.

Perfect Crime and Slightly Used also performed and entertained the crowd.  The successful show was the result of a lot of hard work and the collaboration of donors and supporters including:  Mike Grau, Amanda Theurich, Lisa Sciblia, Michelle Cutler, Alicia Van Sant & Brian Ostering – from The Wag, The Village Barber Shop, Nick Borzone and Lola’s Latin Bistro, Andrea Di Meglio and Luca’s Ristorante (Somerset), Kristen Lafrank, Amanda Donnelly, Colby Krolak, Joe Butler, Liz Balogh, and Maria Cavalari and The Racing Form.

Hoffman says, “I am thankful to everyone who help make this a success…the performers, the donors, the volunteers who helped with the preparation and running of the show and the people who came out to support us and gave at the door. It was a true group effort and I think we all really accomplished something amazing.”

The benefit raised over $1,000 dollars for the National Wildlife Federation.  If you weren’t able to attend the benefit show, you can still support the National Wildlife Federation by clicking this link and making a donation!

Me, surrounded by the handsome guys of The Greater Kudu. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Find out more about these bands here:
Rene Avila on MySpace

Don Guerrazzi (Official Website)

Don Guerrazzi (facebook Page)

Clash of Influence (Official Website)

Clash of Influence (facebook Page)

Perfect Crime (facebook Page)

Slightly Used (facebook Page)

National Wildlife Federation


Make-A-Wish Foundation event at Katra Lounge (July 2010)

The Jersey Girl at the Make-A-Wish Foundation benefit in NYC

Last week, on Thursday, July 29th, I was very fortunate to attend a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the Katra Lounge in New York City.  Though it took place in NY, this benefit was organized by New Brunswick, NJ resident and owner of the Better Body Expert, Dre Farnell.  Many people from the entertainment and fashion industries of NY and NJ were in attendance to raise money and celebrate the wonderful work that the Make-A-Wish Foundation does, since 1980, granting wishes for children who have life-threatening medical conditions.

We first listened to the story of Paul Rosario whose wish was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation when he was a child – the most amazing thing about his story, is that Rosario was there to tell it to us himself.  Having fully recovered from the Leukemia that he battled as a child, Rosario is extremely grateful for the positive impact that the Make-A-Wish Foundation has had in his life and volunteers as a speaker with the organization.

Rich Malouf of the Malouf Auto Group, North Brunswick, NJ, with Make-A-Wish Foundation speaker Paul Rosario

Other invited guests were asked to speak and tell personal stories of what it is like, as an adult, to have a dream or a wish and what their individual paths have been like to make them come true.  Levar Riley, of West Orange, NJ told the story of starting his own successful dry cleaning business in Newark, NJ, called Lil’ BoSheep Dry Clean & Laundry Service.  Nicole Lundy, a makeup artist and owner of Ne’Lani Cosmetics, who lives in New Brunswick, NJ, shared her dreams of starting her own, all-natural, skin care line – and the exiting news that it will be launched this fall.

Dre Farnell, Levar Riley, me and Rick Gray

Farnell, the Better Body Expert, was motivated to host the fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation because his own nephew had a life-threatening condition when he was a child, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted a wish for him. Farnell wanted to give back to the organization that helped his family through a very difficult time and organized this event along with Rick Gray of the ADA Group.  Farnell energetically spoke about his own dreams of working for himself and becoming a personal trainer and life coach.  He also shared how important it is for him to help others achieve their dreams – the theme of the night’s event.

Joan Morris (my mom), Alison Malouf (my sister) and me with Nicole Lundy of Ne'Lani Cosmetics

It was an honor that, among these inspiring individuals, I had the opportunity to speak and share my story of pursuing my own dreams (of writing and traveling).  As a teacher, I work with students who have dreams and wishes, and a large part of my job is teaching them how to believe in themselves and that they can accomplish anything that they want to do – no matter how big the dream may seem or how small they may feel.  After a while, I realized that I needed to listen to my own good advice to follow my dreams and make my passions part of my regular life.  Now, as my dreams of writing and traveling are becoming a reality, I know that I am also a much more effective teacher for my students who can see, from my example, that with a little hard work and a strong belief in yourself, anything is possible.

Giving my speech at the Make-A-Wish event at Katra Lounge

It is never too early or too late to go after your own dream or to do something to help somebody make their wish come true.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, you can do so through this secure link.

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl