Newsmakers 2011: Mahwah Residents Who Did Amazing Things This Year
Individuals who made a big difference this year
Throughout the year, residents made headlines for doing some amazing things both within the community and beyond. Here’s a look back at some of the people who made news in Mahwah in 2011.
This eight-year-old is much more than a team mascot for the Mahwah High School football team. Vinny was born with a lung condition where his two main arteries were essentially backward. After surgery as an infant, Vinny was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which causes him to wear a backpack with an intravenous medication supply all the time.
Vinny’s condition didn’t stop him from inspiring the team, and the entire community, during his brother’s senior year season this year. Vinny has been the official team mascot for the past five years, since his brother, Anthony, joined the team. Though he cannot play alongside them, Vinny is always on the sidelines, cheering on his brother and their teammates.
In November, for the team’s last game together, the entire team, and all of the fans in the stands, wore purple to honor Vinny’s contribution to the team, and bring awareness to his disease. The stands were filled with purple-clad fans as Vinny watched his brother and the other T-Birds fly over Fort Lee, 55-20.
Vinny was humbly grately for the recognition. “I think it’s important so that way people can know about it, and maybe we can find a cure for this thing,” he told Patch in November.
Emily made a big difference in the life of a classmate this year. When her fourth grade classmate Joseph Kayal was diagnosed with Leukemia last February, the Joyce Kilmer student decided to start a charity to make her friend feel better. Emily started making her own pillows, and selling them to friends and family members to raise as much money as she could.
Meanwhile, her friend Joseph Kayal was out of school and undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Joseph got a bone marrow transplant in the spring and has been home recovering ever since. In October, Emily brought a “Pillow Money for Joe” envelope to the Kayal household, and told her friend to use the money to buy something that would help him get better, faster.
Joseph and his family decided to keep a small portion of the money (possibly to buy a Lego set), but donated the rest to the Tomorrows Children’s Fund at Hackensack, which was one of the programs he went to for treatment.
Emily said she just wanted to help her friend after he stopped coming to school. Joe said he “didn’t know she was going to do this for me. It was really nice.”
Tim had a very personal reason to set up a “Relay for Life” at his school, Paramus Catholic, this year. The 17-year-old had to leave school during his sophomore year when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Stage 3B.
It took him about a year to beat the disease, but he returned triumphantly to school as a full time junior last year. Feeling blessed to have overcome the disease, Tim decided to inspire the community to fight cancer. In June, he organized a “Relay for Life” at his school, and personally collected over $8,000 to fight cancer from his family and friends in the Mahwah community. According to his mom, Maryann, Tim is planning to do it again this spring.
These four Joyce Kilmer students were inspired to help when they heard about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. “I saw the story about Japan on the news, and it just looked so devastating. I wanted to figure out a way to help,” Woo told Patch in March. So, the then-fifth graders started the ‘Penny Wars’ at their school.
For a week, students in the school’s four lunch periods competed to see which period could raise the most pennies. Students were encouraged to bring in as many pennies as possible, which each counted as one point. Students could also bring in silver coins and dollar bills which were used to detract points, one point per cent, from the other periods’ collections.
The girls raised $5,000 from the event that they donated to the Red Cross.
The Temple Beth Haverim Shir Shalom’s Rabbi made headlines this year by literally putting himself in others’ shoes, and challenging others in the community to do the same. For a week in November, Rabbi Mosbacher took the “Food Stamp Challenge,” a national movement that asks people to live on $31.50 worth of food for the week, the equivalent of what an individual on food stamps has to live on.
During the week, Mosbacher blogged on Patch about what he was feeling, and what he was eating, during the challenge. “Why is good food so expensive?” he asked the community. Mosbacher said he hoped living on $1.50 per meal would “raise awareness about food injustice issues that are happening not only all around the world, but right here in our own community.”
Mahwah Board of Adjustment attorney Ben Cascio made a trip in 2011 that was over 40 years in the making. For the first time since 1968, when Cascio was sent home after sustaining an injury overseas during the Vietnam War, he returned to the country with a group of fellow veterans this spring. He said the country was not at all like the first time he had experienced it. Cascio went back to many of the places he went to as a MEDEVAC helicopter pilot during the war, shopped in Vietnamese shops, and went to Church with the Vietnaese.
Cascio said he was happy to see the people doing well, and the infrastructure built up in a way that he couldn’t have imagined 43 years ago. He said the trip gave him a sense of closure, and a better understanding of what he was doing there in the first place. “During battles, we were given instructions not to destroy any of the buildings, and I’m so, so glad that we didn’t do any damage to them,” he said. “We may have lost more men than we should have, but it’s a beautiful country and I’m glad we didn’t lose that.”
Suzy, a stay-at-home mom in West Mahwah, became a household name this year after seeing the devastation her neighbors suffered during Hurricane Irene, and forming a group to help.
The Mahwah Elves took a hands-on approach to hurricane relief. The Elves went door-to-door, asking who needed help, and cleaned out flooded homes throughout Mahwah. They organized a fundraiser for the victims, and a tricky tray that gave residents replacements for the furniture, toys, clothes and other items that were lost in Irene.
The Mahwah Patch is not the only media to recognize Suzy for the impact she had on Mahwah in 2011. The Weather Channel named her a “Weather Hero” and she was a finalist in their “Epic Christmas” contest. Suzy’s house is decorated with about $16K worth of Weather Channel decorations in recognition of what she did for the community.
She was also recognized as the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Person of the Year” and was honored as a citizen hero for her response to the storm by Governor Chris Christie.
Throughout the whole thing, Suzy remained humble, saying that she couldn’t have made a difference in the community without her fellow elves, “I had an amazing team behind me, and they really made this whole thing possible. What can I say? People in Mahwah really kick butt,” Godding told Patch.