Monday, December 30, 2013

Kamy Dental accepting donations for U.S. troops via Operation Shoebox

This year Kamy Dental has decided to do something different in light of the holiday season. The local business is collecting donations for Operation Shoebox, an all-volunteer, grass roots organization dedicated to collecting donated supplies and shipping care pa
Photo via Google
Supplies are sent to U.S. soldiers via shoe boxes.
ckages to U.S. troops based in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries. Operation Shoebox New Jersey has shipped more than 62,000 total packages to U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and other posts in the Middle East.
“They need things all year long,” said Stacy Alexander, director of Kamy Dental, who mentioned the business would again collect donations for troops during Memorial, Independence and Veterans Days.
Kamy Dental is currently seeking donations such as sunscreen, non-aerosol bug repellent, lip balm, batteries, deodorant, eye drops, foot powder, pull-top canned tuna such as Bumblebee or Starkist, powder drink mixes such as Crystal Light On the Go or Kool Aid Singles, 1-ounce-size cereal and instant oatmeal, coffee singles, hot chocolate, Beef Jerky and Slim Jims, dried fruit, including raisins, trail mix and nuts, and snack-size packages of cookies and crackers, as well as travel-size shampoo and wipes.
Donations will be collected until Dec. 31 at Kamy Dental’s three locations, in Manahawkin, Bayville and Jackson. The Manahawkin office, located at 853 Millcreek Rd., is open Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Bayville office, located at 211 Atlantic City Blvd., is open Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 732-363-6633 for office hours in Jackson.
–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Causeway bridge work not expected to hinder holiday travel to and from LBI

Local residents and family and friends from out of town are gearing up to celebrate the holiday season at the Jersey Shore. Although some people have expressed concern for traveling the Causeway Bridge due to current bridge work, local business owners want people to know that the construction is not a hindrance for anyone traveling to and from Long Beach Island.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Despite bridge work, drivers pass freely over
the Causeway Bridge to Long Beach Island.
“I commute here everyday, and I come over (the bridge) at all times depending on what I have to be doing and where, and I haven’t had any trouble. We haven’t had any traffic or concerns,” said Lori Pepenella, destination marketing director for the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce. “In fact, the events that are happening on the Island, including the shows, classes and events that the businesses seem to be doing, are rather successful. The businesses are open, and we of course have ads and messaging about how important it is to shop local and support the events and the restaurants. The response to that has been quite good,” she added.
Pepenella said the turnout for the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade, which the chamber has participated in for many years, was probably one of the best attended. Nobody was discouraged to come or turned away because of bridge traffic. All of the events, including the “White Christmas” show at Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, have had “good attendance” as well, she added.
Tim Greeley, press officer for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, further avowed that the bridge’s eastbound and westbound travel lanes would remain open, but said Schiavone Construction Co., the contractor currently working on the bridge, is allowed single-lane closures when necessary.
The DOT restricts construction that requires any lane closures over holiday periods. Based on those restrictions, the contractor expects to be off on Christmas and New Year’s Day but will proceed to work all other weekdays.
“One lane will always be maintained in each direction,” Greeley noted.
So far, there have not been any delays or setbacks in construction work. The contractor is in the process of creating cofferdams in the bay while also working on drainage pipes, new highway lighting and the construction of a retaining wall. Further manufacture of the retaining wall as well as the drilled shafts within the cofferdams, electrical installations, intelligent transportation systems and drainage work will continue in January.

–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Selling Christmas trees at the shore, a family business

For many local business owners, selling fresh Christmas trees during the holiday season has become as common as selling beach gear in the summertime. The holiday trees can be found in stores everywhere from the big box stores on Route 72 in Manahawkin to the small garden centers and surf shops on Long Beach Island. Although selling Christmas trees for three weeks in December is more or less a hustle, it can also be a pretty lucrative trade. And in a seasonal location such as Southern Ocean County, every little bit of income helps.
Photo by Anne Marie Essinger
Me and my brothers, Steven and Joey, and
our family dog Sasha take a moment in 1994
to pose for a family photo after a long day of
decorating grave blankets and wreaths.
My parents, Steve and Anne Marie Essinger, started selling Christmas trees out of their front yard on Route 9 in Barnegat in 1986. Newly married, they were looking for a way to extend the length of their budding business, Essinger and Sons Landscaping. The commercial property they had bought a few months prior was perfect for their new venture, and they continued to sell Christmas trees every holiday season for 16 years.
Though I did not know it at the time, those first few years were tough. Without a proper business sign, many potential customers drove right past our tree-filled lawn. The trees, wreaths and grave blankets, which my parents purchased from wholesalers in South Jersey, were sometimes too dry or too sparse to sell. Some were even misshapen. And although blue spruce and Scotch pine trees were known to be popular, they did not sell as anticipated. We were lucky if we sold 50 trees.
Eventually, my dad found a laudable wholesaler in Delran where the trees were brought in fresh from Pennsylvania and North and South Carolina. They were always beautiful: big, lush and very fragrant. Customers came to know us for our Fraser firs, what my dad called “the Cadillac of Christmas trees,” and in our peak years we sold more than 650 trees. We often ran out of inventory, forcing my dad to make weekly trips to Delran. Sometimes, my brothers and I would go along for the ride. We watched wide-eyed as the men hauled the bundled-up trees onto the back of the trailer, and we would always grab a bite to eat before heading home.
The trees, displayed on metal rods my dad and his workers hammered into the front yard by hand, were always set up and ready to go by Dec. 1. Each tree was handled four times: pickup, unloading, display and sale. Upon purchase, each tree was wrapped with netting, and my dad always offered to secure it to the top or load it into the back of each customer’s car.
We sold Christmas trees seven days a week, in the rain, snow and sleet. We had fresh trees for a good price, and word spread. Customers came in droves, parking up and down the sides of the road, leaving their vehicles in the bank parking lot two properties over if needed. Some people even came to pick up their trees while visiting relatives before heading out of state. We were usually sold out days before Christmas; even the stragglers went.
In our house, it became tradition to decorate the limpest, most broken tree for the family room. Of course, our Cadillac Christmas tree, picked out early and strung with lights and ornaments, was set up in the living room, ready for opening presents on Christmas morning.
As a kid, I loved the tree business. Splayed out on the front porch with the living room stereo blaring Christmas music from Elvis Presley to Alvin and the Chipmunks, my mom and I decorated the wreaths and grave blankets with big, red bows, plastic poinsettias and shiny little replicas of presents and pine cones. I was also in charge of handing out candy canes; every customer got one. My brothers, who were older than I and looking to earn some extra cash, sold dollar packets of Tree Life. Who could say no to those precious, boy faces?
We often invited our friends over and, bundled up in winter clothing, zigzagged through the trees, playing made-up games with our dog, Sasha, a shepherd mix that always wore a festive, red bandana. My dad was always repositioning the trees we knocked over in our play. Sometimes he would holler at us, but mostly he enjoyed our fun.
We were often so busy we had to order pizza for dinner, since sit-down, family dinners were usually interrupted by customers. “Who buys a Christmas tree at dinnertime?” my parents wanted to know. But really, they were happy to be making a sale.
I loved when customers came around, especially when my friends from school showed up. Honestly, I was proud. Although it was a bit embarrassing standing in between the rows of trees, waiting for the bus to school in the morning, I felt really fortunate to be a part of something so special.
Through the years, we donated many trees to local institutions, including St. Mary’s Church in Barnegat and Elizabeth V. Edwards School, which my brothers and I attended.
When my parents’ landscaping business picked up, they decided they could no longer sell Christmas trees, too; it was too much work. I was 14 when they decided to call it quits, and I was devastated, really.
This year, my dad and I purchased our Christmas tree at Home Depot because “it was easy.” We walked through the rows of trees, which were sagging slightly against each other in stacks, and picked up the first one that caught our eyes: a beautiful, 7-foot Fraser fir. After spinning it around to get a better look at all angles, we decided we had found a winner; the branches, we imagined, would drop nicely. And the star we had at home, we knew, would fit nicely on top. We are experienced in this department.
Christmas carols played quietly in the background as the clerk netted up our tree, and we were even offered a cup of hot chocolate: “Swiss Miss,” my dad noted.
“That’s why you buy your tree here and not at Lowe’s,” the clerk replied.
It was nice, but it was not the same.

— Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rutgers program teaches students science, culture of cranberry farming

When Andrew Lee, a seventh-generation family member growing up on the Lee Brothers cranberry farm near Chatsworth, was asked to participate in the cranbassador program this year at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, a substation of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University in Burlington County, he was admittedly a little hesitant.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Andrew Lee, 11, helps corral
cranberries at his family's farm
during the fall harvest ritual.
The 11-year-old has been immersed in the cranberry farming culture practically since he was born. Every year since 1868, the family has harvested the farmland’s 18 cranberry bogs for shipment, in recent years, to the Ocean Spray processing plant, located four miles down the road.
Needless to say, Andrew knows a thing or two about the industry. But after reluctantly attending the program, he said he was surprised to learn that he did not, in fact, know everything about cranberries.
“I learned so much from that program,” said Andrew. “I knew a majority of things about cranberries, but half of the things I never even heard of before.”
Andrew said he learned that cranberries, which were developed by Native Americans, were named after sandhill cranes, a type of bird usually found eating the berries.
“If you blur your eyes a little bit when looking at a cranberry blossom,” he said, “they actually resemble a crane’s head.”
The cranbassador program is dedicated to educating Mullica Township school students from sixth through 12th grades on the science and culture of cranberry farming. The program started in 2009 as a way for area children to become better acquainted with the history of the region, as well as to increase tourism at the annual Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth, where the students lead the public on tours at local cranberry farms.
“They can actually take people out to the farm during the cranberry harvest and actually explain it to them and have a pretty rewarding experience. People feel very comfortable asking questions and conversing with the kids. It’s public speaking. Not a lot of sixth-graders do public speaking to adults,” said Peter Oudemans, an associate professor and plant pathologist at Rutgers who studies the diseases of the fruit. “In order to do that,” he added, “the kids have to be pretty knowledgeable. So the kids really learn a lot about the subject.”
Andrew originally believed that cranberries, which contain more than 40 seeds in one berry, are often grown from replanting the seeds in the ground. However, he learned that the berries are commonly grown from vines that have been planted in acidic soil.
The national cranberry center, first established in 1918 in Whitesbog, the largest cranberry farm at the time, includes about 20 acres of cranberry bogs that the students can use for exploration, focusing on all aspects of cranberry production and health research, including etymology, breeding, integrated pest management, molecular biology and health benefits.
Andrew was especially interested to learn that cranberries are good for the body’s digestive system. A compound found in cranberries, called proanthocyanidin, can even help prevent urinary tract infections, he explained.
The cranbassador program is led by scientists and researchers at the station, as well as by older kids already in the program. The program includes nearly 30 students.
“Most of the younger kids now are a little bit shy to speak because you have the older kids who are more experienced,” said Oudemans. “But the older kids encourage the younger kids to speak, so we have a lot of peer-to-peer teaching.”
Through the coursework, Andrew said he learned that cranberry farmers have many different theories for farming. After he attends college and pursues a career in Major League Baseball, he said he hopes to take over the family business and continue his own family’s farming traditions.
The cranbassador students are challenged to answer questions about the cranberry industry, giving them insight into the biology and science of cranberry farming, as well as instilling an appreciation for the labor. The children even get a chance to strap on hip waders and immerse themselves in a flooded cranberry bog during the annual harvest ritual in October.
“Classroom learning can be very dry, so you don’t retain a lot. But when you go and apply it in the field and learn from experience, it sort of opens up a whole new world, like, ‘Wow, this actually means something. Science is a useful tool,’” said Oudemans. “That’s what we try to impart on the kids. We want it to come alive.”
Around Chrismastime, near the end of the school year and the annual cranbassador program, the students take their harvested berries to school where they learn how to make cranberry sauce and discuss canning.
Andrew does not attend the Mullica Township School District, but said he does carry on a family tradition with his cousins of making cranberry sauce at his relatives’ house during Thanksgiving. Although his grandparents no longer string cranberries for the Christmas tree, he said he hopes to start that tradition again in his house.
— Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rutgers researcher studies mold vapors for link to illnesses

“I happen to be a mold expert. I will continue to study it until I drop,” declared Joan Bennett, 71, of Somerset, N.J., a plant biology and pathology professor and researcher in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.
Bennett recently discovered that mushroom alcohol, a compound often emitted by mold, might be linked to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The findings, coauthored by Arati Inamdar, 34, of Edison, a research associate at Rutgers, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November.
Photo via Rutgers
Joan Bennett of Rutgers used samples from
her flooded home for her mold research.
The investigation was conducted in conjunction with researchers from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Emory University and funded by Rutgers and the National Institutes of Health.
Although Bennett spent most of her early career studying agricultural molds that are toxic to humans if eaten directly or consumed by contaminated foods, she had not believed mold could be harmful to people if inhaled. But when Hurricane Katrina devastated her home in New Orleans in 2005, her opinion quickly changed.
“When I had the personal experience of having my home flood after Katrina and get covered with mold, I went in being interested in fungi,” said Bennett. “What I hadn’t been interested in before was the bad smells they put out. It was Katrina that made me say, ‘Huh, maybe molds are not only toxic when you eat them. Maybe molds are toxic when you breathe their vapors.’”
After evacuating to New Jersey, where her husband, David Peterson, grew up, Bennett returned to her home in New Orleans, which had been closed up and left to fester for more than five weeks after Katrina hit. There she collected more than 70 mold samples for new research. She came equipped with petri dishes, sterile swabs and a camera.
Photo via Rutgers
 'Mushroom alcohol' has the potential to
damage dopamine and cause symptoms 
of Parkinson’s disease.
“I planned ahead knowing that a flooded house would be covered with mold. I was setting it up to use my house as an experiment,” Bennett said. “It’s pretty bad when you lose your home, and I think turning it into an experiment helped me cope with it a bit,” she added.
Although Bennett wore protective gear, including a mask and gloves, she said she suffered from headaches, dizziness and nausea while collecting the samples.
Bennett was on the faculty of Tulane University in New Orleans for 35 years. She and her husband moved to New Jersey when she was hired at Rutgers a year after Katrina hit.
“When you lose all your research, it’s good motivation to find a new job,” she said.
In 2009, Bennett received funding to support Inamdar, a postdoctoral researcher in genetic models related to Parkinson’s disease. As the pioneer of the Drosophila or fruit fly model, Inamdar helped study the possible toxicity of chemicals from fungi on the central nervous system and respiratory system with a focus on understanding the commonly reported Sick Building Syndrome.
“We were actually seeing, yes, these chemicals, these fungi, are causing a decrease in the survival duration of the flies, and they are actually exhibiting different behaviors that were linking to their deficit in mobility,” Inamdar explained.
Of the many vapors that fungi emit, the scientists said it took years for them to be able to study the mushroom alcohol compound, which was especially debilitating to the flies, causing tremors, a slow demeanor, posture imbalances and other mobility disturbances.
“It’s kind of like the smell of coffee. There are lots of different compounds that go into making that wonderful coffee aroma,” Bennett said. “It’s sort of the same way with the musty smell of mold growing in your basement. It’s not just one vaporous compound; it’s lots of them,” she explained.
Many of the mold samples taken from Bennett’s home in New Orleans turned out to be the same type, many of which produced mushroom alcohol. She said the compound is not dangerous in small doses.
Bennett and Inamdar are currently measuring the toxicity of mold in samples taken from homes that were flooded by Superstorm Sandy. After receiving permission from FEMA officials and homeowners who were in the process of renovating their homes, the researchers collected nearly 40 samples from houses near Point Pleasant last year. They plan to go back to the homes later this month to search for more samples now that the restorations have been completed and the individuals are living in their homes again.
The mold from Bennett’s house during Katrina grew from largely brackish water in warmer weather. The mold from homes during Sandy grew from salty, ocean water in colder weather. The different experiments are ongoing.
“It’s not nearly as far along as the Katrina work,” said Bennett. “Hurricane Sandy was last year, but we didn’t collect the samples until December and January so we haven’t had as long a time to work on it. Science unfortunately goes pretty slowly.”
Bennett said she is especially interested in the chemical differences between the different populations of fungi and what compounds, if any, are more toxic to human health.
“We haven’t completed the study, but my sense is that having mold in your house, whether it’s cold-weather mold or hot-weather mold, is not good for you,” she said.
Bennett hopes mold problems will be taken more seriously in the future and that national funding will eventually support scientific research into the causes and diagnoses of these issues. Although homeowners appear to be concerned about mold in their homes, she said, she does not believe public health agencies are concerned enough about the detrimental affects it could have on people.
Although many people recognize that a lot of bacteria and viruses can make humans sick, she said, many people underestimate the fact that fungi can do that, too.
“Some people say, ‘Oh, mold has been around forever.’ And that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that everything that’s been around forever is natural and is good,” said Bennett. “It’s common knowledge that lots of mushrooms contain poisons. So if you have any sense at all, you don’t just randomly eat a mushroom.
“I think people can also recognize that mold and moldy houses and moldy castles and moldy native huts have been around forever, but that doesn’t mean that living in them is good for you, either,” she added.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ocean County cops to begin carrying heroin neutralizer

Heroin overdose has become a major concern for Ocean County, and officials are not taking the issue lightly. Last week, Joseph Coronato, Ocean County prosecutor, and Kenneth Lavelle, medical director of Emergency Training and Consulting, held a mandatory medical briefing for the county’s 33 municipality police chiefs on the use and administration of naloxone, a prescription drug sold under the brand name Narcan. The drug, which can temporarily reverse the potentially fatal effects of opiates, will soon be carried by police officers who serve within the county.
Photo via TheNutriFarm
Police officers is Ocean County will soon carry
Narcan to combat heroin overdoses.
“I’m satisfied after hearing that,” said Chief Richard Buzby of the Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department. “It’s an excellent idea not only for my officers, who typically are on these scenes first, but for the families of these addicts, frankly, that would like to have a means at hand to give assistance to their loved ones. I think at this point they’re feeling helpless, and anything that we can do to put some ability to help back in their hands is certainly not a bad thing,” he added.
Anyone who lives with a heroin addict is permitted to have Narcan in his or her home, under a law recently enacted by Gov. Chris Christie. The drug is administered as a nasal inhalant to revive an unconscious victim before arrival at a hospital for further medical treatment. Narcan can be used to combat any type of opioid drug, including prescription narcotic painkillers, which have become increasingly popular with all age groups, especially the younger generations, said Barnegat Township Police Chief Arthur Drexler.
“It’s the new trend, and it’s just been snowballing. It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s almost plague-like. It’s killing a lot of people; it’s ruining a lot of people’s lives,” he added.
Last year, 53 individuals died in Ocean County as a consequence of overdoses. So far this year, 102 people in the county have been victims of fatal overdoses. According to Coronato, two other deaths in the county are anticipated to be ruled overdoses once toxicology reports are completed. Little Egg Harbor Township has had two confirmed fatal overdoses this year, and Barnegat Township has had four.
“Hopefully not, but the odds are that’s going to increase as well,” said Drexler.
While doctors continue to prescribe painkillers and more people become addicted to the habit-forming substances, the street prices for the pills continues to increase. When the prices become too expensive, addicts turn to heroin, which is much cheaper to purchase: $5 for a bag of heroin versus $20 per painkiller.
“With the drug problem you have more burglaries and thefts. They (addicts) have to support their habit, so we have to be diligent,” said Drexler.
There has been a tremendous increase in narcotics arrests this year, said Buzby, who attributed the crackdown to the hard work of his department and others within the county.
“I’d like to give kudos to the prosecutor’s office because the prosecutor is really attacking the drug problem from all angles – education, enforcement and prosecution – so I’m certainly going to support his initiative,” Drexler added.
Drexler expects the use of Narcan will help ease the overdose epidemic, but said it will take some time.
“It certainly should save some lives, and if it saves one, it could prevent a tragedy, and the person could maybe get some help,” he said.
Officer training for Narcan should begin around January and February. The drug costs about $25, and the training takes about 15 minutes to complete. Officers should begin using the heroin antidote starting in March.
“Even though it will be a small expense eventually to the agency, the initial issues are going to be borne by drug seizure money,” said Buzby. “I think it’s a good thing, and it’s a tool that my officers should have,” he added.
Various police departments in New York, Kentucky, Ohio and Massachusetts have been carrying Narcan in their police cars.
“It’s been tried and tested in other jurisdictions. I’m very pleased that, from what I’ve read about it, it tends to essentially do no harm,” said Buzby. “It poses the prospect of doing a great deal of good, so I don’t know why we would oppose that.”
Although there are no real dangerous or long-term side effects from the use of Narcan, Drexler said he is concerned for the safety of his officers, who may be injured by a combative victim who has been administered the drug. He is currently in the process of creating a policy to protect his team.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Barnegat High School hosts 5th annual Fisherman's Flea Market, Saturday, Dec. 14

Photo via The Record
The Barnegat High School hosts the annual
Fisherman's Flea Market on Saturday, Dec. 14
Reel in the holiday deals during the fifth annual Fisherman’s Flea Market held at Barnegat High School on Saturday, Dec. 14, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The event will include 80 tables offering new, used, custom and antique fishing equipment such as rods, reels, lures, collectibles and apparel from a range of vendors, including Fisherman’s Headquarters of Ship Bottom, which supports the student club throughout the school year.
“There’s a whole variety of fishing gear to suit every angler,” said Brett Taylor, adviser of the fishing club, who started the student program in 2008 to “provide a different outlet” for the high school population.
Door prizes from attending vendors will be raffled off every half hour, and food will be sold by the school’s history club.
Admission costs $4 per person; tickets are free for children younger than 13. All proceeds will benefit the fishing club’s activities, including on- and off-shore fishing trips as well as scholarships for the clubs’ graduating seniors. For more information, contact Taylor at 609-290-7709 or btaylor@barnegatschools.com.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pinelands High School varsity cheerleading squad earns bid to nationals after opting out last year

After taking an unexpected year off from competing in the National High School Cheerleading Championship following Superstorm Sandy, the Pinelands Regional High School varsity cheerleading team is ready to bring it on again. Despite last-minute routine changes due to unforeseen injuries, the team placed second out of 15 teams at the Universal Cheerleading Association’s Northeast Regional Championship at the Ritacco Center in Toms River on Sunday, Nov. 24, earning the athletes a bid to the most prestigious cheerleading championship in the country. The team will compete for first place at the national competition at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in February.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The varsity cheerleading team practices its
competitive routine before regionals.
The Pinelands cheerleading team has been nationally ranked since 2005 and has advanced directly from preliminaries to finals as one of the top two teams during the last five trips to the national competition. Although the girls earned a bid to the competition last year, they decided to skip the event after Sandy displaced many residents and the high school was used as an evacuation center.
“There were so many people who lost their homes here in Pinelands. We were at the eye of the storm,” said Marybeth Sundermann, head coach of the Pinelands cheerleading team for the past 19 years. “There was so much turmoil and so much going on that the coaches and team decided it was just a good year to take a break from nationals. Nationals is a really expensive endeavor, and to ask people to donate that kind of money when so many people had just lost so much was not something we were going to do,” she added.
It costs the team about $30,000 to attend the national competition every year, when factoring in registration, airfare, food and lodging, Sundermann said.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The athletes warm up their tumbling routine.
A former Pinelands cheerleader, Sundermann was also dealing with serious health issues last year. She was in and out of the hospital battling Sjรถgrens syndrome, an autoimmune disease that had advanced and spread to all of her major organs. She had to take a medical leave and was unable to attend most of the team’s practices. Although her health is still a concern, she is back to coaching the team seven days a week.
“Cheerleading is what keeps me going. The parents and the kids are the light of my life, even though I’m tough on them,” she said.
The team has a strict cheerleading program, requiring the girls to attend practices all year, including weekends and holidays. As a competitive team, no one’s spot is safe and anyone can be pulled from her position if “something’s not hitting right,” Sundermann said.
“It’s a competitive sport. You earn your spot. It’s a privilege,” she explained.
When the team arrives in Disney for nationals, the girls are required to attend practices and to stay with the team at all times. The girls do not ride on rides or go shopping, and they do not spend time with their families until after the competition.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The girls show their school spirit while
practicing their stunts.
“It’s not Disney World to us when we’re there,” said Sundermann. “We are scouting other teams and practicing. It’s high stress.”
Tanya Rowe, mother of Bryanna Rowe, 16, a junior on the team, said the competitive nature of the sport is tough on the girls, but everyone accepts it.
“They love it. My daughter has wanted to do this forever,” said Rowe. “She’s happy to be on the team. She’s worked her butt off and has improved tremendously. Her self-esteem has gone through the roof. It’s healthy competition, just like life.
“The girls all love each other, and it makes me happy to watch them practice and compete,” she added.
The strict code encourages the girls to do their best since a stunt group that “clicks” might stop working as hard if the practice becomes “too comfortable,” Sundermann said. The team usually has three or four “alternates” in case of injuries. Those girls also have the opportunity to take the place of the others already on the team.
Former Pinelands cheerleaders, including assistant coaches Kelly Flannery and Nikki Oliver, are usually hired to coach the team since they are already aware of the strict program and understand its benefits. But the team’s motto, “We do things the Pinelands way, the right way, the only way,” is not just about cheerleading. "It’s about building character," said Sundermann.
The girls are held to a higher standard and are expected to leave a place cleaner than when they arrived. The girls are not allowed to attend parties where alcohol is involved, either.
“It’s not about winning a trophy. It’s about trust,” said Sundermann. “It’s about being there for your teammates, knowing you can depend on each other being at practice. It’s about being a family.”
Kelsey Edwards, 17, of Tuckerton, a senior on the team, called the girls her “second family.” Although there have been issues with rivalry and cliques during previous years, she said, this year’s group is very supportive of one another.
“I love the relationship we’ve built. I’m with this team more than my own family,” said Edwards. “If I need anything, I know I can come to them just like I could go to my mom. We support each other and know what everyone needs to cheer them up. We encourage each other to do their best. We all have the same dream,” she added.
As a cheerleader for the Pinelands school district since seventh grade, Edwards said she always looked up to the high school cheerleaders.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be one of them,” she said. “I wanted to go to nationals, be on ESPN and do interviews. So I’m very proud to be a Pinelands cheerleader.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tuckerton Volunteer Fire Co. hosts first holiday parade

The Tuckerton Volunteer Fire Co. will welcome the holiday season with its first ever Christmas parade and Santa meet and greet on Saturday, Dec. 7. The holiday procession will begin at 6:15 p.m., at the corner of Route 9 and Locust Street in Tuckerton. The parade will continue down the length of Marine Street to Marshall Avenue, then back up South Green Street to the firehouse, located on North Green Street.
Photo via Google
South Jersey fire departments take part in
a holiday parade in Tuckerton, N.J.
“This is the first time that we’ve actually been able to host the fire department Christmas party and parade in town,” said Ashley Linney, 21, who has been volunteering with the fire company for the past year. “Now we’re getting involved with the entire town’s fire departments. We’re all coming together as one with fire departments from all over South Jersey. It’s nice that everyone’s getting together around Christmastime to help out,” she added.
The parade will feature decorated emergency vehicles and fire trucks representing fire departments from East Rutherford to Cape May, including Tuckerton, West Tuckerton, Mystic Island, New Gretna and Stafford Township fire companies as well as Great Bay Regional Volunteer EMS and Stafford Township EMS. Other lighted floats by area businesses and organizations, including 50 local Girl Scouts and members of Gold Hawk Martial Arts in Little Egg Harbor, will add to the excitement. Each participating group will perform in front of a panel of judges for a chance to receive an award in a variety of categories, including best-decorated fire truck.
Madeline Smith, a country music singer and New Jersey resident, will also perform in the parade and during the Santa meet and greet, which starts at 7 p.m. The parade awards will be announced during the meet and greet, and three children from the Make a Wish Foundation will receive a custom-made fire helmet from the Tuckerton Fire Co.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Tuckerton company. For more information, visit tuckertonfire.net or call 609-296-4546. 

– Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sea creatures shine in coastal center program

The Jacques Cousteau Coastal Education Center, located at 130 Great Bay Blvd. in Tuckerton, will host a family-fun event, “Sea Creatures with Amazing Features,” on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 to 11 a.m.
The program will introduce participants to a variety of sea creatures, including crabs, sea stars, mussels, clams and other local sea critters that have adapted to living in the ocean or the bay. The event will be led by The Wetlands Institute, a nonprofit facility in Stone Harbor dedicated to the appreciation, understanding and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems through programs in research, education and conservation.
To register, call Education Coordinator Melanie Reding at 609-812-0649 extension 206.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Scojo’s to hold restaurant benefit for owner’s sister

This is the season for giving, especially to those who need it most.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, Scojo’s Restaurant will donate 100 percent of its breakfast, lunch and dinner proceeds from both Surf City and Tuckerton locations to restaurant manager Dawn Russo, who was diagnosed in October with acute lymphomoblastic leukemia.
“We were all in shock. I don’t think any of us expected that,” said Scott Russo, co-owner of Scojo’s and also Dawn’s brother.

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Scojo's Restaurant in Surf City plans
to donate 100 percent of its proceeds
on December 7 to manager Dawn Russo.
Like the rest of the Russo family, Scott wants to help his sister emotionally and financially during this difficult time. Not wanting to ask people for money, he reached out to David Caldarella, a local resident and founder of David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation, for ideas on how to help.
“David kind of got the ideas rolling because that’s what he does,” said Scott.
After recovering from a head and neck cancer diagnosis in 2010, Caldarella formed the nonprofit organization to assist families dealing with the financial burden that comes with a cancer diagnosis. The organization has helped more than 170 families to date.
Although the foundation has completed all of its fundraising events for the year, David’s Dream and Believe has committed to supporting several benefits during the next few weeks for local individuals battling cancer. One hundred percent of the donations the foundation receives for Dawn will go directly to her fund.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Scojo's customers make donations for
Dawn Russo, whose battling leukemia.
“Anything that we can do, I’m always ready to help. That’s for sure,” said Caldarella. “Dawn’s case really hits home because our family has been to Scojo’s hundreds of times and knows Dawn and Scott. It’s important for me to help as much as I can.”
Although the families have known each other for many years, Scott said he never expected he would need the foundation’s help.
“I didn’t realize I’d be dealing with David, but it’s a good thing I am,” he stated.
The restaurants will be open for business from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Face painting and balloon making provided by the Tuckerton Seaport will be available at the Tuckerton location, at 120 West Main St. The Seaport is also holding its annual Christkindlmarkt from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. that same day.
“It kind of makes it a festive day at that point,” said Scott.
Members of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish choir will provide musical entertainment throughout the day at the Surf City location, at 307 North Long Beach Blvd., and Dave Sodano will offer Frank Sinatra tunes from 5 to 8 p.m. Santa Claus will also pay a visit to the restaurant between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
On that same day, David’s Dream and Believe will participate in the annual Ship Bottom parade for the first time. The parade takes its course along Long Beach Boulevard from Fifth Street to 25th Street starting at 1 p.m.
“It makes sense for us to be involved in the parade this year. It fits with our mission saving lives and everything that we do,” said Caldarella. “It’s coming full circle in the community.”
A zumbathon hosted at the Barnegat Recreation Center will be held in conjunction with the ALL for Dawn fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m. for a $10 donation. Additional classes will be held on Dec. 2 and 5 at 9 a.m., each for a $2 donation. The classes will be led by freelance instructor Theresa Brown. For more information, call 848-448-5866.

— Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gap Funding Initiative to help RREM-approved homeowners rebuild

The American Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, chaired by First Lady Mary Pat Christie, recently provided $15.2 million to the Gap Funding Initiative, a new program administered by New Jersey Community Capital to help eligible New Jersey homeowners rebuild.
Homeowners who have been awarded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation grants in Sandy-impacted communities can apply for GFI housing assistance grants of up to $30,000 to help fill the gap between their RREM awards and their total rebuilding costs. In order to be eligible for the funding, applicants must have been awarded a RREM grant, have a total household gross income of $100,000 or less and have a need in excess of the maximum RREM grant of $150,000.
Photo via American Red Cross
Homeowners in Sandy-impacted communities can apply
for GFI grants to help pay for their total rebuilding costs.
“This $10 million Red Cross grant, made possible by generous donations to the Red Cross, will assist low- to moderate-income families across New Jersey to rebuild,” Jerry De Francisco, American Red Cross Humanitarian Services, who is overseeing the Red Cross Sandy recovery work, said in a press release. “Working together with the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund and New Jersey Community Capital, we want to help homeowners rebuild as soon as possible. Partnering with communities we serve is a critical part of our mission, and we have worked beside our New Jersey neighbors from the early days of the storm response and will continue throughout the recovery process,” he added.
Due to federal requirements for the RREM program, homeowners must prove that they can cover any gap between the total cost of reconstruction and the $150,000 maximum grant. This initiative will supply some or all of the extra funding many homeowners will need in order to restore their homes. The maximum $30,000 homeowner grant will subsidize the applicant’s RREM escrow account and will go directly to home construction costs.
To fill out an application for the RREM Gap Funding Initiative, or for more information, visit gapfundinginitiative.org.

–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.