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Gloucester News

Gloucester’s Cassidy Voll Gets Bedroom Makeover

Gloucester City’s Cassidy Voll was recently surprised with a complete bedroom makeover. It was courtesy of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces, whose mission is to create dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical illnesses.

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Cassidy was inspired by Pinterest and decided on a black and white bedroom with teal accents. Photo courtesy of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces

Cassidy was recommended for a bedroom renovation by Glenn Brown, school psychologist at Gloucester City Junior-Senior High School (GHS). Brown is also the brother of Kim Resnick, the director of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces.

Cassidy is a 13-year old eighth grade student at GHS and she was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) on November 27, 2013.

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Cassidy reacts to her new room. Photo courtesy of Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces.

Cassidy’s mom, Kim, remembered that just prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, Cassidy had been complaining of a stomach ache that would not go away.

Kim said: “After a few days, we finally went to urgent care, who sent us to the ER at Cooper. They sent us right to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).”

After undergoing blood tests, an ultrasound, and a bone marrow biopsy, Cassidy was diagnosed with ALL on a Wednesday and immediately began chemotherapy that Friday.

The American Cancer Society states that ALL is a cancer that starts from the early version of white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow, which is the soft inner part of the bones where new blood cells are made. Leukemia cells usually invade the blood fairly quickly and can spread to other parts of the body.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in the U.S. in 2015, there have been approximately 6,250 new cases of ALL. That figure includes children and adults. Of those cases, 3,100 are male and 3,150 are females.

As for treatments Cassid, undergoes monthly chemotherapy sessions on an outpatient basis. At home every night, she takes chemotherapy and on Wednesdays, she is administered two types of chemotherapy. Every three months, Cassidy must undergo a spinal tap to ensure the ALL doesn’t spread to her spine. (It has not.

Cassidy states that when she first received her diagnosis, she was most afraid of losing her hair, which happened ten days after she began chemotherapy. But before she lost her hair, Cassidy dyed it orange, which is the signature color for leukemia awareness.

These days, Cassidy’s light brown hair has grown back to shoulder length. She proudly shows off the highlights and lowlights that have been added courtesy of P&B Beauty School where she has a standing appointment.

Cassidy said: “They told me I can come in whenever I want and for whatever I want.”

Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, Kim marvels at her daughter’s strength and says Cassidy is “her buddy.” Cassidy says her motto throughout all of this has always been: “I’m good.” Kim explained: “That’s because no matter how you feel on crappy days, you have to look forward to the good days.”

Late last year, Hoda Kotb of the Today Show learned of Cassidy’s ALL diagnosis though CHOP. She invited Cassidy and Kim to travel to New York so Cassidy could appear on television with other children from the CHOP. Cassidy was also featured in one of Kotb’s “Truly Brave” videos. (*Note, this video is no longer available online.) Cassidy said that Kotb was nice and has been in touch a few times since the video came out. She said Kathie Lee popped her head in the green room before she went on tv to say hello and to share: “My daughter’s name is Cassidy.”

While they were waiting in the green room, Kim said singer Nick Lachey also stopped in. Cassidy said Lachey was also very nice and he took the time to talk with her and the other kids and to take pictures with them. Me and a friend were chatting about how we could save some money and my friend suggested that I check out Simply Switch and they were great! Saved so much money!

It was during the time when the “Truly Brave” was made, that Kim noticed her daughter didn’t seem herself and asked her GHS teacher, Sue Cipriani, to keep an eye on her. Cipriani learned that Cassidy was feeling sad and isolated by her friends at school. “My friends stopped talking to me, but people can ask me anything and I will answer them,” Cassidy said.

So Cipriani spearheaded an effort to make another starring Cassidy that shared the story of how the teen feels. The second video was filmed at GHS.

Because of the steroids that Cassidy had taken as part of her “chemotherapy cocktail,” her bones were affected and she is scheduled to undergo a double hip replacement on December 2.

Following the hip replacement surgery, Cassidy and Kim are looking ahead to March 16, when after two and a half years, Cassidy will receive her last scheduled chemotherapy treatment. After that, Cassidy will have follow up blood work to make sure she doesn’t relapse.

Kim said: “She has a high success for beating it and not relapsing.”

Cassidy was not a fan of her old bedroom, which she said hadn’t been updated since she was little. Her old room was almost completely ripped out and a whole skip was filled. The Special Spaces team even removed Cassidy’s old broken TV, and found a company for electronics recycling Philadelphia who removed it. A brand new TV was put it the old one’s place. Cassidy’s bedroom renovation could not have come at a better time. Cassidy said she “just loves” the new room and everything in it. She likes to sit at her desk to go on her computer.

When asked how she decided on a black and white room with teal accents, Cassidy responded: “I went on Pinterest and just picked out pictures of things that I liked.”

She looks forward to having sleepovers in her room with friends and she is glad she has a place for her and her friends to just go and hang out.

Kim also loves the bedroom and said Cassidy is happier now.

“When she gets out of bed, she actually makes it now too,” Kim said with a laugh.

The new bedroom has all the trimmings with new decor, new mirror, new full size mattress, new bed stand, everything!

If you are now feeling inspired to change your bedroom up, then there are loads of options that you could consider for how you could change your bedroom. For example, you might be interested in taking a look at something like this high gloss bed. But there are plenty of other things that you could do.

One picture that is prominently displayed on Cassidy’s new white wainscoted walls is that of an autographed photograph of actress-singer, Zendaya, whom Cassidy met when the star made a surprise appearance to visit the patients at CHOP.

Cassidy said: “When I found out Zendaya was there, I grabbed my IV pole – I can move pretty fast with it – and I ran down to see her. She stood up when she saw me and she took a picture with me and gave me her autograph.”

“She’s so tall and so nice,” Cassidy said.

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Photo courtesy of Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces. The autographed photo of singer and actress Zendaya, is special to Cassidy.

Another picture that hangs on the opposite wall from Zendaya’s photograph is a piece of inspirational art that Cassidy said is her favorite from among all of the other pieces that the Special Spaces volunteers brought for her. It says: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

To see more photos of Cassidy’s room renovation, visit the Facebook page of Special Spaces Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter by clicking here.

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Photo by: Anne Forline Cassidy holds a piece of art that is particularly meaningful for her.
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Kim Resnick (right) is the director of the Delaware/Newark/Philly chapter of Special Spaces and she explained why and the other volunteers had their iPhones raised. Cassidy only had one light bulb in her room. Special Spaces installed a new light system in her drop ceiling. The makeover was so extreme and took all day that by the time we were ready for the ceiling installation of the fixture, it was dark outside. So the only light we had to guide our volunteer was our iPhone flashlights. It was like we were at a concert, but it worked. Cassidy received a gorgeous dream room.”

To see more photos of Cassidy’s room renovation, visit: Special Spaces Delaware/Newark/Philly.

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Gloucester News

Gloucester City BOE OKs Plan for Lights At New School

The Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) voted last week to authorize a design change for the new middle school to include field light proposals at a cost budget of $125,000.

School Superintendent, Joe Rafferty, clarified by saying: “It is just a conduit that is going to be underground. It is not the lighting itself.”

Forline Construction continues on the new middle school. Photo by Anne Forline
Construction continues on the new middle school.

Rafferty explained this opportunity to install the conduit was brought to his attention by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) and Terminal Construction.

It was recommended “as an opportunity that we shouldn’t let go by.”

Rafferty said that by putting the conduit in now: “We won’t have to go through the expense in years to come to rip up the field.”

He also called it a “smart move and an opportunity for us to save money up front on the project.”

Rafferty further added: “It is important to understand that we are not financially capable of putting up lights in the next two or three years.  We would sit until we have the available funds to do the rest of the project, but if we don’t do this, then it will cost us almost double than it would now.”

Board member Jackie Borger said, “It’s just so much money right now and we just don’t have the money.”

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked what budget the project would be coming from.

Business Administrator, Peg McDonnell responded by saying: “It would come from the capital reserve funds.”

McDonnell spoke about various budget items and said: “There are funds in there for things for the new middle school not covered by the SDA and we know that there are a number of things that the SDA will not pay for.”

The superintendent also speculated that January, 2017 could be an “outside date” for the opening of the middle school. However, he said: “We have not gotten any official notification of that.”

Jackie Borger said: “We have not considered this. We would then have to push a large amount of things into the budget (of the year that the middle school will open) that we weren’t expecting, things like phones, computers, and wiring. All that stuff we would have to move up. I don’t want to not have money for books, but have a lovely space to put lights.”

Board President Ed Hubbs said: “Don’t get that date of January in your head because anything can happen.”

To which Stephanie Cohan agreed, but replied: “We still have to be prepared for that.”

Peg McDonnell said: “If it can’t be done, then the money won’t be used for that, but the purpose is to align the money so that the conduit could be done.”

Jackie Borger asked: “If they say we can, does that mean we are going to?”

McDonnell replied: “We would still have to abide by state contractor rules of purchasing for approval.”

She pointed out the wording in the motion: “It says ‘subject to Department of Education (DOE) and SDA approval and compliance with NJ State Public Contract laws and bidding requirements’.”

When the matter was brought to a vote, the motion passed. Jackie Borger voted no. Voting yes were Stephanie Cohan, Richard Dolson, Ed Hubbs, Bill Johnson, Bruce Marks, and Tracy Farrow. Board members Patrick Hagan and Linda Bittman were absent from the meeting.

In other matters, all other business brought before the BOE passed.

The BOE approved an architectural agreement in the amount of $89,850 for phase 2 of an HVAC project at Cold Springs School.

The contract was approved with Regan Young England Butera Architects.  Scope of services consist of a field survey, design/documentation, bidding, and construction administration for replacement of 10 classroom vertical fan coil units, associated ductwork modification/replacement, and new controls.

The BOE approved a contract for the 2015-16 school year in the amount of $7,500 for School Messenger to be funded through NCLB Title I.

A contract was approved with Camden County Educational Services Commission for two IDEA teachers, three days a week in the amount of $95,400.

In other matters, the revised lice policy was discussed again.

During last month’s meeting, the BOE approved first reading of the revised policy.

However, board members, Stephanie Cohan and Jackie Borger, had an additional concern about incorporating specific language into the policy, primarily that if a child has live head lice then the child cannot be returned to his or her classroom until cleared by the nurse. This revision was submitted to the board solicitor for further review.

The superintendent advised the BOE that the district’s SRO (school resource officer) had been sent out to Nicholson Road for concerns about the bus stop at that location.

However, Jackie Borger stated: “It is a danger” and said that she had spoken with the police who assured her there would be monitoring at that location. The SRO recommended to keep the bus stop on Nicholson Road where it is.

When the matter was brought to a vote to accept the SRO’s recommendation, the motion passed. However, Borger voted no as did Bruce Marks.

During the public portion, a paraprofessional was asked to relay concerns to the BOE concerning two Source 4 Teachers employees, who were unable to attend the meeting. Source 4 Teachers is the provider of substitute staffing services for the district. The issues that were relayed to the BOE concerned communication and alleged pay problems.

It was stated that “There is very little communication on their [Source 4 Teachers] part.  Trying to talk to someone there is like pulling teeth. Call times take forever and sometimes, it takes days before you get a response.”

Also, the BOE was told of “going blindly into a job” and how one substitute was “sent to the wrong school two out of three jobs.” There was an additional complaint of late pay.

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked if there were options for substitute staffing and stated: “Maybe we should explore them.”

Rafferty responded by stating: “As we go along, we will see what the Source 4 Teachers issues are.”

The BOE will meet next on Thursday, December 3 for a caucus session and Tuesday, December 8 for its regular meeting. Both will take place at 7:00 pm in the GHS Media Center.

*Article originally appeared in the November 19, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
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Gloucester News

Resident Asks Gloucester BOE To Provide Agenda

A Gloucester City resident addressed the BOE about the lack of availability of the monthly meeting agenda, and said it is difficult to hear what is being said during the meeting.

“In accordance with the Sunshine Law, a copy of the agenda must be provided,” the resident stated to the BOE.

She further complained: “I can’t hear what is being said, so I don’t know what is being approved. I can’t follow along in writing.”

Board member Jackie Borger responded: “Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

Board President Ed Hubbs added: “I will see that the agenda is put on the seats.”

(Note: This reporter also made a statement to the BOE during the public portion to say that it is difficult to hear what is being discussed during the meetings.)

Also addressing the BOE was the AFSCME union representative for the district’s custodians. He asked about creating a sick bank and wanted to know the district’s policy concerning withholding pay.
Business administrator, Peg McDonnell, responded by saying “By law, we can’t withhold people’s pay.”

School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said those employees with questions about their pay should come into the board office so a search can be done on a case-by-case basis.

Rafferty was also asked about a rumor that the district may be looking into hiring an outside company to plow the schools’ lots during snowstorms.

Rafferty said that because buses had been cut from Cold Springs School, there are many more parents on the property than had been in previous years.

There is also a liability issue, Rafferty said, adding that the district is looking into a shared services agreement for snow removal with Gloucester City.

“We are trying to find the best way to remove the large amounts of snow because it is a liability with more people at the Cold Springs campus,” Rafferty said.

He also stated: “There is no intention to privatize and this is not to diminish the custodians’ jobs because they will still be removing snow from the walkways.”

During the meeting, there was a first reading of the district’s revised lice policy.

At the March BOE meeting, a parent had addressed the BOE concerning the lice policy and asked why the district does not follow a “no nit” policy.

In response to that concern, board member Bill Johnson questioned if there should be a policy change concerning lice.

The policy #8454 has been revised to read as follows:

“A student who is found to have active head lice will not be permitted to attend school until there are no active lice in the student’s hair and until all live head lice are removed as confirmed by an examination by the school nurse.”

During the business portion of the meeting, all motions brought before the BOE passed.
The BOE voted to approve the 2015-16 fall athletic contract with HA DeHart and Sons in the amount of $24,035.

A motion was approved for the 2015-16 non-public textbook purchase for Gloucester Catholic for Houghton Mifflin in the amount of $8,587.51, McGraw’s in the amount of $1,276.00 and Apple textbooks in the amount of $490.

The board accepted non-public entitlements from the State of New Jersey for 2015-16 for non-public security for Gloucester Catholic in the amount of $15,125.

The board also approved the following contracts for the 2015-16 school year: Positive Educational Solutions, LLC to provide autism classroom support in the amount of $180 an hour, not to exceed $32,000 and with P&N Grant Consultants, LLC to provide Perkins Grant Management Services for the 2015-16 school year at $58 per hour, not to exceed $773, to be funded through Perkins 2016 administration funds.

There was also a public hearing on the Refunding Bund Ordinance for School Refund Bund Series 2005. Board Secretary, Margaret McDonnell, previously explained that the district is refinancing (or refunding) a previously issued bond for interest savings.

The BOE will meet next on November 10 for a combined caucus and regular meeting at 7:00 pm in the GHS Media Center.

*Article originally appeared in the October 22, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
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Bellmawr Gloucester News

9th Annual Ross-Kupcha Memorial Run a Success

On October 25, the 9th Annual Ross-Kupcha Memorial Run took place in National Park, N.J. The run is held in memory of Browning Ross, a two-time Olympian and Gloucester Catholic track and cross country coach, and also Bob Kupcha, an orthopedic surgeon and war veteran.

This year, the memorial run raised money for the Camilla Hall Retirement Home for IHM sisters and also the Bob Kupcha Scholarship Fund at GCHS.

Race director and current Gloucester Catholic cross country coach, Jack Heath, said, “I think it was our best race yet. Perfect weather and a visit from our Bishop to give all of the runners and walkers a pre- race blessing topped it off. It was great to see the IHM sisters there. They appreciated all of the efforts of the runners, walkers, and sponsors on their behalf.”

A bag piper from the Giordano Detachment of the Marine Corps and the Bonsal Blues Band also played at the race.

Heath commented about a course mistake that he discovered shortly after the race began. Instead of the 5K run being 3.10 miles, it turned out that the course was slightly longer than that, at 3.2 miles.

Heath said he realized it when he saw the leader runner go slightly off course right after the start and knew the race might be a “little long.”

Heath said: “It was fitting to have a race that is named after Browning Ross and not be exactly 3.10 miles. Ross rarely had races exactly the named distances. He usually measured courses with his car and frequently changed the course on his races just to keep it interesting. He would have liked this year’s race to see all of the high school runners and because of the course change.”

The top finishers in the race were Rams cross country’s Travis Finley, who finished with a time of 23:08.19. He was followed by second place finisher and teammate, Sean Ward. Gloucester Catholic coach girls’ soccer coach, Kate Ormsby, placed third overall.

Visit Coach Heath’s blog by clicking here.