Category Archives: charity

a few good men


love  ♥  love    love  ♥  them both!

“i don’t deserve this award . . . . but i have arthritis and i don’t deserve that either.”
 ~ Jack Benny

kiss-me-icon

just when you’re ready to throw in the towel . . .


“It’s part of nature’s built-in checks and balances, that while there may be times when you think you can’t even help yourself, precisely in such moments there will always be someone else nearby . . . you can help, instead.”
~ the universe
     & mike dooley

monkey icon

want to see what a real earth angel looks like?


this is chris:

c_johnson

now read what he’s done for my family – and just try not to cry!

Hollister Construction Gives Westfield Girl, 9, a Lift

Sara Cagnassola, born with cerebral palsy, had an elevator installed in the Westfield home her great grandfather built.

By Elizabeth Alterman,  Westfield Patch

A conversation with a former college friend led to a dream-come-true experience for the Cagnassola family of Westfield.

Thomas Cagnassola, 44, explained that he ran into his friend and former fraternity brother Chris Johnson at a New Year’s Eve party four years ago. Knowing that Johnson was in the construction field, Cagnossola casually asked his advice on having an elevator installed in the English Tudor he shares with his wife and children.

Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of the Parsippany-based Hollister Construction Services, said while he had noticed that Thomas was often carrying his daughter Sara, then 5, he didn’t understand why his friend would want to undertake such a massive project.

Cagnassola explained that as much as he and his family wanted to remain in their home, built in 1932 by his grandfather, it was becoming increasingly difficult for his young daughter Sara, born with cerebral palsy, to navigate.

“When Chris said he’d like to help, I knew he was sincere but what I didn’t expect was that he not only picked up the ball and ran it though the end zone, but he kept going through the band and out the back door,” said Cagnassola.

Establishing the charitable foundation Strides for Sara in 2009, Johnson made it his mission to first find Sara a wheelchair which would allow her to remain in the Westfield School District. Without the chair, Johnson explained, Sara would have to be bussed nearly 45 minutes away to the Mountain Lakes School District.

While hosting a golf outing for Strides for Sara, Johnson mentioned the need to a colleague who serves with him at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“He said, ‘We just bought a brand new wheelchair for my mother but she passed away. It’s never been used,’” said Johnson.

“Next thing we knew a Hollister truck pulled up and dropped off the wheelchair,” said Cagnassola.

Once he’d secured the chair, Johnson said he was “off and running.” Each year, Strides for Sara has been hosting a fundraising event with the long-term goal of installing an elevator inside the Cagnassolas’ three-level home.

This March that dream became a reality. After working with an architect and finding contractors and subcontractors who were willing to donate their time to this labor of love, the three-and-a-half story addition was complete.

Johnson explained that the project, which took a little more than five months to build, began with a ramp at the mud room level. Cagnassola said this ramp, which allows Sara the independence to go outdoors and visit with friends in the neighborhood without having to ask her mom for help, is just one of the examples of the ways the team took all of Sara’s needs into consideration.

Johnson said the kitchen and bathroom areas are now ADA-complaint. In addition, an electrician has outfitted the home so that through an iPad, Sara is able to adjust light and heat settings as well as see who is at the front door.

“Sara is the fifth generation of our family to live in Westfield. My dad and grandfather are both Westfield High School graduates. This house means a lot to us. If it weren’t for Chris and the Hollister Foundation we would have had to move to a ranch, I’m sure,” said Cagnassola, who added that it was thrilling to watch the project come to life. “This is a fairy tale for any family with special needs. It’s like something right out of one of those television shows.”

Through his company’s charity, The Hollister Foundation, Johnson has raised more than $500,000 to promote awareness for organizations that foster children’s advancement through education and healthy initiatives. The organization supports a range of charities including Strides for Sara, United Way, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Hugs from Home, and The Center for Autism.

Additionally, Johnson is a supporter of the Ryan Wolf Kossar Foundation, the CJ Foundation for SIDS, the Development School for Youth, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Family Services of Morris County and Fairleigh Dickinson University, according to Hollister’s website.

Sara’s First Ride

Once the installation was complete, Sara reserved her first ride for the man who made it all possible–Johnson. The entire Hollister team, along with the subcontractors who donated their time and talent to the project, were at the Cagnassolas’ home for the inaugural ride.

“It took four years of grit, determination and, most of all, love for Sara to see this project through, from getting permits and approvals, to raising donations and holding fund-raising events, to completing the construction work,” said Johnson. “All that effort came together when we saw the big smile on Sara’s face as she took her first ride on her elevator. It was a wonderful moment that reminded us of why we are committed as a company to building stronger communities by doing what we can to help those in need.”

Johnson said intially he had been thinking only about how the elevator would improve life for Sara but after taking their first ride together, Sara’s reaction made him realize the full impact this gift would have on the Cagnassola family.

“She said, ‘Now my mommy doesn’t have to carry me – it will help Mommy,’” recalled Johnson. “It was pretty moving.”

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” added Andrew Goetting, Hollister’s Business Development Manager.

Johnson said he was motivated to help his friend’s family because he always believed Sara should be offered the same opportunities his own children have.

“It’s important to give back,” said Johnson, a 2011 finalist in the Corporate Citizen of the Year category of the 2011 NJBIZ Business of the Year awards program. “But the actual gift was to us. After we finished, you felt good, like you could run through brick walls.”

Cagnassola said he can’t thank Johnson and his team of contractors, electricians and plumbers enough. “You’ve not only transformed my home but also my daughter’s abilities,” he said.

For more information about Hollister Construction Services, visit the company’s website 

sara chris johnson strides (5)to the team of hollister construction – thank you, thank you, thank you!!

sara chris johnson strides (4)pushing the button – getting ready for take-off!

sara chris johnson strides (3) mommy & sara

sara chris johnson strides (2)mission accomplished!

sara chris johnson strides (1) sara & hollister superheros!

sara chris johnson strides (6) happy family with grandma & grandpa

may god continue to bless you forever and ever,
chris johnson!

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
~ Lao Tzu 

mandatory viewing!


Barry Dennis demonstrates here how true wealth is found in letting go. We already have so much more than we think! More time, money, energy, love and joy.

“It all started with a soccer ball.”
 ~ Barry Dennis

they did it again!


i can’t believe i missed it! one of the best days of my life – the day the harley boys paid a christmas visit to the children at the ronald mcdonald house.  a friend from my old apartment on 73rd street called to alert me the harley boys were there but i missed the call.

here’s the story as it occurred on sunday, dec. 17, 2006:

December 17th may just be one of the top most exhilarating experiences of my life so far.  I was coming down York Avenue with Ivan when I saw a harley stopped square in the middle of the intersection at 73rd St.  several blocks further down York was the rest of the gang - about one hundred of them.

I love bikers. I love the incredibly loud rev of the engines when they’re out in force. Today they were out in force and it was loud.  The leader was holding traffic at bay while the rest of the gang approached 73rd St. where they all turned left  onto my block. I stood at the corner with goose bumps and a smile wondering where they were headed. It seemed to take 15 minutes to get them all through the intersection. They parked one by one lining the curb on my block. When they ran out of space on the street, they pulled right up onto the sidewalk. Following the pack were 3 trucks which turned onto the block as well. The pack leader then barricaded the street so that no other vehicles could enter.

I ran home and got my camera. When I came back outside, 73rd street was being transformed into a winter wonderland full of joy & presents!  The bikes were loaded with gifts for the children at the Ronald McDonald house. Teddy bears and games were protruding from backpacks as the bikers unpacked more goodies from their saddle bags. Some were sporting santa hats. They descended upon the RMDH with their arms fully loaded with toys for the kids - a hundred  bikers carrying dolls and teddy bears into the house. It was beautiful.  At the end of the block the 3 trucks were parked. The doors opened.  The trucks were loaded with more toys! The bikers lined up to unload the games, puzzles, stuffed animals dolls and countless other items. It was a spectacular scene.

In the lobby of the house stood a big christmas tree drenched with lights and ornaments, around which the bikers placed some of the gifts. I could see through the window the children gathering around the tree smiling and overjoyed.  Over  thirty minutes had passed since they arrived and the gifts were still pouring in. Presents were being stored in the living room as well, which I later found out were intended for children who were in the local hospitals.  No disease existed in this moment.  Everyone felt good. Everyone was happy.

I asked one of the bikers if he would take my camera inside the RMDH and get a few pictures of the kids for me.  He was dressed in leathers and a plaid flannel shirt, had sparkling eyes and wore a big red santa hat.  He asked me my name.
“Laurie,” I told him.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “No, Laurie, I won’t do that, but I will bring you inside and let you take all the pictures you want.”  He grabbed my hand and headed inside.  When we arrived in the lobby, many of the children were posed for a photograph to be taken by a professional photographer hired for the occasion. With a firm grip on my hand, my biker led me straight to the front of the room next to the professional photographer.  He announced to the entire room, “Hey everybody, this is Laurie. She’s going to be taking your pictures too.”

The children were as impressed with the bikes as they were with their new toys and soon began to wander outside to get a closer look.  What happened next was thrilling. One of the bikers lifted a child onto one of the bikes parked on the sidewalk. Another took off his leather vest and put it on the child. Then another outfitted the child with aviators and gloves. Soon a line formed – all the children wanted to be a biker for just a little while. It turned into a game. Each time a child got on the bike, he or she would then pick which accessories they wanted from any one of the bikers. They would choose one man’s vest, another’s shades – whatever they wanted! Instantly, sick children were transformed into harley boys and girls and the thrill was palpable.

Xmas 2006 RMcD 001

Harley Boys 2006 014

Harley Boys 2006 015

Harley Boys 2006 017

Harley Boys 2006 006

Harley Boys

Harley Boys 2006 003Their exit was as spectacular as their entrance. The bikes were lined up along my block on 73rd Street side by side from First Avenue to York Avenue.  The men mounted their bikes and waited.  Once the whole gang was ready to roll, the 1st biker reved up. Then the second, followed by the third – one at a time until the noise was overwhelming.  As I stood across the street with tears rolling down my cheeks,  I noticed my biker man with the sparkling eyes and the santa hat.  He was watching me cry.  Above the din he shouted “Merry Christmas, Laurie!”  I acknowledged him with a smile.  A hundred bikes revving, ready for take off, he got off his bike and crossed the street.  He walked over to me and kissed my cheek.  He then placed his santa hat on my head and returned to his bike. One by one they drove off.  I will never forget what those men did for those children that day.

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
 - Pema Chodron

not for the jimmy choo’s


hi, friends -

quick question –  please help me out by answering this:

what is the  REAL  reason you would want to be super wealthy?

thanks in advance for answering & happy holidays to all!

“He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”
~ Confucius

hiding in the silver lining


John Turner bought a scratch-off lottery ticket after a hard day of work last Sunday.

Instant karma!

New Jersey native John Turner, 38, returned to his home state to help with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, and left $70,000 richer after hitting the jackpot in a Garden State lottery.
Turner, who runs a water removal business in Chicago, knew that his skills and equipment were desperately needed when Sandy ravaged New Jersey.
Shocked by the devastation, Turner even emptied out some flooded homes free of charge for families that got hit particularly hard by the storm.  full story
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Whole Foods
The store nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for its high prices surprised some Manhattan residents with a generous offer earlier this week. On October 31, Whole Foods  in New York’s Tribeca district — one of the neighborhoods that lost power Monday night and is still waiting for the lights to come back on — had food on shelves and in storage that was about to go bad. Management could have held a fire sale but instead decided to hand out all perishables for free. Twitter alerts brought instant crowds and news crews.  (source)
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Adorama
Any retailer that allowed residents without power to charge their cell phones and computers became a hero this week, and remains such. Meanwhile Adorama, a camera store on West 18th Street, went one further, setting up a charging station in front of its storefront.  (source)
 U-Haul
Free self-storage would thrill any real estate-deprived New York area resident even in the best of times. During the Hurricane Sandy recovery, dry, clean space is even more valuable, especially to those facing property damage or those forced to bunk with friends, family, or strangers.  Right now, U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage and U-Box pod moving to assist victims of the storm. (source)
*
Duracell
Duracell  gained some energized fans by taking to the streets of the New York metro area this week with its Duracell Rapid Responder truck. Employees handed out free batteries and access to charging lockers.  (source)
*

On the Upper East Side, residents of 200 East End Ave. — many of them elderly — found themselves without power after the storm flooded their basement. And just like that, their neighbors across the street at 180 East End offered to take them in. That was welcome news for Mike Traub, 74, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and gets around with a scooter — but who lives on the ninth floor of 200 East End, and had no way of getting downstairs. Or so he thought. The building’s porter, Luis Cortes, carried him down. “I knocked on the door and said you need to get out, but he said he couldn’t walk. I said no problem, and carried him down nine flights. It was difficult, but I did what I had to do” said Cortes, 53.

HEROES: Luis Cortes (left) carried Mike Traub down nine flights and José Murillo (right) got him across the street.

David McGlynn
HEROES: Luis Cortes (left) carried Mike Traub down nine flights and José Murillo (right) got him across the street.

Another building employee, José Murillo, carried Traub across the street. When he got to his host’s apartment, “They were very welcoming, and food was pushed on us. Cakes, coffee, salads, soups.” Traub’s wife, Bonnie, said, “They were super wonderful. They put little chocolates on our pillows and they made us an incredible breakfast. New Yorkers are the greatest people in the world.” in all the years i’ve lived here, i never understood why new yorkers have a reputation for being rude & uncaring.  my experience has been just the opposite. on the countless occasions i’ve seen people fall down or be in need of help, there are always plenty of people tripping over each other to offer assistance.  One of those who played host to displaced neighbors was Robert Horowitz, 82, a part-time Traffic Court judge in Nassau County, and his retired teacher wife, Micki, 81. “I spoke to my wife, and we said [to the people working downstairs], ‘Send someone up who needs a bed.’ ” They sent up Dorothy Kreindler, 80. “They were true good Samaritans, as many people were there and at 170 [East End],” Kreindler said. “They are wonderful people.” __________________________

In Red Hook, the west side of the neighborhood was still without power, with elderly residents essentially trapped inside of their apartments. Dorothy Robinson, 94, stayed in her fifth-floor apartment on Center Mall in the Red Hook Houses. “I’ve seen worse. World War II was worse,” Robinson (above) said. “But I didn’t think it was going to be this bad.” Now she’s running out of food, as is Joshua Rodney, who’s also on the fifth floor. Rodney, 85, has a leg injury and breathing problems. “God, oh mercy, I can’t go down the stairs,” Rodney said. Both are now relying on the kindness of strangers, and those strangers have been reliable. Yesterday, volunteer Conor Tomas Reed, 31, of the Red Hook Initiative, brought plates of rice, beans and vegetables, along with gallons of water for residents.  full story

*

Worried that the hen would become a victim of the looming “Frankenstorm,” the pair picked the gentle bird up and took it home with them. There, they made her a bed from a cardboard box and lined it with T-shirts to make her comfortable in the kitchen as the hurricane approached.

Chris Mottalini and Nepal Asatthawa

Cynthia R. Fagen
Chris Mottalini and Nepal Asatthawa

“She was so freaked out by the storm, she wouldn’t stop clucking,” said Mottalini. On Tuesday, the no-longer-spooked hen showed her thanks by laying them an egg.  full story

a simple reminder of all the good people we are surrounded by –  always.

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“When people show you who they are, believe them.”
~ Maya Angelou

fixed broken link!!! please try again!


(i just found out that the link wasn’t working – which was the whole point of my last post.  damn mercury in retrograde!!!  ;) )

 
*

would you do it?

would you give up one cup of coffee if you knew it would contribute to the happiness of one small child with cerebral palsy?  seriously, would you do it?

if you answered yes, now’s your  chance.  click here.

if you can walk, please imagine how that impacts your happiness in life.  now imagine how good you will feel knowing you have helped provide that same feeling for my niece, sara.   with your help,  i know it is possible.

if you can donate one dollar, you have helped.  will you please do it?

if you cannot donate a dollar or more, would you  pass this on and help make this post viral?  if you’ll do it, i believe we can raise enough money to cover the costs of  the therapy sara needs and insurance will not provide.   if you can do both, please do.  may your generosity & kindness double back to you!

with love &  many thanks,

laurie

   

more information:  strides4sara.org 

if you wish to send a check:

Payable to Strides for Sara
Send to:
Hollister Construction Services
c/o Jordan Schweiger
777 Terrace Ave., Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07401

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
 ~ unknown author

would you do it?


would you give up one cup of coffee if you knew it would contribute to the happiness of one small child with cerebral palsy?  seriously, would you do it?

if you answered yes, now’s your  chance.  click here.

if you can walk, please imagine how that impacts your happiness in life.  now imagine how good you will feel knowing you have helped provide that same feeling for my niece, sara.   with your help,  i know it is possible.

if you can donate one dollar, you have helped.  will you please do it?

if you cannot donate a dollar or more, would you  pass this on and help make this post viral?  if you’ll do it, i believe we can raise enough money to cover the costs of  the therapy sara needs and insurance will not provide.   if you can do both, please do.  may your generosity & kindness double back to you!

with love &  many thanks,

laurie

   

more information:  strides4sara.org 

if you wish to send a check:

Payable to Strides for Sara
Send to:
Hollister Construction Services
c/o Jordan Schweiger
777 Terrace Ave., Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07401

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
 ~ unknown author