happy mothers day to the greatest mom! i love you!!!
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. ~ Thomas Carlyle
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. ~ Thomas Carlyle
here is the perfect recipe for keeping kids entertained in the city for an entire day – for free!
2 dogs (borrow from neighbors if necessary)
1 building maintenance man.
mix well and play.
“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”
~ Milton Berle
this is chris:
now read what he’s done for my family – and just try not to cry!
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 .
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
~ Lao Tzu
my introduction into all things jewish came mostly from the weinstein’s. debbie weinstein was my college roommate and one of 798 jewish peeps in my freshman year dorm complex which housed 800 people. debbie always invited me to her parents home in boston for the holidays and it was there that i got accustomed to the seder rituals. being the token goy, i didn’t have to actually participate in the prayer and hebrew readings so i was only familiar with the big picture and didn’t really know exactly what was going on. the truth is, i was there for mrs. weinstein’s good cooking, and mr. weinstein’s jokes – which were usually at my expense, but funny none the less.
after we graduated from school, i continued to go to the weinstein’s on jewish holidays and by that time i thought i had learned everything i needed to know about what to do at a seder – even though i never had to actually do anything. . .
then one year debbie’s brother mark got married and everything changed. this year, we had to go to mark’s in-laws for passover. i guess they expected me to be jewish. or maybe they felt obligated to make sure i was aware of their collective suffering as a race. or maybe, debbie didn’t tell them she was bringing me and they were just pissed off about that – i don’t know. whatever the reason, they were intent on teaching me how it’s done by making me to eat things i didn’t want, participate in the readings and pray in hebrew. with 5 or 6 seders under my belt, i felt like i could handle the situation just fine – until marks mother in-law asked me if i knew the answers to the 4 questions, which i couldn’t quite remember. i was mortified because i did know the questions were central to the seder. i’m sure it didn’t happen this way at all, but i recall seeing dark red horns growing from my skull in the tiny reflection of her eyeballs. i blame mr. weinstein for my lack of knowledge because i’m positive he must have been making me laugh too hard to pay proper attention to this part of the ritual in years past.
this post serves to save all goyim who may be put in a similar situation this evening during a passover seder. first, i would like to point out out that there is really only one question and four answers, which i would not advise pointing out to seder host.
here is what you’ll need to know:
Why is this night different from all other nights, from all other nights?
On all other nights, we may eat chametz and matzah. On this night, only matzah.
On all other nights, we eat many vegetables. On this night, on this night, maror.
On all other nights, we do not dip even once. On this night, on this night, twice.
(A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten.)
On all other nights we eat while sitting upright, but on this night we eat reclining.
and you may also want to know that mark has since re-married a nice girl from a nice family who i am sure, would not make me eat anything i didn’t want. tonight i will celebrate passover in nyc with the enzer’s, as i have since debbie moved to chicago. i will read, pray in hebrew, answer the question(s), have a good time with good people, and as always on passover, be missing mr. weinstein’s enormous laughter.
gut yontiff to all!
To break the bonds of anger,
To live with gentle pride.
To break the bonds of shame,
To live with humble strength.
To break the bonds of envy,
To serve each other in joy.
To break the bonds of guilt,
To accept all G-d’s gifts.
To break the bonds of fear,
To love with fullness of heart.
To break the bonds of lust,
To love with fullness of being.
To break the bonds of loneliness,
To receive a hand of hope.
To break the bonds of neglect,
To reach out a hand of help.
To break the bond of tears,
To see with awe and wonder.
To break the bonds of loss,
To rejoice in all G-d’s works.
© 2011 Alden Solovy and http://www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.