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(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)May 20, 2003

Awards to be Presented on Thursday, May 29 at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah

MAHWAH, N.J., May 20, 2003 – On Thursday, May 29, 2003, the spotlight will shine on 19 unsung heroes from throughout New Jersey at a presentation awards ceremony for the Russ Berrie Award for Making A Difference.

The ceremony will be held at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah The program also includes a video tribute to the late Russ Berrie, for whom the award is named. The 2003 ceremony will be the first since the death of philanthropist and businessman Russ Berrie, who died on Christmas Day 2002.

Acclaimed broadcaster Charles Osgood will deliver the keynote address. Osgood, dubbed CBS News’ poet-in-residence, has been anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning since 1994. He also anchors and writes The Osgood File, a daily news commentary broadcast on the CBS Radio Network.

The Russ Berrie Award for Making a Difference is an annual program to recognize unusual heroism and community service by New Jersey citizens. It was established in 1997 by Berrie and Ramapo College of New Jersey.

The Russell Berrie Foundation provides up to three major awards of $50,000, $35,000, and $25,000, and sixteen runner-up awards of $2,500. The program is administered by the Office of the President of Ramapo College.

This year, nearly 270 entries were considered by the Advisory Board of the Russ Berrie Award for Making a Difference.

It takes a great deal of deliberation to narrow the complete field of nominees down to a select few,” said Dr. Rodney D. Smith, president of Ramapo College of New Jersey, who serves as co-chair of the Advisory Committee along with Josh S. Weston, acting chairman of Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. (RUSS) and the honorary chairman of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP). This year’s entries are truly all encompassing, from people who have devoted their lives to an altruistic pursuit to those who rose to the occasion for one heroic moment.”

This year’s finalists include:
Two students have completed the requirements for a degree in bioinformatics and will be the first to graduate in this new major.

Evelyn Dudziec of Kinnelon founded Healing the Children Midlantic, Inc., a charity that arranges for free medical care for New Jersey children. The group organizes field trips to developing nations to provide surgical care to children and brings children from those countries to New Jersey for complex surgical procedures.

Louis Feliciano of Edison saved two small children and their father from a fire that had broken out in the small ice cream store where he was working.

M. Hunter Halvorsen of Ridgefield, founded We Must Care, an organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse, rape, torture, mutilation and murder of children everywhere. Over the past 40 years he has volunteered his time to deliver more than 3000 talks and lectures to college groups, civic and service organizations, police organizations, high schools and churches.

Frances Jackson of Jersey City, a school crossing guard, pushed three children out of the way of a speeding vehicle to safety, sacrificing her own well-being. Jackson was struck by the vehicle, sustaining neck, head and abdominal injuries.

Dr. Allen S. Keller of Montclair started the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture after serving as a medical volunteer in a refugee camp along the Thai-Cambodian border, where he witnessed human rights abuses. Since its inception, the program has served more than 600 patients from over 60 countries and has grown to 12 full-time staff.

Henry and Patricia King of Belmar have devoted their lives to saving Honduran street children since the 1980s. They established a non-profit organization, House of Friendship, that operates five children’s shelters in Honduras. House of Friendship currently houses more than 100 children ranging in age from 3 to 16 years old.
Robert Kita of Manville, serves as a tireless advocate for bone marrow donation. Kita donated his bone marrow to a man dying from a rare disease in 2000, then organized a Thanksgiving dinner meeting between himself, the marrow recipient and that man’s family.

Roberta Leveson of Marlboro, a crisis counselor in the East Orange school district, devotes herself to her middle school students, dealing with suicide attempts, drug overdoses, child abuse, runaways and broken hearts. Leveson, who lives with a disability, serves as an inspiration to her students.

Carl Lovern of Voorhees pulled to the side of the road while driving through Audubon and saw flames coming from a home. While his wife called 911, Lovern ran into the building to the fourth floor to assist an elderly man and carry his disabled adult daughter to safety.

Reverend Brian McCormick of Trenton is founder and president of Martin House, an organization that offers hope and opportunity through home ownership and education. For more than 30 years, Martin House has provided more than 4,000 adults and children with housing and educational services to better their lives, an effort that has organized and empowered citizens to reclaim their streets.

Saranne Rothberg of Tenafly is a performer who founded the Comedy Cures Foundation after her breast cancer diagnosis in 1999. The non-profit organization is based on the belief that laughter is the best medicine.”

Ellarae Saunders of Glen Rock founded The Order of the Lamp, an organization committed to providing scholarships for college-bound African-American students in Bergen and Passaic counties. As one of 12 children born to an uneducated sharecropper in the South, Saunders vowed that successive generations would enjoy the opportunities that she did not have. Now 84, she continues making presentations, soliciting ads, planning annual fundraising events and encouraging promising young scholars.

Thomas Slane of River Edge is a student at the University of Maryland who saved an injured worker from a fire in a physics laboratory. Slane serves as a member of the River Edge Volunteer Fire Department and the College Park Maryland Volunteer Fire Department during the school term.

Christene Smellie of Irvington helped save three small children and alerted several of her neighbors about an apartment fire during a severe winter storm. The Irvington Fire Chief credited Smellie’s quick action for assuring the safety of all three children.

Mary Smith of Livingston is founder and executive director of Babyland Family Services, an organization that answers the need for child care for working mothers. Today, the organization provides daily care to 1,500 children and their families. Among Babyland’s services are programs that help raise awareness for minority males and at-risk teen mothers.

Three Camden County firefighters – Thomas G. Stewart III of Gloucester City, James E. Sylvester and John West, both of Mt. Ephraim, died trying to save three children during a July 4th, 2002 house fire in Gloucester City.

Roberta Vickery of Pine Beach is a retired physical therapist, blind from birth, who founded the Ocean County Volunteers for the Blind in 1968. The volunteers provide taped and Brailled material for visually impaired and legally blind clients throughout New Jersey and nearby states at no cost.

Richard Ward of Ringwood founded Operation Silver Eagle, which has provided assistance to more than 40 disaster sites in 25 states and three Caribbean islands during the last 10 years. Mr. Ward, a professional truck driver, has solicited donations of materials, help from trucking companies, air cargo space, shipping cargo space and the help of volunteers including 20 fellow truck drivers.

Yaakov Weiss of Teaneck, a high school senior, saved a drowning 10-year-old girl in Loch Sheldrake in upstate New York.

Russ Berrie founded Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. in 1963, and throughout the last 40 years built the company into the world’s premier gift company. In addition to his business accomplishments, Mr. Berrie devoted boundless energy and resources to numerous charitable causes, earning recognition in 1998 as one of the 40 most generous Americans by Fortune Magazine.

Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. is headquartered in Oakland, New Jersey. The company and its wholly-owned subsidiaries design, develop and distribute approximately 8,000 gift, home decòr, infant and juvenile products to retailers worldwide. These products include teddy bears and other stuffed animals, baby gifts, soft baby toys, bibs, mobiles and developmental toys. Also in the Company’s product line are picture frames, candles, figurines, home decor gifts, home fragrance products and a wide variety of seasonal and everyday gifts.

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s public liberal arts college, serving 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 20 states and 60 nations. The College named its center for performing and visual arts, the site of the Russ Berrie Award for Making a Difference ceremony, in honor of both Mr. Berrie and his wife Angelica.

Note to editors: Because of limited seating, guest attendance at this event is by invitation only.


Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice, has been named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others. Ramapo College is also distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by, boasts the best campus housing in New Jersey on, and is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools.

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Technology, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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