Sam’s Hope: A shining light for pets in need

by June Portnoy

Every year an estimated eight million animals nationwide enter shelters. Nearly 50% never find homes and are euthanized. About six to eight percent of pets surrendered are due to a pet owner’s financial inability to care for them.

Citing these statistics, Marianne Iaquinto explains why she established Sam’s Hope, based in Richboro, one year ago. 

“I read how so many shelters are suddenly overflowing since the economy has been adversely affected, and I wanted to do something to help,” says Marianne, who has always been an animal lover.

“When money is tight, and you have to choose between feeding your family, paying your utility bills or caring for your pets, your pets become your last priority, which is why so many of them end up in shelters.”

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Bucks County man runs 100-mile ultra-marathons for military charity

Bucks Country resident Jason Brady, a dedicated trail and ultra-marathon runner, is set to run the Peak 100-Mile Snowshoe Race in Pittsfield, VT from February 28th to March 1st in an effort to raise funds for the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, a military charity. Since 2012 Jason has run five 100-mile ultra-marathons and multiple 50-plus mile ultra-marathons, raising over $6,000 for this charity. 

“I love to challenge myself, especially in trail and ultra-marathon running,” says Jason. “As a former Army Ranger myself, my time in the 1st Ranger Battalion was extremely rewarding, most of all because of the individuals I served with. Rangers and their families give so much, and I feel strongly about the fantastic charitable work that the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund does. The organization really stepped up during the government shutdown for Ranger families that did not receive death benefits and other services during that time. They are unique because they assist active and wounded U.S. Army Rangers and their families with recovery, health, wellness and other programs where government funding falls short.”   

Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to raise funds in support of disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who have died, have been injured or are currently serving in harm’s way around the world. Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund, Inc. will provide spouses and children of deceased, disabled or active duty Rangers with assistance for health and wellness programs and other services determined to be vital to the family’s well-being, beyond what the government can offer.

To contribute, visit Jason’s fundraising page at  

All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law and contributors will receive a letter acknowledging their donation from the Ranger Lead the Way Fund, Inc.

PHOTO CAP: Jason Brady 


Villa Joseph Marie holds Mini-THON to help conquer pediatric cancer


by June Portnoy

On Friday, January 10th, Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland held its second annual school-wide, student-run Mini-THON fundraiser, which to date has raised over $59,000 to fight pediatric cancer. All proceeds of the 10-hour dance-a-thon go straight to The Four Diamonds Fund, which sponsors groundbreaking pediatric cancer research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, supports the hospital’s team of pediatric oncologists, and effectively offsets the cost of treatment and other expenses for patients’ families.

Tess Plummer, Campus Minister and Mini-THON Coordinator, explained that the idea for the THON came from students who last year wanted to replicate Penn State’s very successful annual THON by holding a smaller scale dance marathon.

“Many of these students had friends or siblings at Penn State who had participated in THON, a 46-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon,” said Tess.  

In 2013, the college’s THON raised a record-breaking $12.37 million. Although there are currently more than 100 schools participating in the Mini-THON Program, to the best of Tess’s knowledge Villa Joseph Marie was one of the first high schools in this area to hold a Mini-THON.

“They (Mini-THONs) started in Central Pennsylvania at high schools nearby Penn State and spread from there,” added Tess.

Approximately 340 Villa Joseph Marie students, practically every student at the school, participated in this year’s Mini-THON. In order to take part in this fundraiser, each student was required to raise $75, and Mini-THON captains were expected to raise $125 in order to dance. In contrast to last year, when the Mini-THON lasted eight hours, this year’s dance was 10 hours, from 1:00pm until 11:00pm.

“The students were determined to beat last year’s Mini-THON total of $45,000,” stated Tess, who was delighted to achieve this goal.

According to Tess, planning the Mini-Thon was a “huge undertaking” that students began organizing immediately following last year’s event. Tess and four Mini-THON co-chairs went to Hershey this past August for a Mini-THON conference led by Penn State.

In addition students ran various committees, such as a corporate committee that solicited donations from local businesses. A food committee was responsible for getting food donated for the dance. A family affairs committee reached out to local families who have been affected by pediatric cancer.

Although the Mini-THON offered lots of fun with line dancing and group dancing, in addition to games like musical plates and a toilet paper challenge, this event was much more than a typical school dance. For starters, it opened with an emotional video of students’ family members who have been touched by pediatric cancer. In addition, each of the 10 hours of the dance was dedicated to a different child who had either overcome, was struggling with, or had died from cancer. That child or child’s family member came to the Mini-THON to share their story of triumph or despair with the students.

A total of 14 families with children at various stages of cancer spoke during the dance.

“Once you meet these families and hear their stories, you become so inspired that you just want to join in the fight against pediatric cancer,” said Jaclyn Newns, Villa Joseph Marie’s Mini-THON coordinator during its first year. “When you have people in need and people willing to give, a true community is formed.”

Some highlights of the Mini-THON included an alumni hour, an incoming freshmen hour, and special guest Sister Theresa Dabulis, of the Sisters of St. Casimir who founded the school, who flew in from Chicago to dance with the students and teach everyone how to dance the polka.

The Mini-THON was open to the community after school hours when family members and local high school students also came to support the cause.
The dance culminated with each of the senior Mini-THON captains holding up a poster board with a single number, revealing the fundraising total to the hundreds of onlookers.

“When students, teachers and guests saw the number go up after all of that hard work, everyone exploded with cheers of excitement,” said Tess.
Said Jaclyn, “These Mini-THONs just go to show you what you can accomplish when so many people come together to each give a little bit of time and money to a united cause.”

PHOTO CAP: Allison Trzaska, Molly McGurrin, Taylor Stevens, Kristin Glaum, Colleen Coleman, Akexa Fabbri, and Sam Baran at the Mini-THON.


Good Neighbor Profile: Lori Stagnitto, co-founder of Lambertville Animal Welfare

by June Portnoy

Fact 1: According to the New Jersey Board of Health, within seven years one male and one female cat, along with their offspring, can reproduce 140,000 cats.

Fact 2: Approximately 25,000 cats are killed every day in our nation.

Lori Stagnitto, of Solebury, has dedicated her life to saving the lives of cats and preventing them from reproducing by establishing Lambertville Animal Welfare (LAW).

“So many people who no longer want their cats, abandon them outside, believing they can fend for themselves,” says Suzanne Henrich, a LAW volunteer who nominated Lori for this month’s Times Publishing Newspapers’ “Good Neighbor” recognition.

“But this just isn’t true. These cats’ lives are cut short. Now forced to live in the outdoors, cats must fight infections and injuries, as they are prey to other animals.

“Lori has devoted her life to improving the welfare of cats. This is her full-time job and she does it voluntarily.”

Lori, who retired 10 years ago, admits to having a lifelong passion for cats. Even while working in corporate America, she rescued cats on her own. She currently owns 10 rescued pet cats.

For many years Lori has been caring for feral cats in her community, but two years ago she decided to found LAW with her partner, Heather Edwards, to expand services by recruiting volunteers and donations. She describes their rescue organization as a collaboration between other rescue groups, veterinary offices, local businesses, residents and Animal Control.

“We have no shelter,” explains Lori, “so we place our adoptable cats in foster homes.”

According to Lori, areas like Lambertville and New Hope have large populations of community (feral) cats, as they are such densely populated towns. The cats live under buildings and behind backyards, but sporadically receive food from patrons of local restaurants.

“The only solution to control these cat populations from growing out of proportion is to use the TNR (trap, neuter and return) approach,” says Lori, who goes out herself to trap the cats.

She then works with a low-cost clinic to get the cats neutered or spayed at reasonably low costs, then places the kittens and adoptable cats in foster homes until they are adopted. She returns the feral cats to their original community, hiring a volunteer to routinely feed the cats and clean their shelter, a home filled with hay that Lori provides.

She assigns one volunteer to monitor each cat community.

Suzanne has recently begun volunteering for LAW, caring for about eight feral cats.

“Some of these cats are very friendly and have learned to recognize me,” says Suzanne. “When they see me drive up they come to my car, knowing I have food.”

According to Suzanne, Lori knows virtually all the cats that live in these communities and worries about them.

“If she hasn’t seen an older cat for a while, she asks me to look for him during my visit,” says Suzanne, who also reports in to Lori about any injured, sick or new cats living within the community.

In addition, LAW offers a barn program for feral cats who are living in dangerous locations or whose homes are about to be demolished.

“While most other people would simply kill these feral cats, we take them out of their community and help acclimate them to living in a barn setting,” says Lori.

LAW also offers a unique program called Seniors to Seniors. “We often have senior cats who are not as adoptable as kittens, so we match them to senior citizens.

“Seniors can benefit from the companionship of a senior cat without taking on the financial burden of vet care,” adds Lori.

For qualifying senior adopters, LAW pays for all future health care for the life of the cat. LAW currently has about 50 adoptable cats and kittens that you can see on its website (see website address listed below).

“All of these cats or neutered or spayed,” says Lori. “Plus, we do extensive healthcare checks on our cats, ensuring they don’t have diseases and making certain they are vaccinated. We have blood work done on older cats. In addition, all cats are microchipped.”

The vast majority of kittens and cats that LAW takes in are adoptable. Most of these cats are surrendered pets to Animal Control or lost pets that are never claimed. This past January, 10 of LAW’s cats were adopted.

Says Lori, “We are saving the lives of so many cats, working with the community who want to help.”

If you’re interested in donating your time or money to saving a cat, contact LAW at

PHOTO CAP: Lori Stagnitto


Bookin’ for Lookin’ raises money and awareness for the blind and visually impaired


by June Portnoy

On Sunday, April 6th, Mark McCowan from Newtown will host his Second Annual Bookin’ for Lookin’ community race at Council Rock High School North at 8:30am (rain or shine). Registration is currently open for runners/walkers to participate in the Kids 100-Yard Dash and the 5K race.

New this year is the Eight-Miler. “Most races hold a 5K or 10K, so we decided to do something different and hold an Eight-Miler race,” says Mark. 

Runners of the 5K and Eight-Miler will start off running together, but will ultimately split off, with 5K runners finishing at the school, while Eight-Miler runners enjoy a few extra miles of the racecourse through Tyler State Park.

Proceeds from the race will benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), a national foundation providing research to save and restore sight, and the Bucks County Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BCABVI) in Newtown, providing resources, answers and support for people with blindness or other visually impairments.

What makes this race truly unique is that it is open to everyone, with or without sight, or with any other disability. Bookin’ for Lookin’ will provide volunteer guides for anyone who needs assistance running.

Mark, who was diagnosed with a retinal disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) as a teenager, and who currently runs races, established this event to spread awareness to the community that “people with disabilities can accomplish anything they put their mind to, even if they have to accomplish their goals differently than other people.”

“I plan to run in this race, and I encourage others who are blind and disabled in any way to run along with me,” says Mark.

Mark, now 41, grew up in Richboro without any idea that he had a retinal disorder when attending Richboro Junior High School. Around that time he began having trouble seeing at night and difficulty with his peripheral vision. Always athletic as a child, he remembers playing centerfield during a baseball game unable to see a ball that landed about three feet from him.

When Mark was about 14, his father took him to Wills Eye Hospital to have his eyes tested by an ophthalmologist. 

“I can still picture sitting in the waiting room when the doctor came out to tell us that I had RP and would eventually go blind,” recalls Mark. “It was the longest and quietest ride home of my life.”

Despite his diagnosis, Mark was able to teach at an elementary school in Trenton for 19 years before his sight finally became too much of an obstacle to perform his job. As a result, he was recently forced to retire.

Today, he still has some central sight, but cannot see many details.  “Unless the lighting is just right, I can no longer recognize people anymore,” says Mark.

Mark wanted to continue staying in shape and started running on a treadmill. Soon after, he learned about a blind runner who had run a triathlon. Mark did some research and discovered Achilles International, whose mission is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote personal achievement, enhance their self-esteem and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life. Mark joined the Philadelphia chapter of the organization. 

His wife, Kay, began driving him to the train station where he took the train to Philadelphia and was met by a representative from the Philadelphia chapter who helped direct him to the location where members ran. Once there, Mark was paired up with volunteer guides to assist him with his running.

“Every Saturday, we ran along the sidewalks of Philadelphia from our initial meeting point to Kelly Drive,” Mark says. “Once at Kelly Drive, we did the majority of our running.”

All of this running led to one of Mark’s greatest accomplishments: completing the Broad Street Run 10-Miler Race last May. Mark also began running with a guide with the Fishtown Beer Runners. This group runs to different locations each week before meeting at area pubs.

As a result of all his training, Mark completed his third half marathon this past January at Disney World.

“My experience of being around other runners motivated me to establish my own race last year,” says Mark. “Bookin’ for Lookin’ enables me to help raise money for a cause that will hopefully help find a cure for people like me who have vision problems or blindness.”

If you’re interested in registering to run in Bookin’ for Lookin’ or would like to volunteer or become a corporate sponsor, visit for more information.

PHOTO CAP: Mark McCowan (right) with his volunteer guide, David April.


Cradles to Crayons makes donation to Child, Home & Community

Cradles to Crayons of Philadelphia gave Child, Home & Community (CHC) a generous donation of hundreds of baby items – diapers, wipes, clothes, toys and equipment – for young parents and their babies.

Volunteer Dotti Fabian (pictured) of Upper Black Eddy helped CHC staff with unloading.

CHC provides prenatal and parenting classes, support and career counseling to adolescents facing untimely pregnancy. The agency is dedicated to building a better future for children by empowering these young parents through education, advocacy and collaboration. CHC’s goal is to foster the birth of healthy babies, encourage self-sufficiency and strengthen family functioning in our community.

For more information contact Child, Home & Community on 215-348-9770 or visit


John O’Leary Presents THE POWER OF ONE

Lauren ShevchekTo Benefit the Mid-Atlantic Spinal Cord Injury Fund. Come Join Acclaimed International Speaker John O’Leary and Become One of ‘Lauren’s Angels’. Tragic accident leaves a rising star Lauren Shevchek a quadriplegic, but doesn’t weaken her spirit.

Please join us for an uplifting evening as acclaimed international speaker, John O’Leary tells his story. John’s triumph over adversity is testament to the human spirit. Visit for more information on John.

On June 10th, 2013, following the completion of her freshman year at Penn State, Lauren sustained a catastrophic spinal cord injury, which rendered her paralyzed. Lauren was actively involved as a student at both CR South and PSU. She was co-captain of the CR South swim team, a member of the National Honor and Music Societies, an avid thespian, and member of the choir. She studied classical vocals and loves to sing opera. As a freshman at PSU, she competed on the water polo club team.

Please join us in coming together to support Lauren as she once again takes the stage at CRHS South.

To register in advance on line, please visit:

$25 Adults ● $15 Students
Monday January 6th 7:00 PM


Ashvika Dhir attends Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Ashvika Dhir, a senior at Pennsbury High School, was one of 50 students from around the world and (and one of only two from the US) to be invited to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October. Billed as the global hive of “everything entrepreneurship,” it was first held in 2010 in Washington, DC and hosted by President Obama. 

Social entrepreneurship is Ashvika’s passion. She started a website called to get her generation to contribute and be socially responsible. is a platform for young social change-makers and innovators. It is a place for young adults to promote, educate, share, search and join causes that they are passionate about. Individuals can create their own blog/site and have their own followers. Ashvika was recommended for the conference by Farah Bandith, special assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry, and invited to attend on a full scholarship by the Ministry of Finance of the Malaysian government.

Rockstar entrepreneurs, thought leaders and researchers from all over the world converged and met to discuss, debate, share ideas, connect and network. 

PHOTO CAP: Ashvika Dhir (right) with Farah Bandith, special assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry. 


BCCC hosts Sixth Annual Women’s Scholarship Tea


by June Portnoy

On Thursday, October 24th, Bucks County Community College (BCCC) hosted its Sixth Women’s Scholarship Tea.

Adrienne Clark, Coordinator, Development Programs of BCCC Foundation, welcomed a room filled with women at the college’s Tyler Hall.

“You are the generous donors that helped make our ‘Salute to Mothers’ Scholarship so successful,” said Adrienne. “In the past five years, we’ve awarded 60 scholarships, giving away $38,000 to very deserving women here on campus who are trying to raise a family, work and also get an education at the same time.

“Last year we awarded 10, $1,000 scholarships, and next fall of 2014 we will be awarding 16 scholarships, the largest number so far. As of today, we have already raised $11,000.”

Betty Tsai, sitting at a large table listening to Adrienne speak, is the founder of this annual scholarship award. Six years ago, Betty, a former BCCC professor, donated one $500 scholarship to a single mother who was seeking higher education at the college.

“I retired after working here for 37 years and wanted to give back to the college that had given me so much during my career,” explained Betty. “While working here, I met so many women who I knew would benefit from a scholarship like this one.”

For the first two years, in 2007 and 2008, the BCCC Foundation awarded a $500 scholarship to one recipient each year. Over the years, the number of people donating to this scholarship fund grew, and in 2011 the BCCC Foundation began awarding $1,000 scholarships.

“I planted the seed and it blossomed,” said Betty, refusing to take much credit for all the Foundation has accomplished over the years.

Jennifer Hall, a 2013 “Salute to Mothers” Scholarship recipient, attended this year’s Women’s Scholarship Tea. She is the mother of two young daughters, a nursing major with a minor in psychology and a work-study student at the college’s Upper Bucks Campus. 

“Receiving a scholarship that honors me as a non-traditional student and a single mom is amazing,” said Jennifer. “It’s not easy balancing classes, working, volunteering and being involved in campus organizations and president of one of them, so it is a tremendous weight off my shoulders being blessed to receive this scholarship.

“Without these financial awards, I would not be able to afford college, as I have many responsibilities as a parent…I have now been given the motivation to do well in the future because my hard work is being acknowledged.”

Keynote Speaker Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt, BCCC President, shared a heartwarming story of her own mother’s challenge of raising her three young children after her husband unexpectedly passed away. With no college degree and having not worked in years, she had no confidence to go back into the workplace until she went to community college to learn some skills.

“But she didn’t just learn skills there,” explained Dr. Shanblatt. “She also learned self-confidence, hope, and she learned to trust herself again. The people at that college guided her on an important path.”

Dr. Shanblatt’s mother ultimately became a stockbroker and was able to earn enough money to take care of herself and her children.

“It was that community college experience that she (my mother) talked about often that made the difference in her life,” continued Dr. Shanblatt. “And so this scholarship matters to me on a very personal level.

“There are rare times in life when one really has an opportunity to deeply touch someone else’s life in a transformative way.

“Through this scholarship tea; for the scholarships we provide; through the support and encouragement we give to women; particularly women with children who are really trying to better themselves and their children’s lives, we have that rare opportunity to truly make a difference for others.”

To make a donation to BCCC’s “Salute to Mothers” Scholarship, and help change a woman’s life, call 215-968-8224 or email

PHOTO CAP: From left, Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt, BCCC President and Keynote Speaker; 10-year-old Aubrey Hill, who is standing beside her mother, Jennifer Hill, a 2013 “Salute to Mothers Scholarship” recipient.


FCP awards 12 Bucks non-profit programs helping children

by June Portnoy

Over 150 community service leaders, representatives of non-profit organizations, and local government officials attended Foundations Community Partnership’s (FCP) “Partnership in Youth Services” luncheon ceremony held at the Doylestown Country Club on October 16th. The event honored 12 non-profit community programs that are making a difference in the lives of local children throughout Bucks County.

The organizations were awarded monetary grants of $3,000 each.

“Foundations is proud to offer community grants for the 15th year in a row through our Partnership in Youth Services Program,” said Foundations Executive Director, Ron Bernstein. “It is very rewarding to support the Bucks County non-profits that are fulfilling the health and human service needs of our young people.”

Athletes Helping Athletes in Richboro will use its funding for a new therapeutic equestrian program for special needs children, who will be paired with students throughout Bucks County to experience therapeutic riding. 

Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve in New Hope will use the grant for its Children’s Reading Program, which serves more than 300 children and their families with a renewed focus on special needs children. Each session has a unique theme for reading children’s books about the natural environment, followed by nature hikes on the trails in search of the plants and animals in the stories.

Bristol Riverside Theater will use its grant for ARTrageous, its six-week summer program for at-risk youth in Bristol. 

The Bucks County Children’s Museum in New Hope will use its grant to support educational programming for field trips and “Exploration for All” free open houses for children with autism spectrum disorders. 

Central Bucks Family YMCA in Doylestown will use its grant for its “Darkness to Light” initiative to identify and train 13 representatives from youth-service organizations and/or county residents as facilitators in the Darkness to Light program. These volunteers will, in turn, be asked to provide a minimum of one free training session per month for the next 18 months to at least 10 adult Bucks County residents in how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to cases of child sexual abuse.

Chandler Hall in Newtown will use its grant for music education for its Child Development Program (CDP). The grant will support a year-round music program for CDP participants ages one to five, and a theater workshop for youth ages six to 12 at Chandler Hall’s Summer Camp.

Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley, Inc. in Warminster will apply its grant for two programs in its Noogieland, kid support programs for children ages four to 12 who have cancer or have a close family member with cancer. Its “Straight Talk About Cancer” for teens up to 18-years-old, provides high school students a chance to meet twice a month at their school with their peers who are dealing with cancer in their lives. 

NHS (New Hope Cares) and P.S.I.C. (Positive Student Interactions and Choices) in New Hope will use its grant for its Positive Youth Development Project. Alexa Botelho, a New Hope-Solebury student, spearheaded P.S.I.C. in 2012 when she was a sophomore.  It strives to eliminate the glorification of drugs and alcohol by promoting alternative positive alternatives. P.S.I.C works with NHS Cares to reach out to students about the consequences of drug and alcohol use.

Peaceful Living’s Creative Gifts Montgomery County location has been successful in using iPads to help individuals with autism and other disabilities communicate with their caregivers and others in the community. Its grant will help bring that technology to new clients at its New Britain site.

The Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth in Newtown will partner with all three middle schools in the Council Rock School District to conduct a Social Norms Campaign on underage drinking prevention. The Coalition will use its grant for this campaign. 

S.A.G.E. (Senior Adults for Greater Education) in Newtown will use its grant to help Palisades School District train, place and support low-income senior volunteers in Palisades’ elementary schools. These volunteers will assist at-risk children who need academic support and social skills.

Woods Services in Langhorne will use its grant for its Girl Power Club, a weekly after-school program led by a mental health professional and an educator from Planned Parenthood.  Participants of this club will include adolescent girls residing at Woods who have special needs with developmental and mental health issues who are at risk for teen pregnancy, STDs, abuse, low self-esteem, alcohol/drug problems and school drop out. 

In addition to these community awards, Newtown resident Danielle Morabito, received Foundation’s Morris M. Davis Award, a $1,500 scholarship given annually to a student intern whose contributions to the community are judged to be an outstanding example. Danielle, who graduated from Council Rock High School North in 2010, worked this past summer at the Bucks County Children’s Museum through FCP’s Summer Youth Corps and is currently attending Messiah College.

For more information about FCP visit

PHOTO CAP: Dr. Constance Grant accepted the award for Woods in Langhorne