A Class Act: Meet Abigail Stanton, Class of 2014

 

“Tomorrow we will wake up with nearly limitless possibilities at our fingertips. For the first time in our lives, we have the chance to choose where we go and what we do.  We can form ourselves into the people we choose to be.”  These were the words of graduating senior and Clearview High School Valedictorian Abigail Stanton shortly before the Class of 2014 tossed their caps high into the air this past June.

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Abigail Stanton of Sewell had sat through a total of five graduations prior to her own — her two older brothers’ and several ceremonies where she played in the graduation band. This time, however, it was different. This time, it was her day.

“Having it be my own graduation definitely felt different,” Abby says. “I  remember graduation day going really fast for me…It was like I blinked and it was over.” Not only was Abby a graduating senior, she was also in the position to inspire her peers as the valedictorian — a huge honor which she embraced with sincerity while remaining quite humble.

In her speech, Abby talked about how the hard work and struggles in high school helped teach dedication, team work and the ability to deal with failure. She admitted high school was tough in many ways, yet it prepared them all for the future.”To succeed,” she reminded her peers “we will need to remember those universal lessons that we learned in high school. We must work incredibly hard, coexist peacefully with one another, confront challenges with tenacity, and manage to enjoy ourselves all the while.”

She credits a  lot of her academic and personal success to the wonderful teachers at Clearview High School.  Included in the list were Mr. Neiswender, Mr. Porter, Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Tweed. “More than simply teaching the material, they made learning an experience,” Abby says. “They really invested a lot of time and effort into teaching us and never lost their personal touch… I felt I really got to know them as genuinely interesting people.”

Abby’s future is certainly going to be bright. She will be attending Colgate University to study either Biology or Neuroscience and possibly minor in Spanish. She also plans to play in the Pep Band. But for now, Abby will take a well-deserved break from her four years of studying. She is looking forward to spending a lot of quality time with her family before heading off to college. She enjoys reading, playing video games, knitting, hanging out with friends and music.  Abby actually plays a variety of instruments from the trumpet, baritone and french horn to the ukulele and mellophone.

Her favorite thing to do in the Mullica Hill area is walk around the Amish Market with friends and grab a donut or soft pretzel. But leisure activities won’t be the only thing on Abby’s summer agenda. She will return to help with the choreography at a children’s theatre program called Junior Starlights. Abby has participated in this program for 10 years along with her Mom, who directs.

When asked about the most memorable part of her graduation day, Abby said it was the feeling of pure happiness when she tossed her cap up into the air and saw the shared look of joy on the faces of her classmates. “High school is a real challenge for a lot of reasons and the fact that we all got through it is where the pride comes from…We were just happy to have made it to that point.”

 

Written By Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Meet Kate Butler: Inspirational Children’s Book Author

Author, Life Coach, Speaker, Business Owner and mother of two — Kate Butler is a Mullica Hill Mom on a mission to help both children and adults dream big and find their life’s purpose. 

Meet Kate

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Kate and her husband moved from California to Mullica Hill about five years ago. They found it to be the perfect blend of both their needs.  It had a “small town feel” for her husband but was still “busy” enough for her. Since their move, they have welcomed two beautiful girls into the family, now ages 4 and 1. Their 4 year old, Bella, plays soccer with with Harrison Township, takes classes at the Mullica Hill Art Center and enjoys Mommy-and-Me tea time at Amelia’s Tea House.  “The number one thing we love [about Mullica Hill] are the families and the community,” Kate says.

Though Kate wears many hats and has enjoyed immense professional success, she identifies herself as a Stay-At-Home Mom first and foremost. “I’m trying to enjoy and embrace my time with them,” Kate explains “so, I built my business around them.”

Like most moms, shortly after her first child was born, Kate wanted to stay at home as much as possible without giving up her career interests and personal goals.  Using her degree in Mass Communication and her decade of experience in the recruiting industry, Kate started her own recruiting business called The Right Hire, LLC. “I started that company to let other moms work from home,” she says. Despite her business’s continued success, Kate did not feel like she had found her true passion. ” I wanted to find my life’s purpose,” she explains. “The pull became so strong, I couldn’t ignore it.” She started attending writer’s retreats and realized she loved writing and was good at it! She also studied under Jack Campfield, author of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ books and eventually became a Professional Life Coach.

As a Certified Professional Life Coach, Kate applies lessons learned from her own personal journey and professional training to guide others toward self-discovery and career and personal fulfillment. “I created a program that’s authentic to me,” she says. Using techniques such as vision boards, dream boards, and goal-setting Kate helps her clients identify and achieve their dreams. “We are always continuously growing,” she says. “When you connect with your purpose and the path you should be on, everything is crystal clear.”

But Kate’s inspirational message extends beyond adults.  Empowering the future generations is also a huge part of her life’s mission.

Maggie Mud Is Born

During Kate’s personal journey, she wrote a book about the experience and all she learned.  It originally was a memoir/prescriptive/self-help book written for adults. Then, something shifted. “The reason I was writing this book was for my daughters… That’s when it hit me – I will take the themes in my book and translate them into a children’s book,” she says. From that moment of clarity, Kate says the book  More Than Mud  basically wrote itself. Maggie Mud was born.

More Than Mud, by Kate Butler

 

More Than Mud is More Than A Hit!

More Than Mud follows little Maggie Mud from infancy through adulthood. As she goes through significant events in her life, the reader learns that no dream is ever too big or unattainable. Endorsed by New York Times #1 Best Selling Author Jack Canfield, More Than Mud was #1 on Amazon’s charts beating out ‘Pinkalicious!’

Written with the goal of building confidence, fostering imagination and inspiring a new perspective on life, More Than Mud is not just an entertaining and beautifully illustrated children’s story. It’s a tool and resource for parents to facilitate their child’s growth and development. In the back of the book are empowerment questions, almost like a work book, that a parent and child can do together. These questions are designed to help children tap into their biggest dreams, give them the courage to reach for the stars, believe in themselves, understand their greatest gifts and love themselves for who they are. Kate has even expanded her life coaching to include “Mommy-and-Me” Dream Board Session, knowing you can never start too young!

Kate has found her true life’s purpose and has devoted herself to helping others do the same. This book will inspire our youngest generation by guiding them toward their own life’s purpose and encouraging them to walk toward it with confidence!

“My main goal with this book is to reach as many children as possible,” Kate says.  So far, she seems to be on the right path.

by: Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Want to Contact Kate? Find her at Kate Butler Books

Meet Jennifer Cannon: Author and Social Media Expert

Local Mom and author of the new book @Sophie Takes a #Selfie: Rules and Etiquette for Taking Good Care Before You Share, Jennifer Cannon takes her years of expertise in Social Media Management and creates the perfect tool for educating kids about the rules and etiquette of social media. 

 Mullica Hill Mom Jennifer Cannon is a wife, mother of three, freelance writer, social media manager, and published author. Originally from sunny Southern California, Jennifer found herself in New Jersey the way many transplants do – she fell in love with and married her husband and then followed him to the East Coast. After living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, they ended up moving to Mullica Hill where they have resided for the past 9 years.

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Creating Her Niche

When Jennifer opted to leave her former career and stay at home to raise her young children, she was happy with her choice. Yet, her creative passion and innate drive needed an outlet. As the daughter of an inventor, Jennifer had a knack for inventions and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. As a Momprenuer, promoting a cleaning brush she had designed, Jennifer became active in blogging, Tweeting, and social networking. “That experience got me involved in social media,” Jennifer says. “It became a powerful tool.”

Jennifer now enjoys a career in the exciting and sometimes complicated world of social media. Capitalizing on her talents, Jennifer founded JennCann Productions, a company providing creative writing and social media managment services for individuals and businesses. As an independent contractor with a Marketing Company, Jennifer manages an array of social media accounts. Her clientele have ranged from chart topping AC Billboard artists to NY Times best selling authors to successful Mompreneurs.

Youth In Social Media – Addressing An Important Need

Though Jennifer is immersed in the world of social media, when her “tween” daughter entered that same world with her first smart phone, Jennifer realized this was a whole new ballgame. As with most parenting topics, there is no manual. Only, Jennifer thought that if no manual existed for helping our youth navigate social media responsibly, then maybe SHE should write one.

Inspiration To Reality - @Sophie Takes a #Selfie

This past summer, Jennifer was inspired to write a book that helped tweens and teens navigate the world of social media responsibly, respectfully and safely.

@Sophie Takes a SelfieA Teaching Tool For Parents

With her husband’s encouragement she wrote and published @Sophie Takes a #Selfie: Rules and Etiquette for Taking Good Care Before You ShareJennifer knew that eye catching, amazing illustrations would truly make this book come together so she partnered up with another Mullica Hill Mom – Illustrator, Bridget Doe.  She gives Bridget a lot of credit for bringing “Sophie” to life.

 “I see so many young people on social media,” Jennifer says. Instagram, Kik, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat are all arenas where kids as young as 8 are active. The problem is that they do not yet possess the emotional maturity to fully understand the ramifications of what they post. Jennifer wants parents to take a proactive role when it comes to educating their children about social media. “I want parents to talk to their kids early. I believe the sooner you address it the better,”  she says. “I just want people to think.  If we want to let our kids play on this playground, we need to watch them.”

@Sophie Takes A #Selfie is a fictionalized story about a girl named Sophie and all the things that happen to her when she naively sticks her toe in the waters of social media. It discusses many contemporary topics our youth face in a digital age. Jennifer offers easy, relatable “rules” and brings them to life with realistic and often humorous examples. Topics in this book cover everything from cyber etiquette and cyber bullyingposting and tagging without permissionover-sharinghate speech and the life-long consequences of putting something out there on the internet that follows you well into adulthood.

Jennifer’s passion and talent are all about helping others be the best they can be. Her career centers around promoting others, singing their praises and building them up to the heights of success. Interestingly, her new book does the same – it supports others in a relatable way without lecturing. It guides both children and parents through one of the trickiest aspects of this generation faces… and does so quite brilliantly.

Want to purchase a copy of @Sophie Takes A #Selfie (paperback or Kindle edition) and begin the conversation with your tween or teen daughter? Visit Amazon.com.

Check out Jennifer’s Blogs: Sophie Takes a Selfie and Well Adjusted So They Say 

or Follow her on Twitter: @SophieSelfie or @JenCannPro

Written By: Alicia DiFabio

We Love Our Mullica Hill Dads

February is the month of love, and we Mullica Hill Moms love and value our Mullica Hill DADS.

In honor of Valentines Day, we want to shine the spotlight onto a few of our town’s most amazing Dads! These loving fathers and devoted husbands work hard, volunteer their time and talent to the community, and can be found pushing swings at the park and cheering on the sidelines of every game. 

JOE AMADOROJoe Amadoro

Go to any soccer field, playground or school event and you will be sure to see Joe Amadoro, along with his wife Melanie, supporting their four children. He seems to have boundless energy and a smile that never leaves his face.  “I love being a part of everything that my kids are doing, which requires a lot of coffee since I have four kids,” Joe says.  And not just four kids, but four very active kids. Of course, it helps that Joe and Melanie are self-proclaimed “sports nuts” themselves.

Joe has a full-time career as an engineer working for the Department of Defense for the U.S. Navy in South Philly. In his ‘spare time,’ he competes in triathlons. Despite this busy schedule, Joe is highly involved in every aspect of his children’s lives. His eldest daughter, Naomi, is a competitive gymnast and Joe spends many hours with her at practices each week. Daughter Brielle and son Caleb both compete on a travel soccer team, and all three are on the dive team for Brookside Swim Club. His youngest daughter, Kindergartener Sydney, is active with dance and swimming. Joe has volunteered as his son’s baseball coach and as the diving representative at Brookside where he is responsible for hosting the South Jersey Diving Association 1M Championships.

The Amadoro family takes full advantage of the town’s many family-friendly local spots. Visiting the Amish market, walking to the library, apple and pumpkin picking at Heritages Vineyards, and dinners at Mandarin Oriental or Naples Pizza are family favorites. Joe can be found at all the PVS and HTS events including parades, classroom observations days, holiday shopping, track and field days, and concerts. He also loves cooking up new dishes with his kids. Instilling charity in his children, Joe’s family delivered Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Joe also volunteers in the children’s ministry at his church with Naomi and Caleb as his assistants.

Best thing about being a Dad: “I especially enjoy the silly little things that get us all laughing during a car ride or watching someone’s sporting event or at dinner which seems to really bring out the sillies… It’s those small moments that really bind us together.”

Kyle GandyKYLE GANDY

Kyle has lived in Mullica Hill for the past nine years with his wife Jayne and two children, Mason (9) and Ella (6). “Kyle is a father and husband who lives each day to its fullest,” says Jayne. “He is the father who plays board games and flashlight tag and gives his children his attention and love.” From field trips and parades to helping with ‘Math games’ and being the ‘Mystery Reader’ at school, Kyle is an ever-present Dad in the lives of his children. His favorite thing to do with the family around town? “Breakfast at the Blue Plate!”

When not working as the Director of Energy Management at Rowan University, Kyle can typically be found doing something recreational with the family or building a zip line in his backyard for the kids (and perhaps for the kids at heart, too!) The entire Gandy family enjoys a very active lifestyle which is clear when you see Kyle’s long history of volunteering as a coach for virtually every youth sport!  His personal passion is basketball, but he has been a coach/assistant coach for T-Ball, Baseball, Soccer, Lacrosse and Basketball. He gives back to his community by serving on the Board of Trustees with the Trinity Methodist Church and he has cycled with Team ‘Amanda’s Angels’ for the past three years, tackling the ‘Bike M.S.: City To Shore Ride ‘to support the National M.S. Society. He also does an annual triathlon to benefit the Bridgeton Exchange Club.  Apparently, he also does laundry.

Best thing about being a Dad: “[T]he opportunity to live like a kid again.”

BRANDON DUCKWORTHBrandon Duckworth

Utah born and bred, Brandon is new to Mullica Hill but no stranger to Southern Jersey. His wife Janeen grew up in Washington Township, his 2 older brothers were born in South Jersey and when he made his major league debut, it was as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Having just retired mere months ago, Brandon is enjoying his new career as a scout for the New York Yankees. This allows him to settle in to his new Mullica Hill home and spend even more time with his young family  - first grader Sophia (6) and twins Easton and Aliyah (2).

Brandon has had a long, successful career as a professional baseball pitcher in the majors, minors and Triple-A. He pitched for the Phillies from 2001 through 2003. While in Philly, he was the representative for the Special Olympics. He was traded to the Houston Astros where he played for about two years. Brandon’s career also includes pitching for  the Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox. Brandon was the only player to ever receive the Paul Owens Minor League ‘Pitcher of the Year’ Award for two consecutive years. In 2012, his contract was purchased by a team in Japan called the Tohoku Rakuten “Golden Eagles” of Nippon Professional Baseball. He played two seasons in Japan and ended 2013 with a Championship win.

Life as a pro-athlete has been exciting but certainly not without sacrifice due to the heavy travel and high demands. But this family man always prioritized being a highly involved Dad, never wanting to miss a thing. First-born Sophia grew up around baseball, attending her first game in Fenway Park at 3 months of age. As she grew older, she would be sitting in the stands with her clipboard and stopwatch. “She knows more about baseball than most people,” Brandon laughs. Now that he is home more, Brandon confesses that he enjoys all the little things about being a Dad that others may take for granted.  “He likes the everyday things because he couldn’t do it for a long time,” explains Janeen.  He can always be found up at the bus stop, taking the kids out to the Crescent Moon or treating them to smoothies at the Amish Market.

Best thing about being a Dad:  “Waking up in the morning and seeing the smile and excitement on their faces.”

Steve HouptSTEVE HOUPT

Steve is a Commercial Insurance Broker and the President of Houpt Insurance Agency, LLC, a private insurance agency in Southern NJ that services over 200 businesses. He has been living in Mullica Hill with his family for the past five years. His two daughters, Keira (8) and Kaylee (6), attend the Harrison Township School where his wife Holly also works as a teacher.

Steve’s commitment to fatherhood is matched by his commitment to community service. He volunteers his time and talent to continue improving the local area so it can be an enriching environment for children and families.  His goal is to ensure that there are great playgrounds, parks, special events, and other activities that make Mullica Hill both fun and educational. As a highly involved community member, Steve attends the Freeholder meetings and is starting to get involved in local politics. Steve currently serves as the Vice President of the Mullica Hill Rotary  Board of Directors and in June of this year will assume the role of President.  He is also on the Board of Directors for the Fire District, is a member of the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce and plans to get his name on the ballot this year for the Township Committee’s open seat.

Building a career and serving his community does not stop Steve from being an actively engaged father. “I never miss a dance recital, parent teacher-conference or event at the school,” he says.  He most enjoys taking nature walks with his daughters during the warmer seasons. He also enjoys teaching them the game of golf, playing with them on the playground and helping them do science projects.

Best thing about being a Dad:  “Buying dresses and outfits for my daughters… I try to buy them new outfits so they can open them the day prior and wear on [special] occassions.”

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TROY MEMIS

Inspired by a love of sports and his 10 year old son J.T. who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Troy started an adaptive sports program called TOPSoccer. His mission was to give children with a wide range of disabilities the opportunity to have a full and rich experience playing on a sports team. With encouragement from his family, Troy first approached the township for a concrete field to accommodate wheelchairs, a request that was speedily met! He spread the word in the community and before he knew it, the first TOPSoccer team was formed with six times as many kids enrolled than they anticipated.

Due to the overwhelming positive response from parents, and the support of the township and community, Troy recruited and organized even more volunteers and was able to add baseball, bowling and basketball programs. He eventually formed TOPSports, a non-profit that allows young athletes with disabilities the opportunity to develop their physical fitness and build socialization through the joy of playing sports. A unique aspect to the program is that they use teen volunteer “buddies” to assist the players. Currently, there are 73 active buddies and 63 buddies-in-training. “Our teen volunteers are amazing and always surprise us with their unselfish giving of their time, patience, and love,” says Troy. His daughter Kayla was awarded ‘Buddy of the Year’ for her active participation as a buddy and her never-ending recruitment and mentoring of new buddies. It’s quite obvious that Troy’s children are following in his footsteps too.

Best thing about being a Dad: “[F]ollowing my Dad’s lead and giving back.”

Written by: Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Meet Becky Lyons: Practicing The Art of Yoga and Volunteerism

Many things have changed in Mullica Hill over the past 33 years, but Becky Lyons has remained one of this town’s constants.  Now raising her own children in the place of her childhood, she gives back to the community she has always called home.

Deep Roots In Mullica Hill

As a kid, Becky Lyons would ride her bike from her 10-acre home on Commissioners Road down Main Street and there was hardly any traffic or development along the way.  Becky has lived in Mullica Hill for approximately 33 years and has witnessed it evolve from quiet and rural to a (relatively speaking) more populated and developed area. “It has changed enormously,” she says. “There was no light at the Harrison House… there was no Harrison House… no Crescent Moon, no shopping centers.

Though Mullica Hill has indeed changed, she – along with her parents and both brothers – obviously still feel very connected to this town as they continue to call it home. Becky lives with her husband and three young children (9-year old twins Justin and Sophia  and 6 1/2-year old Travis) in the Ewan section of Mullica Hill.

1390310308_zps099950a3Her children attend the same elementary school that she did…only back then, it was much smaller.  “Harrison Township School was one building. It looked like a rectangle,” she remembers, describing how the main school house was the one box-like building where now the administrative offices are located. There were two classes per grade, and only about 300 children in total from K through sixth.

Though Becky attended The Friends School during her middle school years, she returned to the public school district for High School. “I loved Clearview,” she says.  Becky was a very active high school student, playing field hockey, basketball and softball as well serving as Class Secretary and member of the Honors Society.

Becky left home to attend Moravian College in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, majoring in psychology and participating in both field hockey and track. After graduation, she found her way back to Mullica Hill and is now a devoted mother, yoga instructor, and highly active community member.

When asked to reflect on the changes she has seen over the decades in Mullica Hill, Becky sees the positives along with the losses that come with development. “You want that small town, but at the same time you appreciate the conveniences.” She believes that the changes have supported a culture of yoga. Years ago, Becky believes that a place like Fitness Yoga Studio probably would have never succeeded.

Namaste: Finding Peace and A Passion With Yoga

Approximately five years ago Becky, always very involved in sports and fitness, started practicing more pilates and yoga.  She began teaching pilates and boot camp classes at a studio called Shape It Up Now. After about two years, she took her first yoga class at the (then new) Fitness Yoga Studio in Mullica Hill. They had just started a 200-hour course to become a registered yoga instructor, otherwise known as “a 200 RYT.” Becky jumped at the chance to do something she always wanted to do.  “It was great,” she said. “I loved it.”

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Yoga has not only enhanced her life, but she turns around and enhances the lives of others as a Yoga Instructor.  “This is my passion,” she says. For Becky, yoga is more than a way to stay healthy and fit; it’s even more than a career.  It is a lifestyle.  “Whatever you do on the mat will reflect off the mat…I’m not mentally the same person… I’m much more conscious, calm, in touch with my body.”

The Importance of Balance In A Busy Life

Becky encourages everyone to give yoga a try.  “The biggest thing is to be open to it.  Try to come to a few classes with a few different teachers or even try a few different studios.”  She emphasizes that there are classes at every level so no one should ever feel intimidated to start. Plus, there is something for everyone with any fitness goal. “It can be restorative and meditative or it can be a butt-kicking, sweating work-out.”

At Fitness Yoga Studio in Mullica Hill, Becky instructs in several different forms of yoga. One class is ‘Yin’ which is aimed at beginners. Here, gentler poses are held for longer periods of time. She also teaches ‘Iron Yoga’ which is more of a work-out using hand weights during the poses. Finally, she leads the very trendy ‘Hot Vinyasa’ where the high temperature in the room heats the muscles and helps people to get into poses more deeply.  Becky also teaches a ‘Core Yoga’ class at the Laughing Buddha studio.

Becky LyonsYoga is not the only way Becky stays fit and active. As a member of the Mullica Hill Women’s Triathlon Club, she has competed in their local sprint triathlon, Queen of the Hill. She also rode in the MS City To Shore Bike ride (90 miles) in support of Amanda’s Angels and in 2012 ran in the Philadelphia Marathon.

Community Involvement Always A Priority

Becky is highly involved with Harrison Township Schools.  She volunteers many hours on a parent-based initiative to implement an extracurricular reading extension program in the schools for grades 1 through 6. She is also an active PTA member and Room Mom and has offered yoga to the students in the Inclusion Class at Pleasant Valley School. Outside of the schools, Becky led her daughter’s Daisy troop for two years and volunteered as a Coach for ‘Girls On The Glow’ – a fitness and character development program for girls in grades 1 through high school offered through the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club.

Becky makes sure to instill the importance of charity and volunteering in her children as well. They are active with a Young Philanthropy Group called ‘Kids on a Quest’ through Angels of God – a non-profit located in Pitman. Her children also donate money to a cause on each birthday.  She explains that if they choose to have a birthday party, in leu of gifts they instead collect donations for a charity. Each child has raised and donated hundreds of dollars for organizations such as Catholic Services in Camden, Amanda’s Angels and the Sprout PJ Tuck In.

Becky Lyons – Yoga Queen, Mullica Hill “Lifer,” Selfless Volunteer, Marathon Runner … Mullica Hill Mom.

By: Alicia DiFabio

Meet Ashley Creasy: A Small-Town Kentucky Girl Finds Home in Mullica Hill While Staying True To Her Roots

Written by: Alicia DiFabio

“Christmas morning is not Christmas morning without chocolate gravy and biscuits,” says Mullica Hill Mom Ashley Creasy as she offers me some homemade short bread cookies while her 2 year old son Cole plays. You can take a Kentucky girl and plop her in New Jersey, but you certainly can’t take the Kentucky out of this girl.

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Kentucky Roots

Ashley’s parents and some extended family hail from a specific region of Kentucky where chocolate gravy and biscuits are a long standing tradition every Christmas morning. She says it sounds strange to everyone, but promises that it’s actually quite delicious. That is probably the most interesting native tradition that she carries to New Jersey.

Born in Brownsville, Texas Ashley’s family moved quite a bit during her youth. By the time she was in the sixth grade they landed in Bowling Green, Kentucky where they planted roots.

Living in Tornado Alley

In 1998, when Ashley was in Middle School, her family took a vacation to Florida. While they were gone, there was a furious hail storm and a tornado touched down. “The town itself was obliterated,” she said. They believe the tail of the tornado hit her neighborhood leaving some damage but nothing compared to most of the town. Her home was still standing and most of their possessions safe, but the windows had blown out, part of the roof was missing and there was a lot of water damage. Their family was displaced to a hotel while their home was repaired and restored. “It was tough,” she remembers. “You see footage on TV and it’s always somewhere else. We were seeing it first hand.”

She remembers how odd it was to come to the East Coast and not see the tall white poles of the tornado sirens in town. “Most people have tornado shelters, water supplies and flashlights. We had tornado drills at school. It’s something you always know could happen,” she says matter-of-factly. Due to her childhood experiences, she does remain vigilant when bad storms come to town, even here in New Jersey.

Going Urban

“I never, ever thought I’d be in New Jersey,” Ashley says. She attended DePauw college in Indiana and participated in a program that brought students from small libreral arts colleges to live a semester in Philly.  She went into Philly her junior year and as part of the program needed to find her own apartment, land her own internship, work in the city and learn how to budget and navigate an urban environment.  “It was so different for me than living at home.”

After graduating in 2006, she decided to return to Philly and work as an Event Planner.  “My original intention was to stay in Philly for a year and move closer to home.” Then, she met her husband Darren.

Love Keeps Her In Jersey

Ashley and Darren married in 2008 and soon after, decided to leave the city. “We landed in Mullica Hill because it kinda reminds me of home.”  There are many aspects of Mullica Hill that are reminiscent of Ashley’s childhood, such as the wide open spaces and farms and the friendliness of a “small town” culture.  Yet, she admits there are plenty of difference between Southern Living and the Northeast – the strange look she gets at the mention of chocolate gravy and biscuits is just one of them. “There are subtle differences in language. It’s much more homogenous. There is a church on every corner and more emphasis on ‘family values.’ People and everything moves slower… There’s lots of Southern hospitality. Not that people aren’t friendly here, they are! It’s just in the South it’s generally kind and friendly and everyone goes out of their way to be nice and help you,” she explains.

Her son Cole was born in 2011 and Ashley loves motherhood. She joined the Mullica Hill Moms Club and served as their President for a year. She continues to be active on the Board and has met many great friends through the group.

Holiday Traditions

“Because family was spread out, we always travelled to my grandparents,” Ashley says. The way she grew up, you weren’t home on Christmas Day. “You can’t always have Christmas on Christmas,” she says, explaining that when family are several states away it makes getting together around the holidays a little challenging. Celebrating Christmas with a large group of older cousins (most of whom no longer believed in Santa) and tons of extended family at a grandparent’s house was a different experience than waking up Christmas morning in your own home with your nuclear family and seeing your presents under your own tree. So, Ashley’s parents had to get creative.

“Because my parents wanted us to have a magical Christmas, they invented Melvin the Clumsy Christmas Elf.” Melvin was created by her parents long before the Elf on the Shelf was even an idea.  Melvin was the elf who brought gifts early to children and families who travelled during the holidays. He had a detailed backstory and a colorful personality.  Ashley’s family would celebrate their personal Christmas morning a week early, prior to traveling.  “There were notes and things knocked over because he was clumsy.”  He filled their stockings and left a few gifts under the tree. “His calling card was a yellow string that we followed through the house like going through a maze and it lead to a surprise,” she says. “I believed in Melvin more and longer than I believed in Santa,” Ashley recalls fondly. Cole gets visits from Melvin too.

A Mom of Hidden Talents

Ashley has a special hidden talent that arguably no other Mullica Hill Mom possesses. Ashley’s hidden talent? She can ride a unicycle. In fact, she was the National Unicycle Champion (which is a real thing…I saw photographic proof). Ashley was a member of the “Wood One Wheelers” from Kindergarten through second grade. She and her sister participated in both competitions and parades. Her “troop” performed at events like the Indy 500, the Orange Bowl Half-Time show and the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. There were also competitions, which involved racing and routines with costumes. “It’s like ice dancing … on one wheel.”

When Ashley joined the Mullica Hill Women’s Triathlon Club and trained to do her first triathlon, the biking was her biggest challenge since she had spent her formable years riding on unicycles, not traditional bikes! Since joining the club only a few short years ago, Ashley has completed two triathlons – Mullica Hill’s own Queen of the Hill and the Parvin Sunset Tri where she placed 3rd in her age group.  She also ran the Broad Street 10-miler in Philadelphia.

When asked if Ashley will be a Jersey Mom forever, she admits that she wouldn’t mind going back to Tennessee or Virginia, simply because the climate is nicer.  “But probably I’ll stay here,” she says.  “I’ve grown up and changed a lot. It would be hard to go back.”

Everyone who knows Ashley selfishly hopes she says right here.

Ashley Creasy – Kentucky Gal, Unicycling Champion, Christmas Lover, Inspiring Triathlete…. Mullica Hill Mom.

Meet Lori Wells: A Journey of Motherhood & Philanthropy

A 14-year Mullica Hill resident, Lori Wells shares her passion for philanthropy, her unique journey into motherhood and the way life comes full circle

As we sat in Crescent Moon, Lori Wells flipped through old photo albums. The faded snapshots showed her as a teenage girl working as a babysitter and camp counselor for children with rare genetic disorders. It was clear that some of the most rewarding and defining moments in Lori’s life involved giving back to others. Those early experiences of philanthropy not only shaped her personally but also led her on a career path as a genetic counselor. And, in a serendipitous twist, all the help and empathy she gave to those children and families would come full circle. The young girl in those photographs certainly didn’t know it at the time, but she would one day go from the outside to the inside of that world.


Charity At A Young Age

Lori Wells and FamilyAt a time when most 16-year-old girls are focused on shopping and boys, Lori Wells was just starting a life-long journey of philanthropy. In high school, Lori volunteered to help at a booth during a community fair as part of her responsibilities on the Student Council. Little did she know that booth, and the charity they were representing, would influence the direction of her life.

The booth was staffed by The Sunshine Foundation, a wish-granting organization serving children with chronic illness and physical challenges.  She ended up volunteering with them on various fundraising projects over the next four years.

Her experiences with them started shaping her ideas for a career working with rare genetic disorders. Later, when she worked as a camp counselor at The Fresh Air Home, a camp for children with genetic disorders, Lori learned specifically about the role of a Genetic Counselor. “That’s where I learned genetic counseling was for me.”

Lori had a unique opportunity to volunteer as a babysitter in high school during an annual conference for Progaria Syndrome, an extremely  rare genetic disorder where symptoms resembling aging begin at a very early age. She remembers getting to know one specific family very well and her understanding and empathy was remarkable for a young girl. “I remember realizing ‘Wow, these families need a lot of support!’ ”

Of course, there was no way of knowing that one day Lori would be one of those parents and her family one of those families.

Becoming A Mom 

While pregnant with her first child, Lori went through all the standard prenatal screenings and none indicated that she would have anything but a “typical” baby. She welcomed her first child Claire into the world at the very hospital where she worked as a Genetic Counselor.  She looked at her daughter in her arms and knew instantly.  “I told the Doctors,” she remembers.  She noticed little markers consistent with Down Syndrome – the way Claire’s pinky was formed and the gap between her big toe and second toe. Her suspicions were confirmed after genetic testing.  “It was complete, utter disbelief,” she says.  “I was devastated.” She remembers lots of tears and a feeling of heart break as she and her husband tried to process all of this shocking new information in the first moments of their baby girl’s life.

A Diagnosis of Down Syndrome

Lori is honest about the first few days after the diagnosis.  “It was that feeling of Wow, I failed. It was a huge shock.” The nurses told her that Claire probably wouldn’t be able to nurse due to low muscle tone, but Lori didn’t let that phase her.  She tried anyway and Claire took to it like a champ.  “From that point, the bonding started,”  she said. That was the first of many times that people would put limitations on Claire because of her label, but Lori’s philosophy has always been “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Sometimes Claire’s gains come slower than other kids her age, but Lori is so proud of all Claire has accomplished.

Claire was very fortunate to not have any of the major heart defects or health issues that commonly accompany children with Down Syndrome. She did have some holes in her heart, but they closed up on their own without surgery. She was not able to escape other surgeries in early childhood to include ear tubes, tear duct stints and tonsil and adenoid removal. There was even a scare where they discovered Bilateral Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Claire was followed by the Commission of the Blind for years. “We thought she might be blind,” Lori remembers but fortunately that was not the case. “Now, she has 20/20 vision!” Lori laughs.  “For the most part, she’s pretty healthy.”

Claire is now 12-years-old and a student at Pleasant Valley School. She enjoys being a big sister to first grader Grace.

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Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

When Claire was still a baby, Lori began meeting with other moms who had babies with Down Syndrome.  The groups turned into playdates and over the years they grew larger and larger with siblings and then husbands attending. They’d meet for a pizza party one Friday a month.  “There would be like 50 people in my house!” she recalls.  Her philanthropic mind started thinking that maybe this group should be turned into a genuine, not-for-profit organization. So together with some fellow Moms, Lori co-founded KIIDS – Knowledge and Information About Individuals with Down Syndrome.

 

KIIDS is a non-profit that provides information, resources and support to parents of children with Down Syndrome. They also spread awareness to the public, educators and other professionals about Down Syndrome. More importantly, they provide needed opportunities to socialize as an entire family. Unlike the more sit-in-a-circle “traditional support group” model, this organization focuses on families getting together in a very fun and social environment and lets the support occur more organically. Currently, KIIDS has about 30 active families mostly from Camden and Gloucester counties.

They have grown from that massive playgroup to a well-oiled machine. They coordinate fundraisers, host professional speakers, provide stipends for two families to attend the National Down Syndrome conference, offer programs and recreational opportunities and other fun, family “hang outs.”

Lori says when they started, their fundraiser was selling candles that one of the dads made.  Now their biggest fundraiser is a huge Fashion Show where kids with Down Syndrome model clothing on the cat walk and guests enjoy a 50/50, raffle baskets and a luncheon.

A Tradition of Giving Back- The Next Generation of Young Philanthropists

Philanthropy was a huge guidepost in Lori’s life.  She wants to instill the same value in her children because it has made such a profound difference in her own life. It has made her into the mother and person she is today.

“I want for my kids to give back to the community,” she says and despite their youth, they certainly have. The Wells family is always giving back to the community in some way. Both her girls are involved in Girl Scout Troops that do a lot of service projects. Lori’s children also participate in a monthly philanthropy group called “Kids On A Quest” through Pitman’s non-profit Angels of God .

This is a small sampling of some of their projects. They participate in many food drives and animal shelter collections, they madeLori Wells health care kits for the Oklahoma tornado relief efforts,  donate their Halloween candy to troops overseas and Grace donated her hair to Locks of Love. Lori also gives back in other ways, such as co-leading a Brownie troop, coaching Girls on the Glow for two seasons and helping with the MOMS Club of Mullica Hill’s committees. She embodies the idea that you don’t have to take on the world in order to give back. You just need to step up, raise your hand, volunteer and offer your unique gifts to  a neighbor, a friend, or a group. No deed is ever too small.

Lori is also a runner and triathlete. She placed second in her age group in Mullica Hill’s 2013 Queen of the Hill Sprint Triathlon. She has tackled the MS City To Shore bike ride the past two years riding with Team Amanda’s Angels. This year she conquered the entire 100-mile route, helping to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis.

The Way Life Comes Full Circle

It’s hard to hear Lori’s story and not feel as if all roads led her here – into a life that is not without challenge, but a life she feels blessed to live.

She enjoys supporting the town she loves. “I’m blessed with these amazing neighbors.  [Mullica Hill] is such a supportive, close knit community.” Her community, in turn, values her and her family as well.  She remembers a friend telling her that she is grateful her children are growing up knowing Claire. They are learning that kids who are “different” are really not that different at all.  “It was like, she was thanking ME for having Claire in her children’s lives.”

Lori’s history of giving back to others is a philosophy that has become a lifestyle. A lifestyle that she practices daily, instills in her children, and inspires in her community.

By: Alicia DiFabio

Meet Lisa Pilla: Mullica Hill Mom, Breast Cancer Survivor

 Written by: Alicia DiFabio

One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Mullica Hill Mom Lisa Pilla was one of them. Thanks to early diagnosis, she stands among the 2.8 million survivors in America.

Meeting Lisa Pilla is like sitting in the sunshine.  A positive person full of warmth and generosity, she is known to her friends as a kind and genuine woman and “cyclist extraordinaire.” At first meeting, one might never realize that this triathlon finisher, avid biker and mother of five (four step-children and one son), battled breast cancer six years ago.

Lisa Pilla

A Regular Mom On A Regular Day

In 2007, Lisa was home watching television when anchor woman Robin Roberts announced her breast cancer diagnosis on Good Morning America. Right then and there, Lisa gave herself a quick breast exam in her bathroom. To her surprise, she found a lump. “It felt like the end of a pencil eraser,” she remembers. As an O.R. nurse at Inspira Woodbury (formerly Underwood Hospital) she knew better than to ignore it. Despite a recent, normal mammogram Lisa made an appointment with a specialist to put her mind at ease.

The Shock of Breast Cancer

Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy at the very hospital where she worked, surrounded by her supportive colleagues wearing pink ribbons. She maintained her high spirits and didn’t miss a beat as a wife and mother. She laughs telling the story about how she was out flipping burgers days after her surgery while hosting a get together for her step-daughter’s field hockey team.

Unfortunately, cancerous tissue still remained so a mastectomy was ultimately recommended. She opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction since there was increased risk of the cancer returning. They also detected microscopic evidence of cancer in her lymph nodes, necessitating four and a half months of chemotherapy. Lisa’s youngest child was only six at the time.

Lisa Pilla

The Road To Recovery

Chemotherapy was rough. Along with the hair loss and nausea, people undergoing this treatment may also suffer cognitive, immune system, neurological and physical side effects. “It was a nightmare,” Lisa admits, but her positive outlook and tremendous support system helped her through everything.

Lisa remembers her post-chemo state — “I was really debilitated,” she says. “So much so that I couldn’t even walk up a flight of steps.” In order to restore her health and get back her physical strength, Lisa began taking yoga classes at Fitness Yoga Studios in Mullica Hill.

Meanwhile, Lisa’s husband began training for the American Cancer Society 65-mile bike ride. He had never biked before, but rode when he could through the neighborhood streets. When Lisa came to see him on race morning she noticed a little card on the front of his bike that said I’m Riding For Lisa. “That’s when it hit me, he was riding for me.” He ended up loving cycling so much that he continued the sport. In 2009 he convinced Lisa to start riding with him.  They have both Lisa Pillabeen hooked ever since.

Not Just Surviving — Thriving

This is Lisa’s fifth season of riding with Action Wheels, a Deptford Bicycle Shop that also organizes training rides. For the past three years, she and her husband have trained with Action Wheels in Europe. They have toured Italy and Spain by bike, covering about 300 miles of rigorous hills over five days — a long way from not being able to climb the stairs post-chemo.

Lisa Pilla Two seasons ago she added mountain biking to her repertoire, riding the technically challenging Brandywine trails. It requires a high amount of skill, but she loves it. In 2011, Lisa competed in Mullica Hill’s triathlon, Queen of the Hill. Cancer might have knocked her down but clearly she has gotten up and proved that she was much stronger.

“My life is an adventure everyday,” says Lisa. Not long ago, she attended the Liberty Medal Ceremony, took a wrong turn and … ran into Hillary Clinton right there on the street!

 “I never know what my day will bring!” she exclaims. One thing is certain — Lisa brings joy, love and a positive spirit to each day and to everyone who crosses her path.Lisa Pilla

Raising Awareness, Bringing Hope

Lisa owes her early detection to Robin Roberts speaking out on that fateful day in 2007. She pays it forward by sharing her own story in the hopes of raising more awareness in the community. Lisa knows first hand the importance of annual mammograms, self-exams and following-up with any suspicions or changes in your breast. She is living proof that early detection saves lives.

Lisa Pilla is a woman of much inspiration. Cross-continental cyclist, triathlon finisher, Mullica Hill mom … breast cancer survivor.

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Have you scheduled your mammogram yet?

Karen Tubb and Family ~ a Swimming Tradition

For coach Karen Tubb and her family, swimming is a tradition that spans generations. 

Coach Karen Tubb

Karen Tubb

Karen has coached swimming for 32 years, including the Raccoon Valley Swim Club for the past 11 years and two other summer swim clubs.  She has also been coaching at the TNT program for the past six years and coached at GPAC for many years before that.  Her sons Mike and Shane Tubb now join her as head coaches for the Raccoon Valley Swim Team.

Karen had the pleasure of coaching all four of her children during the summer and three of them in USS swimming, an experience that has been both fun and challenging.  “I truly loved every minute of it. How many other people get to spend that much time with their children, watching them and helping them do something they love and achieving the goals they set for themselves?”

Karen’s four children all earned both athletic and academic college scholarships.   Her son Mike graduated with honors from Rider University with a degree in Social Studies Education.  He swam all four years at Rider and is a record holder. Mike was an assistant coach at Rowan University this past year and next fall he will work at Rider while finishing his Masters in Administration. 

Mike Tubb

Mike Tubb

coach shane

Shane Tubb

Karen’s youngest son, Shane, will be a Junior at Rider next fall and is also majoring in Social Studies Education.  He’s a record holder in butterfly and is on a record-holding relay team as well.  Both Shane and Mike attended St. Augustine Prep in Swedesboro.

Karen’s daughter, Cassie, graduated from the College of Charleston. She too was a swimmer, and often helps out at practices and meets.  Her other daughter, Desiree, attended UMBC and now lives in Maryland.  Although she was a runner in college, she married a swimmer, so the tradition lives on!

 At Raccoon Valley meets and practices, you’ll also see Karen’s parents, John and Claire Schwerzler, supporting them all every step of the way.   “My parents have been the backbone of our family.  They have supported all of us in everything we have done,” says Karen.  “They never missed any activity we took part in and they have never missed anything any of their grandchildren have taken part in.”

John and Claire Schwerzler

John and Claire Schwerzler

Karen treats her team like family, too. Corey Hardesty, the assistant coach at Raccoon Valley, is practically like another son to Karen. “I love all these kids at Raccoon Valley and often refer to them as my other kids,” she says.  For Karen, the biggest reward is seeing the kids she coaches grow as individuals, not only as swimmers, but also as people. 

She challenges them to do their best and to take pride in their accomplishments. “I love the smiles on their faces when they have done something they didn’t think they could.”  But, more importantly, she stresses to the kids the importance of good conduct.  “I want them all to learn that in life, no matter what you do, you win with grace and lose with grace.” 

From the littlest members of the kickboard team mustering the courage to jump in, to the serious swimmers on the verge of setting a new record, the Tubb family is dedicated to helping them all become the very best they can be.

 

“Service Above Self”: Phyllis Antonelli, Krista Collings and The Rotary Club of Mullica Hill

“If you ever wanted to give back to your community, but didn’t know where to start, The Rotary Club is a great avenue that provides each of us the opportunity to help others.” - Phyllis Antonelli, President

 The Rotary Club started over 100 years ago and has become the largest service organization in the world with over 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide.  Its purpose is to give back to the community through service as well as to network and socialize.

Rotary Club of Mullica Hill The Rotary Club of Mullica Hill is an active club, having raised over $100k to date for local and international service projects.  They support the Reading is Fundamental program, providing dictionaries to local 3rd grade classes, and donate backpacks to local schools.  They also sponsor the Clearview H.S Interact Club,  a Rotary club at the high school level.  

On Friday, May 31, the Rotary Club will provide dinner and refreshments from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the annual Relay for Life at Clearview H.S. Other annual local events  include Breakfast with Santa, Build-a-Scarecrow and Beer and Wine Tasting.

Internationally, the Rotary Club of Mullica Hill has raised money to purchase computers and supplies for schools in Brazil and Haiti and shelter boxes to victims of the tsunami and hurricane Katrina.  

phyllis antonelliRotary Club President, Phyllis Antonelli:  Current Rotary Club President, Phyllis Antonelli, has been a member of the club since its inception in 2002 and has also served as a board member and head of the Vocation and Youth Committees.  Phyllis has lived in Mullica Hill since 1999 and co-owns the Raymond James Financial Service investment firm.   She enjoys helping individuals prepare for their retirement through financial planning and utilizing investments to help achieve their goals. 

krista collingsPresident-elect Krista Collings:   Krista has been a member of the Rotary Club for two years, serving as both International  and Membership Chair prior to being elected President for the upcoming term.  She lives in Mullica Hill with her husband and baby daughter, Kaitlin Marie.  As VP, Market Manager at Susquehanna Bank in Richwood, Krista enjoys being a financial resource as well as building a rapport with and making connections with local professionals. In addition to her work with the Rotary Club, Krista is a Partner in the creation of New Visions Networking, an Ambassador for the Gloucester County Chamber and a member of Harrison Township Beautification.

The Rotary Club is not just about service.  According to Krista, “Rotary is a networking opportunity.  There is a misconception that because we do not advertise our businesses, that is solely a service club.”  Phyllis agrees, “The Rotary Club allows me to network as well as also give back to my community.”  

If you are interested in joining the Rotary Club you can visit www.mullicahillrotary.org , visit one of their weekly Wednesday morning meetings, or contact Krista at 856-689-1486 to learn more about membership.