Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gill family rides on

Cranston Herald
May 20, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

LEADING THE PACK: Above, the riders enter the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, the first stop on the 100 mile run.

The morning of April 25 dawned dark and dreary, but spirits were bright as more than 200 motorcyclists lined up their bikes at Cranston High School West for the PS3 Ron Gill Jr. second annual Ronnie’s Ride Motorcycle Run.

“This year’s ride was even more special because so many people came out in the rain because they believed in this,” said Ron Gill Sr.

More than 500 bikers had registered for the event, which included a 100-mile round-trip ride from Cranston West down to the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial Station in Narragansett and back. Police from Cranston, Scituate, Warwick and Providence, as well as Rhode Island State Police, escorted the riders for the entire run.

PS3 Ron Gill Jr. was killed in the line of duty while stationed in Alaska on March 25, 2007. His immediate family, which includes his mother Rosemary, his father Ron Sr., his brother Jonathan and his wife Ambur, has worked hard to turn their loss into something positive for others.

The PS3 Ronald A. Gill Jr. Memorial Scholarship Foundation runs several events a year to raise money for scholarships. Since their son’s death, the Gill family has given out $65,000 to Cranston high school seniors. This year the foundation is giving out more than in any other year.
Ron Gill Sr. and Ronnie's daughter Gracie get ready for the second annual Motorcycle Run to begin.

The event began with a prayer as Ron, Rosemary, Ambur and Ronnie’s daughter Gracie placed red and black beads on Coast Guard and Federal Law Enforcement flags. The beads are a sign of safe travels and accompanied the riders. At the end of the ride, the flags are folded and saved for the following year.

Ron praised the police, who escorted the riders during treacherous conditions.

“The guys riding those bikes never had to put their feet down, not even once. The police were at every intersection,” he said.

This year’s riders included the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), the Patriot Guard Riders, the Warrior Brotherhood and the Christian Motorcycle Association.

START YOUR ENGINES:  Despite the weather, more than 200 motorcycles line the streets at Cranston High School West waiting for the ride to begin.

Among the participants was 96-year-old Frank Pine, who rode from Newport to Cranston West and is the oldest licensed motorcyclist in America.

Additionally, there were over 80 vendors who sponsored the event, donating money, supplies and raffle items.

Following the motorcycle run, a dinner was held at West Valley Inn in West Warwick. Approximately 500 people were in attendance, including Congressman James Langevin, members of the police departments and Mayor Allan Fung.

As the guests ate their meals and entered for the chance to win some of the donated raffle prizes, an emotional Ron had many people to thank.

“This doesn’t get any easier, I’ll tell you that,” Gill said through tears. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. We can’t tell you how much it means to us.”

Gill emphasized how much his son’s foundation means to him.

It is why I take a breath in the morning. It is what drives me because I know that even if we give $500 for books or $1,000, it makes a difference,” he said.

He thanked all of the veterans, past and present, that supported the family and the foundation. He also recognized the Board of Directors and Carlos Lopez, the director of constituent affairs for Mayor Fung.

“To all the members of our foundation, their tireless efforts are the reason we’re able to give out tens of thousands of dollars to kids in Cranston schools who never, ever have to repay that debt,” Ron said.

Both Mayor Fung and Congressman Langevin had a chance to speak during the dinner.

WITH THANKS: Mayor Allan Fung speaks at the foundation's dinner while Ron Gill Sr. and Rosemary Gill look on.

“On behalf of the City of Cranston, we are proud to be here,” said Mayor Fung. “Not just one, but many men and women from our police force are here, too.”
Langevin touched upon the sacrifices of the families in the room.

“I’m here to offer support to the families of the men and women who have given their lives. There are many Gold Star Families in this audience,” he said. “You don’t grieve alone, and we will never forget.”

Looking back at the events they’ve hosted, the Gill family talked about the significance of the ladybug, which has become a symbol of Ronnie’s presence and a recurring sight over the past few years. The Second Annual Ronnie’s Ride on April 25 was no different.

Despite the pouring rain and strong winds, when the riders and the family arrived in Point Judith to pay tribute to Ronnie at the Coast Guard memorial site there, they saw a lone ladybug on Ronnie’s memorial bench.

For more information on the PS3 Ron Gill Jr. Memorial Foundation, its scholarship endeavors and its upcoming events, including the upcoming golf tournament in July, visit

Student poets get their names in print

Cranston Herald
May 20, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

PUBLISHED AUTHORS: Several students from schools across Cranston were honored on April 10 at the RISC/IRA poetry event, held at Hope Highlands Elementary School. Here, students from Woodridge Elementary School and Hope Highlands Elementary School show off their own copy of “13th Poetry Anthology: Ocean Wonders,” in which their poems are featured.

Thirty students from Cranston can now add published author to their resumes, after being featured in the “13th Poetry Anthology: Ocean Wonders.”

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Sate Council of the International Reading Association, the book comprises work of hundreds of student poets across the state, as well as several teachers who participated.

According to Kathy Torregrossa, a Cranston elementary teacher and member of the RISC/IRA, one of the council’s main goals is to help teachers promote literacy locally and nationally.

Each of the 39 communities in Rhode Island was offered the chance to participate in the poetry project, and 24 chose to do so. An additional 28 teachers from Cranston’s elementary schools participated alongside their students.

The RISC/IRA reported receiving more poetry entries this year than ever before, making this year’s anthology the largest with 160 poems.

“I did a poetry lesson and then I had the whole class write a poem,” said Torregrossa, explaining how she utilized the opportunity in her own first grade classroom. “Then I had a group of fellow teachers review them. The teachers picked the best five and those are the ones I submitted.”

This year’s theme, Ocean Wonders, provided the poets with a direction in which to follow when writing their poems, which could be written in any style.

The students whose poems were chosen to be in the anthology were honored at a ceremony and poetry reading in the Hope Highlands auditorium on April 10. So many students were honored that day that they had to be split up into time slots, with each city and town being given a time slot.

Students arrived from as far away as Block Island, Westerly and Foster/Glocester to be honored that day.

Celeste Ferguson, member of the RISC/IRA authored the note at the beginning of the anthology.

“This book is dedicated to all those students in grades K-12 across the state who contributed their writing talents to help promote the importance of literacy in America,” she wrote. “When you read this anthology, you will be able to visualize being in the ocean, swimming among the many living things.”

Chester Barrows gives Relay for Life a boost

Cranston Herald
May 20, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

DOING THEIR PART: The students in Sherry Gemma and Kerry Lang’s fifth grade classes created more than 500 friendship bracelets to sell to their friends and family in order to raise money for the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.

The fifth grade students in Sherry Gemma’s class at Chester Barrows are making a difference in the fight against cancer. In fact, when they found out their teacher walks on the “Laps for Laura” Relay for Life team, they were not to be outdone.

After a classroom lesson on fundraising, Gemma and her students began talking about their community. She shared her experiences walking in the Relay in honor of her grandmother who died of cancer, and her best friend Laura Albanese, who is currently fighting brain cancer.

I told them about Relay for Life and how important it was, and they wanted to help,” Gemma said.

Early in February, student Taylor Sukys came up with a fundraising idea that sparked his classmates’ interest.

“My auntie told me how to make friendship bracelets and I make them so frequently that I asked if I could make some to sell to my father’s friends and make some money,” Sukys said.

The class was enthused with Sukys’ idea and decided to ask if they could make the bracelets during recess time and at home, and sell them to do their own fundraiser for Relay for Life.

Initially, Gemma was wary of asking families to donate any more money, knowing money is tight and Chester Barrows does several of their own events throughout the year.

“At first I told them I appreciated their generous and thoughtful ideas, but Chester Barrows already has many fundraisers and I didn’t want to add another one to the never-ending list,” Gemma wrote in a letter home to parents. “Then I realized how important this was to them because it isn’t just a fundraiser, it’s a way to help prove that they can make a difference.”

Principal Paul Heatherton gave Gemma and her class the green light.

Sukys’ dad cut 20 boards that are used when weaving the bracelets and Taylor donated the string. Other students brought in beads and string as well. Sukys taught them how to make the bracelets.

With a couple of quick lessons, they were off and running with the Bracelets for Hope fundraiser.

“We went classroom to classroom. Somebody would hold the box and somebody would take the money,” said classmate Steven Tiernan. “Some kids would ask us to save one and they’d bring in the money tomorrow.”

Their goal of raising $100 was met in the first day.

“The kids knew the bracelets represented their $1, which helped in the fight against cancer,” Gemma said. “It became more than just a friendship bracelet.”

Student Julia Bell remembers being surprised that even boys wanted to buy and wear the bracelets.

“They wanted the thin ones because they knew what the bracelets meant,” Bell said.

The group opened the fundraiser up to other classrooms and several of them helped.

During Reading Week, Laura Albanese visited Gemma’s class to read to them.

“We told her about our bracelets and she was so happy, she bought one,” said Talia Parente, a student in the class.

Gemma reports that at one point, the bracelets were selling so fast the students couldn’t keep up with the demand. They started selling the ones they had on their own wrists.

Parente’s mother thought it was such a great fundraiser that she started making the bracelets at night and sending them in.

When the fundraiser was said and done, the students made more than 500 bracelets, raising over $500 toward the Cranston Relay for Life event, which will be held at Bain Middle School on June 4, beginning at 4 p.m.

“It made me feel a sense of pride that I was helping to end cancer because my grandfather and cousin were diagnosed. I am glad to know I helped,” said Maria Botelho, a student in Kerry Lang’s fifth grade class who participated in the fundraiser.

The students have one shared wish for where their money is going.

“Now that we made all of this money, the scientists can find a cure,” said Tyler Shaw.

Gemma has her own wish for her students.

“I hope that they see a cure in their future, even if I don’t,” she said.

For more information on Relay for Life, visit

Cranston Girl Scouts storm Capitol Hill

Cranston Herald
May 20, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

MOVING ON UP: Girl Scouts from every troop in Cranston were invited to attend the State House Day field trip on April 23. Over 100 girls were in attendance that day, many of whom came with their families.

On April 23, the Cranston Girl Scouts had the opportunity to tour the Rhode Island State House in Providence. Carol Chin and Nancy Gilheeney organized State House Day as a citywide scouting event.

Almost 200 scouts, leaders, parents and siblings arrived at the state’s capital bright and early that Friday morning. After going through security, they were split into three groups for tours of the building.

“It was extremely successful. It was actually the largest turnout of any of the program events we ran this year,” said Chin.

The tour guides took the girls through every area of the State House, including the Senate and House of Representatives. Along the way, they learned about the political process and also the history of the building itself.

“The paintings [by Gilbert Stuart] were a big hit with the kids, the ones where the eyes and the feet seem to follow you around the room,” said Troop 156 Brownie Leader, Barbara Valletta.

She saw a lot of enthusiasm from the group, even before they stepped inside the building.

“My girls were really looking forward to the field trip before we got there. None of them had been to the State House before and we were working on our ‘Proud to be a Citizen’ badge,” Valletta said.

After the tours, the Girl Scouts were treated to a pizza luncheon, courtesy of Representative Nicholas Mattiello, House Majority Leader.

Following lunch, a group photo was taken on the steps of the State House and the girls continued down to the memorial Garden of Heroes, which is located on the State House grounds. There, a memorial stone lists the names of all of the men and women of Rhode Island who have given their lives in the name of service to our country, since Sept. 11, 2001.

There are more than 20 names listed on the memorial there, including Marine Corps L/CPL Holly Charette and Coast Guard PS3 Ron A. Gill Jr., both of Cranston. Representatives from the Cranston Girl Scouts placed red, white and blue flowers on the memorial stone in honor of the fallen heroes.