Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stadium stays on task for Red Cross donation

All photos and text by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald

SHOW OF SCHOOL SPIRIT: Students representing every grade level at Stadium School meet with American Red Cross representative, Deborah Ashe, to present their donations.

The students at Stadium Elementary School gave the Rhode Island branch of the American Red Cross a check for $574.06 last month. The check is the result of an ongoing fundraiser for Haiti that the school participated in.

The fundraiser was the brainchild of fifth-grader Mia Ray.

After hearing about the devastation in Haiti, and listening to Principal Susan Bryan speak to the students during lunchtime, Ray decided to get her best friends together and take some action.

“When I heard about what happened [in Haiti], this sad feeling went down in my heart,” Ray said. “I got my best friends together and we came up with Helping Hands for Haiti.”

Ray joined forces with McKenzie Richards, Kayla Andrade and Kailey Fusco. Together they went to Bryan with their idea and the principal embraced it whole-heartedly.

Empty coffee cans with slits in their covers were placed in each classroom so that money could be collected. At the end of each week, Ray and her friends collected and counted the donations.

The girls were pleased to be involved, doing good for a greater cause.

“I thought Mia’s idea was good,” said Fusco. “I wanted to help people.”

Andrade knew from watching the news that Haiti was still in need of help, and she was eager to participate also.

Fellow classmate Richards agreed.

“I think that Mia had a good idea. I’m glad she picked me to help,” Richards said.

Deborah Ashe, a representative with the American Red Cross, arrived at the school to collect the donations.

“Thank you very much,” she said to the group of students representing each grade. “This is a wonderful thing that all of you have done, especially Mia and the girls. It can be tough to part with money sometimes, but I assure you that this goes to a really great cause.”

She went on to say that the money donated would go toward food, clothing, medicine and anything else that the people of Haiti might need.

“You should be very proud of yourselves,” she said.

Principal Bryan was very proud of her staff and students and the contribution the school was making.

“We put the exact amount on the check. We could’ve rounded off to $574, but we put the six cents on there to show the true amount of what we raised with all of our efforts,” Bryan said.

There were some tears in the group as Ashe and Bryan talked about the devastation in Haiti. Two of the students present had family members in Haiti who were killed in the earthquake.

As one student began to cry, Bryan and Ashe both comforted her, reminding her of all of the good that the money collected would do for those remaining in Haiti.

“We’re hoping that this money will be helpful to all of the Haiti students and their families,” Bryan said.

St. Mark's parish celebrates family

All photos and text by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
June 24, 2010

GET THE PARTY STARTED: The Frank Castle band played part of the afternoon away, followed by the band Tribeca, and interspersed with John Nardolillo as DJ.

It was under perfectly sunny skies on Saturday that St. Mark’s Parish in Garden City held their second annual Celebration of Family festival. The festival was held on the grounds of the former Cranston Johnston Catholic Regional School, which is adjacent to St. Mark’s.

Food vendors, game vendors and musicians provided the entertainment and refreshments for the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. There was also an entire area run by parish volunteers with games and crafts for kids, as well as a raffle area for the children.

Admission to the event was free, but once inside, guests were welcome to purchase “festivos,” which they could then use instead of money to participate in events or purchase food and drinks, according to Elizabeth Reis, one of the parish volunteers.

The goal of the event was not to fundraise, but rather to bring the community together.

“Last year I asked Father why we didn’t have a parish festival, and he said, ‘Okay, but you will be the chair,’” recalled chairperson Lori Marsella-Levine.

Reverend Anthony Verdelotti then assigned Marsella-Levine a co-chair, fellow parishioner, Doreen Archetto.

“I’d been in the parish for 17 years when we started this last year, and I didn’t know anyone then,” said Archetto.

After co-chairing the event for two years, Archetto said she sees a great deal of community spirit within the church, thanks to the festival.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. I couldn’t do it without the committee members that I have,” she said.

More than 200 volunteers work the event from the planning stages, right through to the cooking and signing up for two-hour shifts at the festival.

Chef Ray Andolfo, the food committee chairperson, held out a steaming plate of homemade lasagna as he spoke.

“This is a family affair, a parish affair,” he said. “Food brings everyone together.”

Andolfo described how he and the women of the parish get together the night before and make hundreds of meatballs, homemade sauce, trays of lasagna and lots of pastries.

“We all get to come together to be together, and in the meantime, we make some food,” he said.

Many outside food vendors participate as well, such as Dockside Seafood, Inside Scoop and Del’s Lemonade.

Alongside the food vendors, San Marco Square is set up, with flowers donated by Atwood Greenhouse and crafts made by the women in the church, all of which can be purchased during the festival.

Frank Castle’s live band, as well as the band Tribeca, and DJ John Nardolillo all took turns providing the musical entertainment for the day and night.

A bounce house, rock wall, carnival rides, a train ride, face painting and games of chance kept the children entertained throughout the day.

“It gets bigger and better every year,” said Archetto.

Father Verdelotti agreed.

“I’m having a great time. It’s good for the community and it’s good for the church,” he said. “It’s bringing people together. They get to know each other and work together. It’s a win-win situation.”

Library Friends Make a Splash

Photos and Text By: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
June 24, 2010

THINKING AHEAD: Stadium Principal Susan Bryan looks through books with Jaden and Ailani Sutherland.

In a collaborative effort, the Cranston Public Schools Library Friends group and the city’s librarians recently hosted a mega-reading event to gear up for summertime.

Held at the Central Library on Sockanosset Cross Road in Garden City, the “Make a Splash-Read!” event was free and all Cranston families were invited.

More than 400 people arrived, forming a line out the door, and the library was abuzz with activity. It quickly became the most well attended CPS Library Friends event this year.

Five stations were set up throughout the room. Families were able to stop at each station, complete the activities there, and get a rubber stamp for every station they participated in.

The stations included picking up grade- and age-level summer reading lists, signing up for a library card, perusing some beach towel reading suggestions, making bookmarks, learning about safety from the COZ representatives such as texting while driving, and getting detailed information about the Cranston Public Library reading kick-offs, which are scheduled to begin this week.

Joining the librarians and the families was Paws from the Pawtucket Red Sox, who posed for photos with the children.

“We really tried so hard this time to advertise this event,” said Park View Librarian Karen Shore. “All of the principals in all of the schools sent out the fliers, as did all of the Cranston public libraries.”

Shore also said that the Library Friends are hoping to increase their membership even more for next school year, when they’ll start hosting events again. She noted that although the group planned to host some of the same popular events as last year, they’re also always looking for input from families as to what they’d like to see.

Past CPS Library Friends events have included an Internet safety night, a holiday reading and crafts night, and other monthly meetings on topics of interest to parents and students.

For more information about the CPS Library Friends program, or to become a member, contact Heidi Blais at To attend a Summer Reading Program kick-off event or one of the Cranston Public Library’s many summer activities taking place at a branch near you, the schedule can be viewed at