Volunteer says advances have been made

The holidays are upon us and it is the time of giving. The giving of gifts, the giving of time, the giving of goodwill, and most importantly, the giving of thanks.

As a volunteer, I want to thank every person who has supported the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Perhaps it is a donation, attending a Heart Walk, championing a healthy change or supporting your child in a Jump Rope for Heart program. No matter how you have shown support, I want you to know that you have made a difference.

Born with a congenital heart defect, I made history at the age of 2 when I became the youngest recipient of a pacemaker. Since then, I have needed several pacemaker replacements. To date, I have undergone 104 surgeries, multiple transfusions and too many tests to count, but I am still here because of all the work that has gone into the battle against cardiovascular disease. We have seen advancements in the treatment of heart disease and strokes because of research. We have seen workplaces make a shift toward workplace wellness.

We have witnessed children saving lives because they have learned CPR. We have heard the push of making the healthy choice the easy choice for all Americans. And for me, I have been able to live a happy life.

Thank you for the support you have given and will continue to give as we move toward a day where heart disease and stroke are no more.

If you are interested in supporting the American Heart Association, consider volunteering, participating at an event, or making a donation at www.heart.org/donate

Augustine Concepcion
American Heart Association/
American Stroke Association volunteer
Ocean Grove

Marlboro councilman will seek county sheriff’s post

REGIONAL INTEREST

By PETER ELACQUA
Staff Writer

 Jeff Cantor Jeff Cantor MARLBORO – Councilman Jeff Cantor has declared his candidacy for the position of Monmouth County sheriff.

Cantor, 49, works as a health care consultant and has served on the Marlboro Township Council since 2004. Cantor will seek the Democratic nomination in June 2016 for the right to run in November. The sheriff’s position carries a three-year term.

According to the Monmouth County Directory, the sheriff is the chief executive officer of an agency with 600 employees and a $68 million budget which consists of four divisions: law enforcement, communications, special operations and corrections, as well as the administration of the Monmouth County Police Academy and the Office of Emergency Management.

As a councilman, Cantor has served as the liaison to the police department and as a member of the Emergency Planning Council. He is a licensed emergency medical technician and has been a member of the Marlboro First Aid Squad since 1996.

Cantor has served in the U.S. Army since 1985, on active duty and in the Army Reserves. He currently holds the rank of colonel in the Army Reserves.

“When I joined the Army in 1985 as a Private First Class, I did it with one thought in mind and that was to serve my country,” Cantor said. “Thirty years later, I am entering this race with the same mindset. I simply want to serve county residents during difficult times.

“My wife and I are raising our two daughters here in Monmouth County and there is nothing more important to us than making sure they are protected and safe. This election has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with making sure Monmouth County families are afforded that same peace of mind.

“My experiences both at home and abroad have provided me with the unique perspective of someone who has established efficiencies to save taxpayers money, worked on responsible budgets and also helped establish governments and spearhead reconstruction and development in some of the world’s most dangerous environments.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to speak with voters to let them know how all of those experiences make me the most qualified candidate to keep families across the county safe as their sheriff,” he said.

“Jeff is an extraordinary candidate,” Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal said. “He is a colonel and has spent over 30 years serving our country. He is probably the most qualified candidate we have seen for Monmouth County sheriff in quite some time. In the age of growing heroin and drug usage in Monmouth County, I cannot think of somebody who is more qualified than Jeff Cantor.”

Cantor said he is concerned about the safety and security of all county residents.

“I have just returned from a two-month deployment in Europe where we were tasked with ways to help our European allies deal with the (Syrian) refugee crisis and help combat foreign fighter flow with the migrants,” he said. “As a civil affairs officer, one of my mandates is protecting civilians around the globe. It is something I take very seriously and thoroughly believe in. … I have never played partisan politics while on the Marlboro council, nor will I ever do so. … If I can get Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Turkomen to work together, I can certainly get Democrats and Republicans to work together for a common cause.”

Republican Shaun Golden is the current Monmouth County sheriff. He was named acting sheriff in January 2010. Golden was elected to a three-year term in November 2010 and re-elected in 2013. He is a former member of the Colts Neck and Toms River police departments. Golden also serves as the elected chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Committee.

Firm advice: Consider both agent and brokerage

If you’re thinking of buying or selling, chances are you’ll select your real estate agent based upon a name referred from a friend, neighbor or relative.

Referrals are the No. 1 way both first-time and repeat buyers and sellers settle on an agent, according to surveys from the National Association of Realtors.

But when a specific agent is recommended, should the name of the realty firm he’s affiliated with also matter?

Probably, say many agents.

The agent who worked out well for a trusted friend or relative may likely be associated with a new firm now. In a 2015 survey of its members, the NAR found that 30 percent were with their present firm for one year or less, compared to 18 percent in 2014.

Some newly affiliated are brand new to the profession, but doubtless many have switched firms, acknowledges Maggie Kasperski, a spokeswoman for the NAR.

“One thing sellers should ask about is whether the brokerage has a strong web presence so that their home is easy to find,” advises Angie Lotz, of RE/MAX All Pro in Bloomingdale, Ill., noting that many buyers shop the Internet vigorously.

Firms will differ in their offerings of search technology, too. For instance, buyers glued to their smartphone should put a priority on whether an app is available giving “real-time information,” says Cindy Soderstrom of RE/MAX Signature Homes in Hinsdale, Ill. Also, the commission charged a seller can be influenced by a brokerage’s policy, adds Erika Villegas, broker-associate with ERA Mi Casa in Chicago.

Judge independent and national Realty firms equally, advises Marina Krakovsky, author of “The Middleman Economy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), noting that what’s important is the firm’s local reputation.

— Marilyn Kennedy Melia
© CTW Features

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

 Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis.  CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis. CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West literally jumped for joy with the good news her doctor recently delivered to her. Gracie, 12, of Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years. After she found out her latest scans showed no evidence of the disease, she was jumping on a trampoline within the hour.

“I knew I was going to hit the clear mark,” said Gracie, who is the daughter of Don and Sharon West.

Sharon West said it felt like “the world lifted off your shoulders” when she heard from the doctor that her daughter’s scans were clear.

Gracie, whose nickname is “Cookie,” as in one tough cookie, is a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.

 COURTESY OF THE VATICAN COURTESY OF THE VATICAN Gracie’s protocol included chemotherapy and radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and additional treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City.

But it was a special blessing given to her by Pope Francis in December 2014 that brought Gracie the greatest sense of healing. “I felt calm and peaceful, like everything was going to be fine after (the papal blessing),” the youngster said. Gracie’s trip to see Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was the result of a wish granted to Gracie and her family by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pope Francis hugged and kissed Gracie and gave her a benediction. The pope also shook hands with her brother, Joey.

“It was just the most amazing thing,” Gracie said.

The most difficult part of her battle against cancer, Gracie said, has been “not being able to do the stuff I normally do,” like swimming and playing with her French bulldog Topy, who is named after her first chemotherapy drug, Topotecan.

Gracie’s approach to life can be summed up in the mantra that guides her: you have no choice but to be strong, but you can choose to be happy and positive. Whether facing cancer or a just bad day, Gracie lives by these words.

Sharon West said the support of family members, friends and the community has been critical throughout her daughter’s fight against illness.

The West family established the Cookie’s Crumblers Foundation with a goal to not only help Gracie crumble her cancer, but also to help other children fight cancer.

A portion of the foundation’s proceeds will be contributed to research aimed at curing and eliminating childhood cancers.

The Cookie’s Crumblers 2016 Inaugural Gala of Gratitude will take place on June 4 at the Battleground County Club, Manalapan. For more information, visit Cookie- Gala2016.eventbrite.com

Millstone business supplies camel, friends in Nativity

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

A 1,200-pound camel named Joseph attracted the attention of visitors to a living Nativity scene at the First Baptist Church of Freehold on Dec. 13. A donkey, sheep and goats were also participants in the holiday event. FREEHOLD — A live camel on the streets of Freehold Borough caught the attention of many residents and visitors to town on Dec. 13.

The camel, a donkey, sheep and goats were participants in the First Baptist Church of Freehold’s living Nativity scene at 81 W. Main St.

Joseph, a 5-year-old camel, and the other animals were provided by Noah’s Ark Critter Care of Millstone Township.

“This is the first year the First Baptist Church has done the live Nativity,” the Rev. Teresa Ely said.

The living manger was held on the front lawn of the church and attracted about 200 participants, according to church member Jean Buscaglia-Yurkiewicz, who coordinated the event.

Church members and people passing by were able to take part in the living Nativity by dressing in biblical costumes, several of which were handmade by Buscaglia- Yurkiewicz and her mother, and posing for photos with the animals. Participants were able to dress up as Mary, Joseph, shepherds and the wise men.

“One of the most recognizable symbols of the season is the Nativity scene. People have them in their yard and in their home. This was a way for people to actually be a part of that scene. It is a way to help everyone remember the reason for the season,” Ely said.

The Nativity, Ely said, “brought all kinds of people together who shared in the joy of the Christmas season. As a church family we are looking for ways to connect with the community around us.

“Some of those ways are practical, like collecting food for the local food pantry. Other ways are about making face-to-face connections with our community.

“Joseph the camel was wonderful. The variety of reactions from children was wonder, uncertainty, delight — there was so much laughter,” the reverend said.

The church will make this an annual event, Buscaglia-Yurkiewicz said.

Kim Mooney of Noah’s Ark Critter Care said Joseph took the ride from Millstone Township to Freehold Borough in a horse trailer. The 7-foot-tall, 1,200-pound camel requires three handlers.

Football will never be the same — hopefully

In theaters now

 Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Concussion focuses on the startling discovery made by Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) while working as a pathologist in Pittsburgh. Omalu was on duty in September 2002 when the body of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse) was to be autopsied. Taking the care and methodical approach he used with all of his cases, Omalu discovered frightening facts that puzzled him.

It was those facts that led him to dig deeper — even spending his own money — to uncover why this man was lying in a morgue at age 50.

A native of Nigeria, Omalu has never found himself drawn to American football. He doesn’t realize how embedded the NFL is in American culture, and as he digs deeper into Webster’s case, he finds that the sport America adores just may have been the root of the player’s death. As more NFL athletes pass away prematurely, Omalu is able to link them all together through a condition that he comes to name chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

But the discovery of the disease is not the end of Omalu’s story. He then needs to take his discovery to the organization that is the common denominator in all the deaths: the NFL. Though he feels he is doing a great service for the players and the NFL in general, Omalu is shocked to learn that the organization is not receptive to his findings. To change the world may be easier than to change the NFL and its fans. Despite the repeated attempts to silence him, Omalu will continue to fight for what’s right until someone will listen. But will it all be too late?

I love football. I played football in high school. I play fantasy football. I cheer for my teams on a weekly basis. To have a film that takes direct aim on the game I love is tough. But after viewing Concussion, I realized that Omalu’s work is necessary to positively impact the game I love.

Will Smith delivers a powerful portrayal of Dr. Omalu. I believe him in all his naiveté of the importance of football in America. All he cares about is people, both living and dead. And it is Smith’s ability to portray Omalu as that amazingly intelligent man — one who is simply unaware of American culture — that is vital to the success of the film.

Although the film does introduce us to the science of CTE and its impact on the men in the NFL, it doesn’t go far enough. My criticism lies with the soft treatment of the men and women making decisions in the NFL. At times, the league office is seen as being uncaring and a bit threatening; the film just ends, rather than offering harsher criticism of that status. But maybe I just wanted more there, and no more needed to be said; after all, this film is more about the good Dr. Omalu than about concussions.

Dr. Bennet Omalu has a true love of all people. His desire for us all to live long and healthy lives is evident, and his hope is that the research he carried out will help all athletes become better educated about the risks they are taking. I would have loved the film to be more about football and concussions in sports — the tale weaved is full of intrigue, but we are left wanting that additional part of the story.

Thanks to the research at the heart of Dr. Omalu’s career, football will — hopefully — never be the same.

Concussion
Rated: PG-13
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin,
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Director: Peter Landesman
Grade: B

Unequal DUI laws

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: My nephew has been picked up for driving impaired at least four times. Very little in the way of punishment ever happens. And still he drives. In my part of the country, he would have lost his license years ago, and probably would have done time. He lives in Pennsylvania. Is that known as a state that does nothing about DUI?

A: You are correct in supposing that law enforcement/ courts can treat such individuals very differently from state to state. Pennsylvania is among the 10 most lenient states (ranking number 49 out of the 50 states and District of Columbia) when it comes to how strictly DUIs are approached, according to WalletHub, which did a recent analysis of DUI enforcement rules across the country. The group examined 15 metrics, including minimum jail sentences to ignition interlock devices (which are regarded by many as a highly effective deterrent to keeping drivers who have driven drunk or stoned in the past from repeating that behavior).

Any number of approaches could be used, of course, to assess how harsh or lenient the laws relating to DUI are written … and, especially, applied. This methodology may or may not lock in on all that contributes to whether a state is a crackdown state or a soft one.

MADD, using different methodology, also put together a list of the 14 most lenient states. Pennsylvania was on that group’s list, too.

All this seems to confirm your suspicions.

Readers comment: Several terrific readers got in touch with me after a recent column in which I answered a question about gas caps not consistently being on the same side of cars, and that can lead to confusion at the pumps when one is driving a rental car or the vehicle of a spouse or someone else. “I agree with all you wrote,” one reader commented, “that it would be easier if you could count on them being on one side or the other. You should have pointed out, though, as I remember you did several months ago, that in most vehicles there is a symbol on the gas gauge that indicates which side the gas cap is on.” Indeed I should have. I always appreciate the reminders!

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.

Photo

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township, Ocean County, on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Having a good old time with Larry Black (the guy who is committed to keeping the rated-G in TV)

By Lori Acken,

 Larry Black Larry Black It’s near impossible to tune in to RFDTV’s Larry’s Country Diner and not want to climb through the screen to share some pie and sociability with host Larry Black and his cast of amiable characters as they crack wise, reminisce about classic moments in music and TV and generally have a fine time. The 70-year-old, Alabamaborn preacher’s son turned his love of music and rich baritone voice into a decades-long career as a disc jockey — during its heyday, the Larry Black Show aired on 125 radio stations across the country. Acting gigs followed on I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night and in feature films such as Ernest Goes to Camp and October Sky. Now Nashville-based, Black also serves as producer of the downhome Diner and its equally nostalgic companion series Country’s Family Reunion that give folks longing for the homespun days of Hee Haw new options. We caught up with Black to talk about keeping the rated- G in TV.

Country’s Family Reunion was your first TV venture — how did that come to be?

I was doing a project with [the Gaither Homecoming series’] Bill Gaither — a comedy album that he was producing for me — and when we finished the album, we were having dinner at Amerigo’s here in Nashville. I said to him, “What you’re doing with the Southern gospel people, we ought to do with the country beat.” This was in 1997, just before it just all broke loose for Gaither with the Homecoming gatherings that he does. He said, “I’m too busy,” so I said, “Then I’ll do it.” We got together 30 people and put them in a room. Of those 30 people, about 18 have now died. So what we really created was a piece of video history and remembrance. Grandpa Jones. Johnny Russell. Little Jimmy Dickens. It has been a real jewel — and we’ve continued to do them.

And Reunion begat Larry’s Country Diner?

Once we hit RFD-TV, I realized what the audience was and that Ralph Emery was no longer going to do his TNN show. So I thought this was a perfect time to do a different kind of talk and variety show. But I don’t like sitting in front of fireplaces to do interviews, or across couches or a desk. So, “Hmm, we’ll do a little Podunksville diner, and every day at lunchtime the local cable company — because they have nothing better to do — brings some cameras into the diner to shoot the people having lunch. The sheriff in town [played by National Musicians Hall of Famer Jimmy Capps] just happens to be a world-class guitar player, so he’ll pull up and bring his guitar in, and if anybody drops by and wants to sing, they can sing and he’ll play the guitar for them!”

Nadine is your breakout star.

Every small town has the town gossip. I’d gone to church with Nadine for about 17 years — Ramona Brown is her real name — and she did this little character for a Valentine’s party one time. So I went to her and I said, “Why don’t you go online and get the church bulletins that are all screwy, and you come in and do that? You can mess with people all you want as the church lady.” So she did that, and that character has just really blossomed. Her husband is an optometrist and she’s worked for him all of their married life. Now she goes out on weekends and will do 45 minutes worth of standup.

How do you choose your guests?

While we have the Larry Gatlins and the Vince Gills, Randy Owen of Alabama, there are other artists — Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Jimmy Fortune — those guys say the shows just totally revived their careers, and have given them a new lease on life in terms of touring. I want to reach out, and help more artists who don’t get airplay anymore because they don’t have labels, but they still produce product. They just don’t have a way to get it to the marketplace.

Describe your audience.

Because we deal with a more mature audience, they introduce us to their kids, and to their grandkids. Then the kids and grandkids become fans. Also, we find that when we go to Branson, oftentimes there are young adults who bring their parents because they know their parents want to come see the show live, and they have become fans also. Our viewing audience is getting younger because they’ve experienced the same thing.

That’s a rarity.

That’s a joy. Bill Medley, one of The Righteous Brothers, lives in Branson and performs there as well as Vegas, and he said, “It’s so funny. You perform in Branson and you see these busloads come in and you watch the old people get out of the bus … with their parents.” I thought, that is so true, man! You have these 60- year-old people getting off the bus with their 85-year-old parents!

Monmouth County Park System offering January activities

The Monmouth County Park System has planned numerous activities for county residents to enjoy. Here’s what is planned for January:

Surprise Story Time

Jan. 2 from 11-11:45 a.m.

Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown

If the weather is nice, look for the clue at the Horticultural Center’s entrance that leads to the secret spot. If it’s rainy or cold, they will be inside. Recommended for ages 3-7. Free.

Opening Reception for the Deep Cut Gardens Photography Exhibit

Jan. 2 from 1-3 p.m.

Deep Cut Gardens Horticultural Center, Middletown

Meet with the photographers of the exhibit. Light refreshments served. The exhibit will then be open daily Jan. 3-31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.

Open Ceramics

Jan. 3 from 12:30-4:30 p.m.

Thompson Park Creative Arts Center, Lincroft

Choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Children 12 and under are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. The cost is $6 per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces will be fired in about a week.

Coffee Club Mahjong

Tuesdays, Jan. 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Shuffle your tiles and build your walls as you play this ancient, fast-paced Asian game. Both American and Chinese rules will be followed. All levels welcome. The cost is $4 per person per day; cash or check only.

Teen Open Gym Basketball

Wednesdays, Jan. 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 3-4:30 p.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Teens age 13-18 are invited to play or practice on the courts. Cost is $5 per person per day; cash or check only. Under 17 with parent present.

The Casual Birder

Jan. 7 at 9 a.m.

Henry Hudson Trail — Meet in the Popamora Point parking lot in Highlands.

Jan. 21 at 9 a.m.

Manasquan Reservoir — Meet at the Visitor Center Bait Shop.

Join a Park System naturalist for this laid-back morning bird walk. You will meander for about an hour and see what birds we can find. No need to be an expert at identifying birds to enjoy. A limited number of binoculars will be available to borrow if needed. Open to ages 8 and up. Free.

Family Gym Time

Fridays, Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29 from 9:30- 11 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

There will be tunnels, gym mats, scooters and other play equipment set up for your entertainment. This is an open play format with no instruction provided. Parent supervision is required and Rec Center staff will be present if you have questions or need assistance. Open to ages 1-4 with adult. The cost is $10 per pair per day; cash or check only.

Science of Fingerprints

Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 9 and 10 at 12 p.m.

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell

Come see what shape your fingerprints are and then make a picture using your print. Free.

Roving Park System Naturalist

Jan. 9 at 10 a.m.

Henry Hudson Trail — Meet at Popamora Point, Highlands.

Sunday, January 24 at 10 a.m.

Thompson Park – Meet in the Marlu Lake parking lot.

Join our Roving Park System naturalist for a walk and learn about seasonal points of interest. Free.

Men’s Open Gym Basketball

Sundays, Jan. 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 8- 10 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Shoot some hoops on the Rec Center’s full court gym. The cost is $5 per person per session; cash or check only.

Blacksmith Demonstration

Jan. 10 from 1-3 p.m.

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel

Come see what the blacksmith is making in his workshop. Free.

Seashore Scientist Drop-In Series — Predator and Prey

Jan. 21 from 6-7 p.m.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Activity Center, Long Branch

Explore the complex relationships between predators and prey during an interactive discussion featuring hands-on experiments. Free.

Nature Lecture Series: Winter Water Birds

Jan. 21 from 7-8 p.m.

Bayshore Waterfront Park Activity Center, Port Monmouth

Learn about winter water birds that frequent habitats along the coast during this discussion led by a Park System naturalist. We will also reveal some of the best places to see these water birds before winter melts away. Free.

Seashore Open House

Jan. 24 from 1-4 p.m.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Activity Center, Long Branch

Have some seashore-related fun during the open house. Free.

WinterFest

Jan. 30 from 1-5 p.m.

Thompson Park, Lincroft

Celebrate the fun that winter can bring with ice skating (weather permitting), wagon rides, cross-country skiing and so much more during this family-friendly festival. Admission, parking and most activities are free.

To learn more about these Park System activities, visit www.monmouthcountyparks.com or call the Park System at 732- 842-4000. For persons with hearing impairment, the Park System TTY/TDD number is 711