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Magic 98.3 and The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital present “Kids Who Make Magic!”

Each week, we selected a child who deserves recognition for something remarkable they have done in their community, for taking action for a cause in which they believe, or for changing someone’s life for the better!  Each of our Kids Who Make Magic will be honored at an awards banquet on Friday, November 18th, 2016.

Childrens Hospital St. Peters


Nominated by Avril Keldo, RN at Saint Peter’s University Hospital

Breast Cancer Awareness

Shivani Ghatak attends Churchill Junior High School, and turned a project she was doing for her Girl Scout Troop into a Resource Center for children of cancer patients at Saint Peter’s. The room includes books, magazines, and furniture, and provides a place where children can wait in comfort for hospitalized parents or loved ones.  Shivani’s mom passed away from breast cancer, so this project is very special to her.  It honors her mom’s memory while helping out fellow children in the community.

Nominated by Mary Eckert, Mother

thinkstockphotos-500667131Erin Eckert attends Woodrow Wilson School, and is extremely creative.  She wanted to help out a local charity called “Dina’s Dwellings,” a residence for victims of domestic violence. She created a handmade bookcase, which is on display in the reading room, and held a book drive to fill the shelves.  To date, she’s collected over 600 books and magazines to fill the shelves, and most recently, started a book club for the adults, and story time for the children!  The residents look forward to her visits, and Erin is determined to keep collecting for the organization.

Nominated by: Teresa Wegrzyn, Aunt

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-47-43-pmEmily Slattery is a student at North Brunswick Township High School.  When she was 10 years old, her aunt and uncle were diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to help them, and others who were affected, so she began making and selling flowered pens and donating the money toward cancer research.  She’s also brought her beautiful pens to the local Senior Center to make residents smile, and occasionally will also play the violin for them, too.  Emily wants to make the world a better place and hopes to influence other young men and women to make a difference in the community.

Nominated by:  Meg Penny, Mother

christmas-childDanielle Penny’s journey of volunteerism and fundraising started 6 years ago when her cousin, Zoey, was diagnosed with Progeria, a rare and fatal genetic disorder. Danielle coordinated lemonade stands and school fundraisers, and raised over $1,000 to be put toward finding a cure! Her love of helping people doesn’t stop there.  For the past 2 years, she’s turned her birthday party into a benefit for the local food bank by asking party goers to bring a non-perishable food item instead of a traditional birthday gift.  Danielle is currently working to collect donations for “Operation Christmas Child,” an organization that sends holiday care packages to impoverished countries. She has spent the last few months collecting empty shoe boxes to be filled with things like small toys, school supplies, and desperately needed personal care items. Danielle has filled 12 boxes so far and her goal is to be able to collect enough donations to fill another dozen before the boxes ship out!

Nominated by: Imelda Castro, Family Friend

hamesChristian Ventura is 14 years old, speaks 4 languages, and is a part of the Medical Sciences program at Freehold Boro.  He was recently diagnosed with Epilepsy, but instead of allowing this disease to slow him down, he created an organization called “High School Association for Medical Engineers and Scientists.”  “HAMES” is comprised of and run by students and teaches others valuable medical information along with providing Basic Life Support and Stroke Certification.  Christian oversees the operation and all services by himself!  In addition to free lifesaving courses, the organization does free medical support at fundraising events! Christian still faces epilepsy and is on home instruction as of late, but it doesn’t hinder the growth of his intelligence, his passion for learning, OR his dedication for “HAMES.”

Nominated by:  Pete Clark, Principal

nj-walks-for-ts-logoAlly Abad is a student at North Brunswick Township High School and is a youth advocate for Tourettes Syndrome.  Every year, she attends the Tim Howard Leadership Academy that takes place on the Rutgers campus.  During this time, students stay in the dorms for four days and learn every aspect of their disorder from neurologists, research scientists, social workers and pPsychologists. For the last three years, Ally has participated in the NJ Walks for TS/Princeton, and in three years, she’s raised $4,000! The money benefits NJCTS Education Outreach which provides statewide education, peer advocacy, and on-site school in-service presentations.


Nominated by: Jenna Genung, Mother

hands love color holding heartsMackenzie is a 10-year-old 5th grader at Halsted Middle School.  Even though she’s very young, she knows the value of giving back to the community, and started her own charity called “Everyone’s Helping Hands.”  Through this organization, she’s greatly helped out animal shelters, food pantries, children in foster care, and local charities that collect clothing for those in need.  She volunteers at multiple Veterans Dinners at the local Elks Lodge, and is a member of the Sussex County Children’s Chorus.


Nominated By: Beth Urbanski, Teacher at Somerville High School

When he was in 8th grade, Andrew Diodato participated in a club in where he provided social opportunities for students with special needs.  He enjoyed the work so much, he wanted to bring it to the high school he was going to attend.  It wasn’t an easy task; it required an adviser and a proposal that had to be submitted to the board of education.  To add to the intensity, it had to be done during the summer months.  Flash forward 2 years later, and “Peer2Peer” was born!


Nominated by:  Rebecca Barajas, Mother

gigisMaya Barajas was diagnosed with severe migraine headaches at age 6.  She was put on medication, along with an eating, drinking and sleep schedule to try and ease the symptoms, but by the end of 2nd grade, she became physically ill. Academically, Maya was at a low first-grade reading level and was about to enter 3rd grade.  She had such a passion for learning,  but her self-esteem was at an all-time low from her inability to keep up with her class.  After numerous other tests, it turns out Maya had Dyslexia.  As a result of her diagnosis, and exceptional help from her teachers,  Maya is now flourishing, and has decided to give back to the community.  She’s collected over $200 to donate to Gigi’s Playhouse, a developmental center for people with Down’s Syndrome to help them launch a math program for students!

Nominated by: Julie Howerton, Mother

missamazing1Rylee Howerton is 10 years old and attends John H. Winslow Elementary.  She’s also been diagnosed with Autism, epilepsy, and two chromosome disorders, but it hasn’t stopped her from achieving her goal of transferring out of a specialized school and working hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA!  For the past 5 years, she’s also earned her Bronze, Silver & Gold presidential volunteer service awards, and has over 700 hours of community service logged and certified!

Rylee has recently started her own charity called “Choose Wise Words” where she educates students on the harm that comes from using slanderous words about a person’s disability, intellect, race or religion. Rylee also enjoys doing pageants  and has been involved with the “Miss Amazing” pageant system for girls and women with disabilities and special needs.  Rylee strives to show the world the positive aspects of pageantry while raising awareness for issues that surround a person with developmental issues.

Nominated by: April Leavy, Mother

Red heart in child and mother's handsMelissa Leavy is 15 years old and attends South Brunswick High School.   Last year, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in addition to Chemo treatments, her mother also needed an injection to boost her white blood cell count.  Rather than have her mom go to the treatment center twice a week, Melissa learned how to safely administer the injection. It wasn’t easy; she had to search for a good spot that was different from the previous week, sanitize the area, and administer.  Earlier this year, her mom found out she’s in remission, and to celebrate this wonderful news, Melissa suggested that every 60 days they donate blood together to help others in their fight against cancer.

Nominated by:  Kerry Fredericks, Grandmother

Food Donation BoxAriana Carbone is 11 years old and attends Crossroads south Middle School.  This past summer, she decided to help combat hunger in the community and collect food and funds for the South Brunswick Food Bank.   She started by collecting non-perishable food items, moved on to weekly Lemonade Stands, and even held a yard sale where she sold some of her own toys and personal items.  She raised over $200, but wasn’t done yet!  She then took her grandmother to the store to purchase items that weren’t collected, and personally delivered the money and groceries to the food bank!   Ariana has a big heart and is now in the process of getting her school involved in food drives!

Nominated by: Jennifer Tuck, Mother

grace-tuck-kids-who-make-magic-2016Grace Tuck is a is a 5th grader at Sampson G. Smith School who loves animals and is always thinking of ways that she can help the ones that need a “Fur-ever” home.

With the help of teachers, friends and family, she organized a “Coins for Paws” challenge to benefit the Franklin Township Animal Shelter. Grace raised funds by drafting and sending out flyers and letters about the cause, writing a persuasive speech that she gave at school, and spreading the word about the project in her neighborhood. She collected $100 dollars over the past year, which she donated to the shelter, and she continues to raise much-needed funds for animals in need!

Nominated by:  Dar Shelley, Mother

lemonadeAudrey Shelley is a 14 year old who attends Churchill Jr High School, and for the past 4 years, she’s held an Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which has helped her raise over $3,000 dollars to help in the fight against childhood cancer.  When she was 6 years old, she delivered meals to home bound seniors, and was nominated for “The hometown Hero Award.” She is currently in her second year as an assistant teacher in CCD at Saint Bartholomew’s Church, and has also received the Joan Kafka award, given to students who demonstrate kindness and volunteerism. She is a caring young girl with a huge heart who loves giving back to the community!

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