Hundreds turn out to admire toy trains in Northeast

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: November 21, 2011

The more than 500 toy-train enthusiasts who gathered Sunday in Northeast Philadelphia may be a little longer in the tooth these days, but for a while anyway, they were youngsters again, lost in the romance of the rails.

But the real youngsters, who lamented as they caught up with old friends and new finds on display, were few and far between, numbering no more than a dozen at a time.

"I don't think they see the trains like we did. We used to, sometimes stupidly, run over the train tracks. . . . I don't see the kids playing like we did. Their interests have shifted," said Ed Dougherty of Boothwyn, whose parents bought him his first train even before he was born in 1947.

Mal Kates of Society Hill, one of the more than 30,000 members of the Train Collectors Association, echoed the sentiment. "The culture is not the same in 2011 as it was 50 years ago in terms of people liking toy trains," he said.

But, he added: "It's popular enough that if you get someone interested, they'll fall in love with them."

That was true enough for the enthusiasts gathered at the Plumbers Union Hall, where a swap and sale had members recalling purchases that ranged from 50 cents to train sets of the 1930s costing upward of $10,000.

And, of course, there were plenty of tales about their firsts.

"I got my first train set in 1941, and I wanted them ever since. That was the same year that the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, so I had to wait until the war was over to get any accessories or anything for my trains," said Chester Zmijewski of Cherry Hill, a former president of the association's Atlantic Division.

Said Clem Clement, a past national association president from Virginia who traveled to the local show: "This brings together all kinds of people from all walks of life."

A sense of whimsy helps, added Clement, a retired Air Force colonel. "We're all infatuated with this junk - and we don't know why."

For some, it's a family tradition of sorts. Dougherty, a former professional golfer, noted that his mother loved trains. His father couldn't stand them.

Dougherty said his path was cemented when he retrieved his first set of trains from his parents' attic. He took them to a shop for repairs, and the owner offered to buy them because they were collectibles.

"If it's a collectible," Doughtery said he decided, "then I'll be a collector."

Ed Kapuscinski said his passion for trains was inspired by the tracks near his childhood home.

"When I was a little kid back in 1947, we had a railroad yard outside my house in Port Richmond. I have liked trains ever since. I guess it's in my blood."

Paul Irving of Doylestown brought his two sons, Spencer, 6, and Hunter, 3, to the meet. In his early 20s, he said, he put his train hobby on hold. Then came the boys, and, Irving said, "It gave me an excuse to be a kid again."

Spencer is eager for Christmas and helps his father with track installation and other age-appropriate tasks. His favorite thing about trains?

"They don't stop, and they go fast!"

All of which was like music - or a train whistle - to Dougherty's ears.

"Whenever you bring a kid to a train room," he said, "their eyes light up every time."

Original article can be found here



Ben Franklin Bridge run benefits Larc School in Bellmawr

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: November 07, 2011

Darcie and Jackson Waicus of Voorhees were at the finish line on a sparkling Sunday morning, water bottles at the ready for participants in a race and walk to benefit a Camden County school for disabled students.

Darcie, 8, and Jackson, 10, both have Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects development and neurological functions, but they were all smiles as they offered their wares to many of the 4,000 participants in the annual Cooper-Norcross Run the Bridge.

Cooper University Hospital and the Norcross Foundation were the event's main sponsors, along with health insurer AmeriHealth New Jersey. Proceeds went to the Larc School in Bellmawr, which provides special education services for about 90 children with moderate to severe disabilities from age 3 to 21.

"The school is an amazing place for special students. They are treated like they are real people. . . . I cannot speak highly enough about the staff at the school. They really put all they have - their blood, sweat, and tears - into these kids," said Darcie and Jackson's mother, Julie.

Entrants could run a 10-K course, back and forth across the Ben Franklin Bridge and through part of Camden, or walk a two-mile course. For many, the real draw were the students who eagerly greeted them at Campbell's Field at the end of the race.

"It's very rewarding," said Stacie Halscheid, Paralympics coach at the school and a staffer there for nine years. "They call us 'Larc Lifers' - if you can do it and you can handle it, you get sucked in."

Linda Teschko of Gloucester City, whose 19-year-old autistic son, Mikey, attends Larc, had nothing but compliments for the staff.

"My son wouldn't have half the opportunities he's had if it weren't for this school. We consider it a large family. They know every single child," she said.

Heidi and Michael Brunswick of Mount Laurel concur. They have worked to make the run a community event. Their son Ryan, 7, is multi-disabled and has been a student at Larc for the last four years.

Since then, Heidi Brunswick, who coaches the Cherry Hill West High School girls field hockey team, has led the team in various volunteer activities in support of Larc. Her husband, dean of students at Moorestown Friends School, has a similar task with that school's soccer team.

"Our son can't run or walk, so we run for him," Heidi Brunswick said. "It's the least we can do. Hopefully, one day he can stand here while we run and meet us at the end."

Original article can be found here.

At Occupy Phila., doubly engaged

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: November 06, 2011

Members of the Occupy Philadelphia movement protested at banks and other spots around the city Saturday, as they have done consistently since setting up camp last month.

But they also took the time for something a little different: planning a wedding.

On Sunday, Alicia Nauss and Adam Hill will exchange vows on the lower level of City Hall. They met working side-by-side at the movement's information tent.

"We were both here from day one," said Nauss. "Sometimes you meet someone and you just know. . . . When that happens so organically, so naturally, that's a sign."

The wedding is an occupation-wide event. As Nauss was being interviewed Saturday, a woman passed by and asked: "Tomorrow, right? We'll be there!"

Nauss, 24, said, "People are so generous and so kind and focused on each other, it's really heartening.

"Our entire wedding is based on people's kindness."

The food committee of Occupy Philly is making a cake, and a friend the couple met at the movement is donating the crystal glasses he used at his own wedding more than 25 years ago.

Hill's two brothers will be his best men; his father will be there as well. Although most of Nauss' family will not be present, her 21/2-year-old daughter will be.

"She sort of chose him, too," said Nauss.

"The first day I met her she ran up and gave me a hug," remembered Hill, 27.

The families of the couple have been supportive, although neither has met the future in-laws.

Michael Pierce, a Baptist minister, philosophy professor, and fellow occupier, will be performing the ceremony.

"We want the entire wedding to embody the movement," Nauss said.

The final wedding planning took place on a beautiful day that came complete with a concert titled "Healing America."

The organizer of the event, Rick Reinhart, described it as a "concert to bring together the arts and music community in the Philadelphia area."

The concert was aimed at raising awareness about arts programs falling victim to budget cuts, Reinhart said.

Many sang and danced to music ranging from rap to reggae. As time went on, more and more came out to the event, dancing and singing in the welcoming sun.

While the weather cooperated Saturday, the oncoming winter has become a topic of conversation among movement members.

"I am definitely worried about the cold," said Travis Lewis, who has camped out for about a month. "I don't like the cold, and how everyone is going to keep warm . . . that is key."

But occupiers said the worries had not eroded the movement's enthusiasm.

Michael Scotko, who has fed a livestream of Occupy Philly since its inception, said, "As an old hippie, I've been waiting for people to rise up."

"A lot of people in my generation are complacent," he said. "It's the kids who are making a fuss and taking a stand. I don't care if they are naive or whatever, they are doing something about this."

While some were listening to music and others prepared for the wedding, still others were engaging in activities more typical of the movement.

Some left to protest banks in light of Bank Transfer Day, trying to get people to transfer their money out of banks and into credit unions.

Another group left to join in solidarity with the Black Is Back Coalition, which was denied a permit to march for their "Stop the Wars and Build the Resistance" rally.

The occupy movement also rose up Saturday in Norristown, where a group gathered in front of the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Original Post can be found here

A Chester County community rallies to save a treasured sign

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: November 02, 2011

West Marlborough, Chester County, is a place where backyards are big enough to raise horses, where the expanse of a farm field can dwarf a tractor until it seems, at a distance, a toy.

"Welcome to what the whole world should look like," Gordon Rowe III tells a visitor.

Rowe, 36, and other longtime residents would like to keep it that way, right down to its quirks.

Chief among those is a faded sign painted on an abandoned mill at Doe Run Road and Route 841.

Until recently, the sign read: "BLOW HORN." It has been a topic of controversy during the last couple of weeks, since someone scraped off its lettering.

The sign's history varies depending on who is doing the telling.

Some say it was painted before a stop sign was posted at what was a dangerous intersection because drivers could not see the oncoming traffic beyond the bend in the road. Others claim that a man who lived in the mill painted it so he would know to go out and greet visitors to the property.

Regardless of the sign's origins, most agree it has been an important piece of this Chester County community's culture for a very long time.

"Blow Horn is the spiritual center of this county," Rowe said.

Rob Mastrippolito, 36, a friend of Rowe's, agreed.

"That barn has had 'Blow Horn' written on it since Christ was corporal," he said.

A couple of weeks ago, Rowe noticed that the lettering had faded to the point where it was was barely visible.

Rowe said, half-jokingly, "Forget Wall Street protests; let's go protest about the sign."

With that, he coined the phrase "Occupy Blow Horn." His sister, Morgan, created a Facebook page for the protest.

Within two days, the public group had more than 1,200 members.

"We just thought we'd get a couple friends to go down to the mill and honk our horns one last time and then we'd go get breakfast or something" Rowe said.

Said Mastrippolito: "Two days later, we looked at the Facebook group, and I said, Oh, my God, Gordon, what have we done?"

Late last month, they organized a tongue-in-check protest at the site.

"We didn't really occupy it, we occupied it for 15 minutes on Saturday morning," Rowe said. An estimated 50 cars, 100 people, and 3 dogs showed up.

Organizers hope their efforts will get someone to repaint the sign. There have been rumors, according to Rowe, that the property's owner is considering doing so "after the dust settles."

Attempts to reach the owner were unsuccessful.

Rowe and Mastrippolito have decided to make the occupation an annual event that will take place on the third Saturday of every October.

A fund would also allow people to donate to the Brandywine Conservancy or the Brandywine Valley Association, "both organizations committed to open space," in the name of Occupy Blow Horn.

One thing is clear: The sign may have faded, but its local importance has not.

"The erosion of small-town community is really at the heart of this," Rowe said. "It's just a sign, really, but in the bigger sense it's something a lot of folks have latched on to and taken to heart because, they don't like seeing part of what makes them who they are vanish."

Original article can be found here

Dead baby found in North Philadelphia was stillborn, police say

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: October 25, 2011

A dead infant girl abandoned on a porch in North Philadelphia during the weekend was stillborn, police said Monday.

Police found the baby, wrapped in a brown towel, about 9 a.m. Saturday outside a home on the 4900 block of North Marvine Street in Logan.

The Special Victims Unit is looking for whomever abandoned the infant. Police say they are also concerned about the well-being of the mother, who might need medical care.

Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman, said SVU investigators were informed the stillborn infant weighed 2.1 pounds.

Neighbors said the occupants of the house have been out of town since before the infant was found.

Carolyn Daise, who lives across the street from the home where the infant was found, said she looked out her window at least twice before dawn Saturday but saw nobody. She said that she had not seen any pregnant girls in the area recently and that she suspected the mother was not "anyone from around here."

Original article can be found here

Delco teen wins acclaim for depression statistic analysis

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: October 12, 2011

Lucy Wang will tell you that she is "just an average high school student."

And so she might seem at first blush. She plays field hockey; watches "mindless" (her word) teen television favorites - Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries; her favorite subject is "definitely science," and she is "very excited" to be moving on from Garnet Valley High School in Delaware County to college.

But then there is that $25,000 prize she recently won for creating a statistical model to predict adolescent depression.

While just "looking for free databases" to explore, Wang said, she came across the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, a database created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey collects data on health-risk behaviors of high school students.

She did a statistical analysis and determined there was a pattern of particular responses that could predict the likelihood of depression in young adults. She found that it correctly identified students who had symptoms of depression 83.66 percent of the time.

Throughout the project, she worked with Gann Xu, a local patent lawyer and friend of her family, but did most of the project on her own.

Her advanced placement biology teacher, Brenda Frost, described Wang as "very motivated, extremely independent, and internally driven."

Scott McClintock, an assistant mathematics professor at West Chester University, worked with Wang on the statistical analysis aspect of the project. "It is remarkable to see that from the level of a high school student," he said.

Her parents, both immigrants from China, are financial analysts. They impressed upon her from a young age that statistical analysis could be an "invaluable skill," she said.

She was inspired to conduct the project after hearing the story of Ryan Halligan, a 13-year-old from Vermont driven to suicide by cyberbullying.

She also had been moved by the suicides of Gina Gentile and Vanessa Dorwart, Interboro High School students who made a pact and died last year when they stepped in front of a train.

Wang said she sees her work as a "way to express my love of research as well as doing something good for the community, something of value."

She was honored last week in Washington for winning a fellowship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

The fellowship provides money to students up to 18 years old whose work is to the "college graduate level and has the potential to benefit society," said Tacie Moessner, the program manager. She said Wang's "work was very complex and her stat analysis was impressive. . . . Her work definitely met our criteria."

Said Wang: "It is such an honor to be a Davidson Fellow; I couldn't thank them enough. It's really gratifying to think that something you did is valued by professionals in that field."

Wang's next step is to distribute her model to local therapists, doctors, and psychologists to "see what they think about it."

The fellowship money will go toward her college education.

She did not want to say what school she is targeting for fear of jinxing her chances. She is, however, very clear about what she wants to study.

"Ideally I would major in bioengineering and minor in economics," she said. "I need a field that is both academically and socially stimulating."

She said she was interested in continuing her research endeavors at the college level.

"My current goal is to get into college. I need to do that, and hopefully everything else will follow," Wang said, laughing. "I just need to take it one step at a time. I am not the kind of person who has every step of her life planned out. When I see an opportunity, I take it, I guess that's how I live my life."

Original post can be found here.

Delaware County nonprofit opens Nick's House to help families fighting cancer

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: September 30, 2011

The tale of the Colleluori family of Holmes, Delaware County, is one of triumph emerging from tragedy.

It began in 2005, when son Nicholas, then 19, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

While he was being treated at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania for more than a year, his mother, father, and three brothers virtually "lived at Penn for weeks on end," mother Cheryl said.

"We promised we would never leave him," she said, weeping.

Despite his treatment, Nick Colleluori, a 2004 graduate of Ridley High School and a Division I lacrosse player at Hofstra University, died Nov. 28, 2006, at 21.

But before that, he had laid the groundwork for a nonprofit to raise cancer awareness and help others affected by the disease.

Called HEADstrong - a blend of Nick Colleluori's nickname, "Head," and the attitude with which he fought cancer - the foundation is under the direction of the Colleluori family, which for a time ran the small nonprofit from home.

While promoting and running HEADstrong, Cheryl Colleluori works as a manager at a Staples store. Husband Pat, who retired from Coca-Cola Co., now works with special-needs children in the local school district.

This week was a milestone for HEADstrong. On Wednesday, it opened "Nick's House," a two-story building in Holmes that will serve as the nonprofit's headquarters while providing a free two-bedroom apartment for out-of-town families with loved ones being treated anywhere in the region.

The idea is similar to others. Penn has converted a fraternity house to host families and patients undergoing transplants at its hospital.

The Colleluoris are working to provide transportation to the nearby Regional Rail line for an easy commute to the hospital. They also want to provide gift cards for local restaurants and stores. The goal is to minimize expenses for families who stay at Nick's House.

The house has been renovated and furnished entirely with donated goods and services. The property, bought for $95,000, had been abandoned for three years and was in disrepair.

Pat Colleluori Sr. was the mastermind behind renovating Nick's House. He had help from son Daniel, 29.

"There was really bad water damage and mold everywhere. . . . We had a squirrel infestation and they had eaten all the wires. We needed all new electricity," Cheryl Colleluori said, adding that the local community was responsive.

"They all just asked, 'What do you need?' " she said.

The foundation is a family affair. Cheryl Colleluori is president and chief executive officer. Son Michael, 24, is vice president and chief operating officer. Oldest son Pat, 31, serves as marketing director and is in charge of product design for the foundation's varied merchandise.

"I cry every day, missing him," Cheryl Colleluori said, "but this is how I stay connected to him. . . . This was his dream."

Original post can be found here