By Janine Repka* and Dianne Anderson
I had the pleasure of meeting Casey when we were randomly placed together as roommates at Fordham University, Fordham College Lincoln Center in 2006 as we began our freshman year. The powers overseeing freshmen dorm assignments must know what they’re doing, because we and our four other roommates opted to live together for the following two years, becoming inseparable friends in the process. One of Fordham’s founding philosophies is “homines pro aliis”—acting as men and women for others and Casey embodied this fully. From small acts of kindness like lending a favorite shirt or lipstick to one of us for a night out to larger deeds like volunteering with animals or donating food or change to the homeless dotting the steps of a church close to campus, Casey was truly a young woman for others. Given that, it couldn’t be more fitting that The Casey Feldman Foundation has continued to act for others and sponsor numerous wonderful initiatives and partnerships in Casey’s memory over the 5 years since her death.
EndDD.org – End Distracted Driving
Perhaps the most visible way that the Foundation has reached out to others is through their sponsorship of EndDD.org – End Distracted Driving. Casey’s father, Joel Feldman, has personally given the EndDD.org distracted driving presentation to more than 35,000 people. With the help of hundreds of volunteer speakers, almost 250,000, mostly teens, have seen the presentation in 42 states and Canada. Incorporated in the presentation are PSA videos, three of which have been produced by Casey’s father: “Faces of Distracted Driving – Casey Feldman, 21”, in which I and Casey’s mother and other friends appear; “Just a Few Seconds”, which features a 17-year-old distracted driver as well as the daughter of the 61 year old man who was killed; and one directed at parents, “Parents – Be the Driver You Want Your Teen to Be”.
The presentation, which is constantly updated, was developed with the help of researchers and traffic safety experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), is science based and proven effective. The EndDD.org program was recognized in a report this year by The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) as well as by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray Lahood.
I have had the privilege to present alongside Casey’s parents to some of the more local audiences and it is a truly moving experience. The impact on those in the room after the presentation closes is palpable. Whether it is high school seniors or grandparents, it is clear this initiative is making a real impression and inspiring others to change their driving habits for the safer and better.
In addition to the Foundation’s work educating communities on distracted driving, a variety of scholarships are offered at Springfield High School (SHS), Fordham College at Lincoln Center and University of Colorado at Boulder, the high school and college alma maters of Casey and her brother Brett. Through the Foundation’s generosity, Springfield High students are afforded college scholarships with recipients attending schools such as Swarthmore College, Drexel, St. Joseph’s, Georgetown, Widener, Temple and West Chester Universities (click on the college hyperlink to read the article about the recipient).
Since Casey’s passions in high school included theater and writing, high school seniors participating in the Greater Philadelphia Regional Cappies, a theater and writing program that Casey was involved with, also receive college scholarships.
Students working on Fordham’s newspaper, The Observer, of which Casey was News Editor, are given the opportunity to attend the annual National College Journalism Convention sponsored by the Associated Collegiate Press. In addition, a Fordham Communication and Media Studies major receives a stipend allowing him or her to gain experience in their field by accepting and completing an otherwise unpaid internship. Without this stipend, many students would have to forgo valuable internship opportunities and accept a part time job instead, to help pay for college expenses.
At Boulder, Foundation support allows students to attend Alternative Spring Break community service trips with destinations including disaster relief in New Orleans, environmental conservation on Catalina Island, CA, harm reduction in Atlanta, environmental conservation at Cascade Head Nature Conservancy in Oregon, animal welfare at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in NY, youth education in California and urban poverty in Cincinnati, Ohio, among many others. The Foundation is proud to provide financially needy students with a stipend to” give up” their spring week off from college, to work in providing service for the greater good. For many of these students, they report that the experience has been “life altering” for them.
Also at Boulder, the Foundation supports a program known as PIIE: Public Interest Internship Experience, enabling students to experience a summer internship at a public service agency or non-profit. The Foundation supported PIIE scholarships have enabled students to intern with The Nature Conservancy, I Have a Dream Foundation (Ellie Roberts – 2014), I Have a Dream Foundation (Mercedes Ruiz – 2010), the Boulder Valley Humane Society and the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, among others.
In keeping with the Foundation’s efforts to reward those who are interested in community service and working for the greater good, another favorite program is that which provides stipends to computer science majors to provide services for a non-profit. The Foundation recognized how many non-profits with limited budgets had marginal websites, needed help developing a social media presence or needed software development designed for their specific needs to help them operate more efficiently. Computer science stipends at University of Colorado Boulder and Villanova University (Casey’s parents’ law school alma mater and the institution where her father, Joel, recently received his masters in counseling) have enabled over a dozen non-profits to receive this much needed technology help. At the same time, it has given computer science majors, virtually all of whom have well paying jobs waiting for them before they even graduate, the opportunity to know how gratifying it can be to “give back”, something that they hopefully, will want to continue in the future.
The first computer stipend at Boulder, went to Sean Wiese, who had a job waiting for him at Microsoft upon graduation. Sean worked for Boulder Food Rescue (BFR), an organization that redistributes perishable food “waste” to charities that serve homeless and at-risk individuals with the goal of helping to solve the problems of hunger, malnutrition, and food waste in the community. Sean developed a software program that enabled BFR to track pickups and deliveries of food and manage the schedules of 70 volunteers, increasing the amount of food pick- ups and deliveries by hundreds of pounds per week in just the first few weeks. Other non-profits which have benefited from this Foundation scholarship include The Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, Gilda’s Club, Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, Nancy’s House, Youth Directions and the Boulder County Arts Alliance.
Annual July 17th Day of Service
Community service is something that has also become an annual tradition on Casey’s “angelversary” over these past 5 years. A day of service takes place on July 17th each year with family, friends and supporters of Casey and the Foundation volunteering their time in honor of Casey at a location in the Philadelphia area organized by the Foundation. The first 2 years of service took place at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals and the last 3, at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, where the Foundation also funded Magee’s first 2 facility/therapy dogs.
[Read, "My Friend, Casey – How the Foundation Has Honored Her Love of Animals" to learn about all of the efforts of the Foundation over the last 5 years in regard to this mission.]
Casey cherished her time spent performing in theater, working on the Observer and at her various internships and volunteering to help animals, among other things. Thus, there could not be a more fitting tribute to her than allowing others to do the same through these diverse scholarships and programs. Community support of these initiatives is vital to their continuance.
Please consider donating today to allow The Foundation to keep Casey’s memory and her commitment to serving others alive.
EndDD.org – Casey Feldman Foundation End Distracted Driving website
EndDD in the News – News articles about Enddd
News & Updates – All Foundation articles with table of contents
*Janine and Casey were roommates and best friends at Fordham. Janine currently lives in Hoboken, NJ and works in Fundraising and Events for the Atlantic Theater Company.