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Ten Years Later, Casey Feldman’s Values Still Resonate

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Casey Feldman was the News Editor of The Observer, Fordham University’s student newspaper. In the feature article reprinted below, The Observer remembers Casey and highlights the work of The Casey Feldman Foundation in the ten years since Casey’s death.

By SAMANTHA MATTHEWS, Staff Writer

Dianne Anderson holds up her daughter’s image to fight for a new pedestrian safety law in New Jersey. The law was passed on April 1, 2010.

It has been ten years since Casey Feldman was struck and killed by a distracted driver in Ocean City, New Jersey. Casey, who served as the 2008-2009 News Editor of The Observer, was about to enter her senior year at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) and pursuing a career as a journalist. While that all came to an end on July 17, 2009, her parents continue to make sure Casey still has an impact on the Fordham community today. “She was so kind-hearted, so loving and always found time in her busy, busy schedule to help those less fortunate,” said Dianne Anderson, Casey’s mother. “That included volunteering at a soup kitchen, a women’s shelter and a no kill animal shelter.”

Helping those in need was a huge part of Casey’s life. Her best friend and roommate at Fordham, Kelsey Butler, FCLC ’10, said, “For example, when she saw someone who was homeless and she was walking home from dinner, she would always give her leftovers to that person.” Butler now serves on the board of CFMF.

Casey was also a passionate journalist. In her time at The Observer, she had written over 20 articles tackling topics ranging from HIV and AIDS to the mental health of college students. Her suitemate, Janine Repka, FCLC ’10, said, “I think she was always looking for something that was a little bit more meaty than your average college campus story.”

Her father, Joel Feldman, said that in the weeks after Casey’s death her colleagues at The Observer expressed their condolences. One colleague revealed to him that, “Casey taught them that each and every person has a unique and beautiful story, and we need to tell stories because telling stories changes lives.”

After Casey passed, Feldman and Anderson began working with legislators in New Jersey to revise their Pedestrian Safety Law. The law previously stated that motorists are required to yield for pedestrians. The new law, which her parents refer to as “Casey’s Law,” now requires motorists to stop and remain stopped for pedestrians in marked crosswalks or at intersections where there are no marked crosswalks. This was the beginning of their path into advocacy because of Casey.

Anderson, along with Feldman, tries to preserve and project Casey’s character and values into the world today through their foundation, The Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation (CFMF).

Casey’s vigor to find those “meaty” stories translates to the work her parents do at the foundation. What she stood for is championed by her parents through their unending support of volunteer work, scholarships and grants, and their fight to end distracted driving.

The mission of their foundation “is to carry on things that were important to Casey,” according to Butler. Every year on the date of Casey’s death, which those that were close to her refer to as her “angelversary,” the foundation sponsors a day of service. In 2018, Anderson organized it with their local animal shelter, Providence Animal Center, inspired by Casey’s love for animals.

Matthew Thornton, who was Casey’s boyfriend, attended and said, “it’s an opportunity for people to go and kind of live the experience that (Casey) would have. (Dianne and Joel) put forth that kind of selflessness into the world by cleaning up and rearranging in the shelters and cages, dating the food that gets donated to these shelters.”

The foundation is also focused on financially helping current students who exhibit qualities like Casey. At Casey’s high school, Springfield High School in Pennsylvania, they offer a yearly scholarship. Thornton assists the Feldmans in choosing the recipient, in which they look at student’s essays and activities for qualities that align with Casey’s. Casey’s mom said that they do not solely focus on the students with the best grades but those who give back to the community and show a commitment to volunteerism.

The foundation also offers a scholarship here at Fordham University for communications students to perform an unpaid internship for those who would not be able to afford it. However, since New York State is changing its laws on unpaid interns, Joel Feldman said, ”We’re going to be redirecting the focus of that entirely to supporting The Observer in different ways.” Since Casey’s passing, the foundation has financially supported The Observer.

“The Feldmans wanted to do something to keep Casey’s memory alive,” said Elizabeth Stone, Ph.D., professor of English at FCLC and advisor to The Observer at the time of Casey’s death, “So together we talked through what would be useful and most help The Observer.”

Stone and the Feldmans devised three ideas that were then implemented. The first was the internship scholarship for communications students mentioned above. The second was underwriting funds for educational purposes, such as sending more students to journalism conferences and hosting speakers. The third was providing funds for hardware and software The Observer otherwise wouldn’t be able to have.

Additionally, the foundation takes on interns from The Observer. This semester, it is Copy Editor Melanie Riehl, FCLC ’22. She writes articles for CFMF and has recently spoken with a mother and father who had lost their son to distracted driving. “They turned that grief into advocacy, and they decided to fight for the Minnesota Hands-Free Law,” Riehl said. Riehl put together an article that will be published. Writing these articles gives aspiring journalists like Casey opportunities to practice and hone their craft, as well as increasing awareness for distracted driving.

A large project of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation is End Distracted Driving (EndDD). EndDD is spearheaded by Casey’s father. About three months after Casey’s death, he had a realization, “I could have been that driver because I drove distracted all the time.” Her parents wanted to do something to raise awareness against distracted driving.

EndDD has a network of over 500 volunteers who give speeches to schools nationwide on how to not become a distracted driver, all without cost to the school. Feldman himself has given over 700 presentations, and EndDD has reached over 450,000 students.

EndDD partners with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to develop methods to deliver an effective presentation. They center their presentation on respect. By establishing the fact that most students would consider themselves respectful people, Feldman said, “There’s really not a whole lot that’s respectful about driving and looking at your phone instead of the road. Respect for others, to me, is a full time value. It’s not something we just do when it’s convenient.”

EndDD is always working on how to make their presentations as effective as possible by providing free educational materials, driving agreements, quizzes, surveys and public service announcements. Every year they also sponsor a teen distracted driving video and meme contest. EndDD found that through creating a video on distracted driving, students are learning about safe driving practices. Through this knowledge, it is affirming the fact that the students do not want to be a distracted driver themselves.

Riehl said that the mission of EndDD has impacted her personally. “If you’re someone who’s lost someone else or a family member and you tell a distracted driving story, it hits home differently for people who hear it,” she said.

EndDD focuses their mission on the people who really need to hear it — the next generation of drivers. In December, they are launching a new program directed at elementary schools — the first of its kind in the country. It’s going to teach children to recognize when their parents are distracted and the communication skills to articulate that they feel unsafe. This will create fewer drivers on the road now and in the future.

Repka got a chance to speak at her own high school with EndDD. She said it was one of the most impactful moments because she got to see Casey’s story impact the next generation. “I got to be able to say to them — you’re going to go on to the rest of your life and you’re going to meet people who are going to become your best friends. Hold them close and cherish them,” said Repka. By telling stories that hit so close to home, it resonates with students. No one wants to be the driver that killed someone’s best friend, partner or child because they had to check their phone.

Here at Fordham, not many students get behind the wheel of a car daily because of subways, buses, taxis and Ubers, but even as a pedestrian or passenger, there are still ways to help end distracted driving. Butler said, “As a passenger you have an ability to make an impact. If you’re perhaps driving around with friends and they are driving distracted, you can always speak up and say something.” Butler said it can even be as easy as saying, “Why don’t I change the music for you so you can focus on the road.”

In the past 10 years, CFMF and EndDD have both grown, but their mission stays the same — projecting Casey’s generous spirit and ending the act that took it all away.

The Feldmans took what is the worst tragedy a parent can face and turned it into a mission for good. In spite of his daughter’s passing, Feldman said, “I think I’m about about the luckiest person in the world because I get people, mostly students coming up to me and talking to me and saying how it’s changed their lives. They’re being saved.”

Casey wrote articles because every story she told had the capacity to make the world a better place, even if it was just slightly. The work done through the foundation and EndDD does the same.

Matt Thornton lauded about the Feldman’s approach of grief and even adopted it himself. He said, “You either move forward and find the best out of what you can or otherwise it leaves people kind of paralyzed and empty. I don’t think that people want to live their lives in that vein.”

The Feldmans’ career of volunteering and advocacy helps others in need, but in doing that they are also spreading a little bit of Casey’s heart wherever they go. Because of that, Casey’s memory and her values will live on in all who are touched by her story.

[Reprinted from the The Observer]

 

Five Years, A Legacy of Good – The Casey Feldman Foundation

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Janine Repka* and Dianne Anderson*

Casey's mom, Dianne Anderson at press conference in OC, NJ announcing "Casey's Law" in 2010

Casey’s mom, Dianne Anderson at press conference in OC, NJ announcing “Casey’s Law” in 2010

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.

Joel Feldman interacting with students during an EndDD presentation at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, 2014

Joel Feldman interacting with students during an EndDD presentation at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Nov. 2014

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”.

SHS 2011 recipient Hayden Dahmn with his seeing eye companion Fathom. Haydem is an engineering student at Swarthmore College

SHS 2011 recipient Hayden Dahmn with his seeing eye companion Fathom. Haydem is an engineering student at Swarthmore College

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.

Scholarships

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,  DrexelSt. 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.

Annina Baker, 2013 Cappies scholarship recipient, currently a student at Villanova University

Annina Baker, 2013 Cappies scholarship recipient, currently a student at Villanova University

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.

Harry Huggins & Monique John, Fordham recipients 2011 & 2012

Harry Huggins & Monique John, Fordham recipients 2011 & 2012

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.

Sean Wiese, computer science recipient who developed a software program for Boulder Food Rescue

Sean Wiese, computer science recipient who developed a software program for Boulder Food Rescue, 2012

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.

Volunteers painting at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals on Casey's 1st "angelversary" in 2010

Volunteers painting at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals on Casey’s 1st “angelversary” in 2010

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.

Related Links:

Capture

 

 

 

EndDD.org – Casey Feldman Foundation End Distracted Driving website

EndDD in the News – News articles about Enddd

Complete listing of all scholarship and grant recipients from 2010 – 2014

News & Updates – All Foundation articles with table of contents

Casey Feldman Photo Gallery  -Includes photos post July 17, 2009

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Janine (L) & Casey, 2008

Janine (L) & Casey, 2008

*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.

 

 

My Friend, Casey – How the Foundation Has Honored Her Love of Animals

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Casey & Nikki, 2008

Casey & Nikki, 2008

Casey's brother Brett & his friends painting - Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, 2010

Casey’s brother Brett & his friends painting – Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, 2010

Casey's friends insulating the attic at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, 2011

Casey’s friends insulating the attic at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, 2011

A stroke victim at Magee working on his motor skills as he brushes Joey's teeth

A stroke victim at Magee working on his motor skills as he brushes Joey’s teeth, 2014

Jenna Schein (R) helping an injured screech owl at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

Jenna Schein (R) helping an injured screech owl at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, 2014

By Rachael Kemmey*

On the day of Casey’s fifth “angelversary,” a friend said to me, “I can’t believe it’s already been five years, can you?” My answer, although contradictory, was both yes and no. Yes, it is unfathomable that one thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven days have passed since the last time I saw my friend. How have five years already come and gone without her here? Yet, at the same time, it feels like a lifetime since I’ve seen Casey. Every day without her feels long. I was at a loss trying to explain how time could move both fast and slow; perhaps, there is no way to understand this feeling, unless you were blessed with knowing Casey.

Five is also the number of years that Casey’s family and friends have been working to make a difference through The Casey Feldman Foundation. The Foundation honors Casey’s life and memory by keeping Casey’s passion for helping others alive and by supporting many causes that were near and dear to Casey’s heart. One of those is her unconditional love for animals.

Growing up, Casey had numerous pets; everything from chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and horses, to fish, lizards, hermit crabs and turtles. Of course, there were also dogs and cats. The Feldman family always had one dog and usually four cats at a time, all rescues. Casey was a proud member of PETA, among various other organizations, and was a strong advocate for adoption of strays. While studying at Fordham University in New York City, Casey volunteered at Animal Haven, a no-kill shelter. Casey walked the dogs and simply spent time with them as well as with the cats, assisting in their socialization and making them feel comfortable and loved.

It is gratifying to look back over the last five years and see how The Casey Feldman Foundation, among its multitude of endeavors, has also sought to honor Casey’s love of animals.

Every year on Casey’s “angelversary,” the Foundation conducts a day of service; every day of service over the last five years has incorporated animals. On the first “angelversary,” approximately forty volunteers worked at Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, a no-kill shelter located in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The entire interior of the shelter was painted in the course of a day. The following year, volunteers returned to Francisvale and worked on building a new outdoor play area for the dogs, cleaning up the grounds and insulating the attic. The last three “angelversaries” were spent at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Foundation established the first Facility Dog Program in 2012. Joey, a Labrador Retriever and Ford, a Golden Retriever were sponsored by the Foundation. Ford and Joey are specially trained health and human services “professionals” who support patients in their therapy and facilitate the rehabilitation process (watch the TV news video below).

In addition to incorporating animals into the annual day of service, the Foundation also directly supports local shelters through grants. Most recently, the Foundation sponsored the Casey Feldman Foundation Spay and Neuter Day at Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR). As a result, five animals were neutered, a procedure which drastically cuts down on the number of animals euthanized in the United States each year. In addition, the Foundation also sponsored Helga at MLAR, a German Shepard who had spent the previous 5 years of her life in a hutch at a puppy mill and was in desperate need of medical care; she was a “spinner” as a result of her confinement and had tried to rip off her own tail. The Foundation’s grant saved Helga’s life. In order to help MLAR with their training program, the Foundation also donated funds for the “Casey Cam.” Since its installation, the camera has provided trainers with an opportunity to track each animal’s progress.

Spay/Neuter Day at MLAR

Dr. Meg Anderson (R) and her assistant, Spay/Neuter Day at MLAR, 2014

In addition, various scholarship programs that the Foundation has funded have benefited animals. Our 2012 PIIE recipient, Dylan Mark, interned for the summer at the Boulder Valley Humane Society. Computer science major Lauren McDermott from Villanova University received a stipend to provide much needed IT services to Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, revamping and updating their website in 2011. Our Alternative Spring Break program has also impacted animals – Erica Durbin spent her spring break volunteering at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in 2011 and this past spring,  Jennah Schein volunteered her week off working at  Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in NC. Of course, all the various Alternative Spring Break scholarship recipients who spent their week working in some form of environmental conservation all had a positive impact on wildlife.

In the upcoming years, the Foundation looks forward to continuing to honor Casey’s love of animals through supporting existing programs  and establishing new ones.

Please help us to continue our good work and donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation. All of our furry friends out there will be deeply indebted for your your support.

Watch the CBS Philadelphia news video about the Foundation’s sponsorship of Magee’s first facility therapy dog, Ford, 2012:

View the video from the 2013 Day of Service:

Related Links:

All Foundation news articles related to our efforts to honor Casey’s love of animals – includes photos, videos, media coverage, links, etc.

All photos from the annual July 17th “Angelversary” Day of Service, 2010 – 2014

A listing of all scholarships and grants from 2010 – 2014,  with links,

All Foundation articles regarding scholarships, grants and recipients

 

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Rachael (R) & Casey

Rachael (R) & Casey

*Rachael Kemmey grew up with Casey in Springfield, PA and remained one of Casey’s best friends. Rachael is currently an attorney practicing in Delaware County, PA.

Happy Holidays; 2013 Year in Review

Friday, December 27th, 2013

 

 

The Casey Feldman Foundation  thanks each and every one of you for your support as we highlight some of our accomplishments in 2013.

We have awarded 16 scholarships to deserving college students, have funded the second facility therapy dog at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, continue to support Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals and have expanded our distracted driving awareness campaign.

Our volunteer speakers have given distracted driving presentations to more than 125,000 teens across the country and our website, EndDD.org  (End Distracted Driving), has become one of the leading resources in the battle to reduce distracted driving tragedies.

Please consider making a year-end tax deductible donation to The Casey Feldman Foundation so that we may continue our good work in Casey’s memory.

We wish all of you and your families a Happy, Healthy and Blessed 2014.

 

Related Links:

CBS News Coverage 2012: Health: Dog Therapy To Honor Casey

[email protected], July 16, 2013: Because of Casey: Magee’s Facility Dog Program

Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals