Casey’s Friend, Brooke Burdge, Shares Her Story with Local NJ Teens in Distracted Driving Presentation

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The following is a guest blog by Brooke Burdge, a friend of Casey’s during her time at Fordham University.

 

Brooke Burdge with students from Monmouth Regional High School who are involved in efforts to help promote safe driving within their own school community.

On March 11, I had the opportunity to speak with close to 1,000 students and faculty at Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey on the topic of distracted driving. My presentation was part of  the EndDD.org End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative, which since its inception in 2012, has reached over 60,000 high school students.

At the start of my presentation, I gave a brief overview of EndDD’s mission, as well as some background on the inspiration for these presentations. I described how in the summer of 2009, an attorney and father named Joel Feldman from Pennsylvania got the news that his 21-year-old daughter, Casey, was struck and killed by a distracted driver while she was a pedestrian in a crosswalk on her way to her summer job in Ocean City, New Jersey. I told them how he then established the Casey Feldman Foundation in memory of his daughter and created EndDD.org  and the distracted driving presentation to educate others about the dangers of distracted driving.

Brooke (L) and Casey in a photo taken during their time together at Fordham University

Then, I let the group know a little more about me. Like them, I grew up in Monmouth County, NJ.  After graduating from a nearby high school in 2006, I went on to Fordham University, where I made a great friend named Casey.  This is the moment where I showed them a slide with photos of Casey and myself throughout our time together, as well as two Facebook wall posts from Casey. In this moment, the audience realized my direct connection to this cause and the root of my passion for this issue.

Later in the presentation, I showed the students the “Faces of Distracted Driving” video created for the U.S. Department of Transportation, in which a few of Casey’s friends and I talk about the preventable nature of Casey’s tragedy.  I explained to the students that you tend to see these types of videos and think, “Something like this couldn’t happen to me or my friends,” but those are all my good friends on that screen, and it’s very real to each of us.

Brooke (L) and Casey working for The Observer at the Fordham reunion in June 2008

Throughout the presentation, I reminded the group of three main points.  First, this is not just a teen problem. Adults are also guilty. I shared that before July 2009, I was also guilty of distracted driving. Secondly, I let them know that this is a choice. I wasn’t there to tell them what they should or should not be doing. I was there to give them information, and share a few stories, that they can take into consideration when making their own choices behind the wheel. And third, I reminded that that yes, these stories are sad, but they’re preventable. I wanted them to understand that although what happened to Casey and others they would hear about is extremely upsetting, it didn’t have to happen. I wanted everyone in the room to walk away feeling like they were in a position to help stop future tragedies like these from taking place.

Before the presentation, over 400 students had completed questionnaires about distracted driving. I covered the forms of distracted driving they had mentioned most frequently in their surveys—taking eyes off the road, texting, talking on the phone. But, I also wanted them to think more about the other kinds of distracted driving that may not come to mind as frequently, but are just as dangerous, such as eating, changing music, applying makeup, programing a GPS, and reaching for something.

Brooke Burdge speaking to students at Monmouth Regional High School in NJ. Photo Credit: Samantha Primich

We discussed the importance of speaking up for your own safety when a passenger in an adult’s or a friend’s car—how you can offer to take your driver’s phone and cover any calls or texts for them while their driving.  Through various stories about the numerous consequences of distracted driving, I hoped to drive home the point that this is sad, but preventable. Just a few seconds can change everything, and in the end, are those few seconds of distraction really worth the consequences?

I want to thank those faculty and students who helped organize this assembly.  Additionally, I want to thank every student and faculty member in that room for their attention.  A handful of students have reached out to me on social media since the assembly, and I am so happy that this presentation helped them think about distracted driving in a new light.

NOTE:  View photos from the presentation here. View Brooke Burdge and Casey’s other friends  in the Faces of Distracted Driving video below speaking about Casey and how they changed they driving habits after Casey’s death. View U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood’s blog article introducing the video.

Fordham University’s Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) Dedicates its Newsroom to Casey Feldman

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The entrance door to The Observer newsroom

Casey was an enormously talented, endlessly curious and deeply ethical young reporter,” said Elizabeth Stone, a journalism professor at Fordham and faculty advisor to The Observer, the student newspaper at FCLC. “Casey was one of my most promising students. Smart and dogged, whimsical and kind, she was going places…. She knew a good story idea when she saw it, she had her Google alerts in place to make sure she didn’t miss it, and she had the energy and skill to turn a good idea into a publishable article.”

In recognition of Casey, the 2011-2012 editorial board of The Observer voted earlier this spring to rename The Observer  office in her memory.  The dedication itself took place on April 30, 2012, with many members of the editorial board in attendance.  Also attending were Casey’s friends, former editors Brooke Burdge, Kelsey Butler and Craig Calefate.  Prof. Brian Rose, the associate chair of Communication and Media Studies, and Prof. Stone were also on hand for the ceremony.

The dedication took place to coincide with the Senior Awards Ceremony at FCLC, just prior to the culmination of the spring semester. Also unveiled at the dedication ceremony was a plaque remembering Casey and honoring Observer staff members, including Monique John, who have been awarded scholarship stipends through the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.

Honored along with Monique John were Jasper Chang and Harry Huggins who attended journalism conferences underwritten by the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation’s gift to The Observer.

Jasper Chang (L) and Harry Huggins smile in front of the Casey plaque

” I’m delighted to have Casey’s spirit and talent recognized and immortalized in the renaming of  The Observer office, now known as the Casey A. Feldman Newsroom”, said Dr. Elizabeth Stone. ” It pleases me that the suggestion for this honor came from Harry Huggins, himself a news editor as Casey was, and now an editor in chief.  I’m also pleased, and so grateful to Casey’s parents, Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson, that through the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, a valuable internship experience is made possible for an outstanding major who otherwise would not be free to pursue it.  Casey gave a lot to Fordham and to Fordham students and Casey’s parents have continued what she began.”

Casey arrived at Fordham aspiring to become a broadcast journalist and immediately joined The Observer, getting her first news bylines as a freshman, becoming an assistant news editor as a sophomore, and news editor as a junior. Casey was set to continue her position as news editor for her senior year at the time of her death in July 2009 and had recently returned from the annual weekend summer retreat for The Observer staff.

Craig Calefate (L) and Kelsey Butler look at a current issue of The Observer prior to the dedication ceremony

During her time at The Observer, Casey wrote over thirty articles, covering such topics as  the increase in mental illness in college students, self injury on college campuses, the increase of HIV in young gay males, the increase in binge drinking among college females, Adderall use among Fordham students for studying,  the strength of  Fordham’s Catholic identity and Fordham’s apology to an abuse victim after years of evasions, to name but a few. Ashley Wennersherron, who wrote her first article with Casey, said, “I can’t think of anything that she didn’t want to do if she heard of a tough story.”  Added Meaghan Dillon, who was news editor when Casey was assistant news editor, “She was never afraid to get a quote from anyone.”

Casey’s news reporting and editing won quite a few awards for The Observer, and she had been individually recognized as well. In June, 2009 she was named a national finalist for the 2009 Chandler Award for Student Writer of the Year in Religion, sponsored by the Religion Newswriters.

Casey poured her energy into writing and journalism while in high school, and continued to do so during  her time at Fordham,  securing multiple internships while carrying a full semester of courses, volunteering her time in the community and working for The Observer.  She  earned bylines from AM New York, The News of Delaware County and Philadelphia Style. She also freelanced during college, which included writing for the Bronx tourism bureau.  In the fall of 2009, she was to have begun an internship at NY1, a Manhattan-based television station.

Casey's friends and fellow Observer board members, Kelsey Butler (L), Craig Calefate and Brooke Burdge

Casey’s friends knew that her favorite quote was a line of H.L. Mencken’s—’I know of no human being who has a better time than an eager and energetic young reporter.’ “And I know of no eager and energetic young reporter who took that more to heart than Casey,” said Dr. Elizabeth Stone.

Casey’s best friend, roommate and fellow staff member of The Observer, Kelsey Butler stated, “Given Casey’s passion for journalism and her dedication to The Observer, I can’t think of a more fitting way to carry on her legacy than to name The Observer newsroom in her memory.”

Related Links:

Photos from The Observer newsroom  dedication and dinner

Casey’s articles published in The Observer

The Observer tribute to Casey, Aug. 2009 (includes memories of Casey’s fellow Observer staff members)

Casey’s AMNewYork bylines

About Casey (Casey’s bio)

Remembering Casey video ( fast forward to 10:24 – 12:21  for some of Casey’s fellow Observer staff members discussing Casey and her news reporting)

New York and Fordham Memories” – collected on the Casey Feldman Memories site

Monique John Recipient of 2012 Fordham University Casey Feldman Scholarship

Fordham Observer Scholarship Recipients Attend Associated Collegiate Press Conferences (article about Jasper Chang and Harry Huggins)

The Observer

Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC)

Casey’s College Friend Speaks at Her High School Alma Mater on Distracted Driving

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Brooke Burdge speaking at her high school

By Brooke Burdge

On Friday, April 27, I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater, Communications High School, in Wall Twp., N.J. to speak to over 150 juniors and seniors on the topic of distracted driving. My presentation was one of over a thousand that took place in April as part of End Distracted Driving’s (EndDD.org) campaign for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

It was a great experience to be able to help educate young drivers on the various issues associated with distracted driving. At the same time, it was challenging, since I knew the reason I was standing at the front of the room was because of my close connection to this topic– that I lost one of my closest college friends, Casey Feldman, as a result of distracted driving.

I opened up the presentations by introducing the campaign and explaining how big of a difference this program is making in just its first year.  I then gave the background for the presentation, and described Joel Feldman as the inspiration and told Casey’s story.  It was at this point that I showed a few pictures of Casey and I together, and let the students know my connection to this topic.

Brooke (L) and Casey

I was impressed by how focused and engaged the students of CHS were. They actively participated, answering my questions and sharing their stories.  CHS is a “magnet school”– a career academy that draws selected students from across the county.  Many students have long drives to school and to visit their friends from around the county.  I could see this was a topic that resonated with the students.

After my talks, a few students approached me and thanked me for speaking to them.  Some expressed their condolences for losing Casey.  Two girls even told me how they created their own PSA on distracted driving and recently submitted it into a contest.

The school principal graciously invited me back next year to speak again.  I hope to make this April presentation a yearly tradition. By continuing to share Casey’s story and raise awareness of distracted driving, we can help prevent tragedies from happening to others.

Related Links:

EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving)

Communications High School

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

U.S. Department of Transportation Commends Joel Feldman’s Efforts to End Distracted Driving

End Distracted Driving reaches out with safety message (U.S.DOT’s blog article with photos and video of Casey)

Casey Feldman Memories

Casey Feldman Network

 

Brooke Burdge Runs the NYC Marathon in Memory of Casey

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The back of Brooke's shirt

One of Casey’s best friends from Fordham University, Brooke Burdge, ran the NYC Marathon on Nov. 7, 2010 in Casey’s memory. The proceeds raised through the donations to Brooke’s race went to Back On My Feet, an organization that supports the homeless. Brooke completed her first marathon (26.2 miles) in an amazing 4 hours and 17 minutes!

According to Brooke in her pre-marathon reflection,” I think about Casey a lot when I run.  I guess it’s because of the overwhelming feeling I get that I am alive and present. Although she is not physically present with me each day, I still feel her with me and see signs of her…. I know I’d probably be getting a text from Casey before the marathon that said something along the lines of “Good luck, boo!!! You’re a beast!!”  And I know she’d be out in the crowd somewhere to watch and cheer me on…..  I won’t see her—but she’ll be there.”

 Brooke’s message immediately after the race: ” Lady Gaga played outside by a DJ at Mile 8… Casey!… Woman in front of me dressed in all pink as the Pink Panther at the start…

I had our picture on the back of my shirt… three other runners came up at different points and touched my shoulder and said “Caseys with you now”…

Touched her bracelets when I felt weak.  Felt a burst of energy at Miles 24-26…. 

Amazing amazing amazing day… happiest day of my life.”

View additional photos in the photo gallery on CaseyFeldmanMemories.org.

Casey Receives Honorary Diploma from Fordham University

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Casey's roommates: L to R Christina Halligan, Cassie Foote, Janine Repka, Kelsey Butler

On Saturday, May 22, 2010, Casey’s class of 2010 graduated from Fordham University. In addition to Casey being recognized by many of her classmates and friends with a single pink rose pinned to their graduation gowns, the University recognized her as well. Casey’s name appeared in the commencement program and she was remembered in prayer at the morning commencement for the entire University. At the separate diploma ceremony for the Fordham College Lincoln Center students in the afternoon, Casey was mentioned by the student speaker in the class address given by Dave de la Fuente. The first diploma awarded by Dean Grimes was to Casey, which was accepted by her parents. Dean Grimes and the Fordham University community lovingly acknowledged that Casey, one of their own, was not physically present on this memorable day, but was there in spirit to guide over and watch her fellow classmates and friends accept their diplomas.

View more photos of the graduation. Click  on the video below to watch Dean Grimes present Casey’s diploma.

Marie Larson and Brooke Burdge each wearing one of Casey's dresses under their graduation gowns

Casey's parents Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson accepting Casey's dipolma from Deans Grimes and Greif

Casey's dipolma

Scholarship Recipient Brooke Burdge Recognized as Featured Volunteer at Animal Haven in NYC

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Casey Feldman Network site administrator, Brooke Burdge is the “Featured Volunteer” this month at Animal Haven in NYC. As many of you know, Casey and Brooke were friends and used to volunteer together at Animal Haven, taking the dogs out for much needed walks and giving love to all of the pets sheltered there, including the kitties. Despite
a hectic schedule between her studies, internship, working as a waitress and administering the Network site (CaseyFeldmanNetwork.org), Brooke has continued to make the time to volunteer with the animals. The photo of Brooke selected by the shelter for their feature of Brooke is one of Brooke holding the “Casey puppy”. Shortly after Casey’s death, a spirited black puppy arrived at the shelter and was named Casey, in Casey’s memory. Fortunately, this loving little pup was quickly adopted. Maybe our Casey helped orchestrate that adoption! When told that our Casey was probably smiling on this recent honor bestowed upon Brooke, as featured volunteer, Brooke responded, “She would get a kick out of this. I always wanted to be in that newsletter! Haha!”

Congratulations Brooke! Thanks you for your tieless efforts on behalf of all of the animals that you helped, including those at Animal Haven.

Note: To view the video of Brooke at Animal Haven shelter talking about her experience volunteering there with Casey,  click here and fast forward to 4:51 minutes into the Remembering Casey DVD. Read the previous post on Brooke Burdge’s award of a Foundation scholarship . Give other deserving young people opportunities and contribute to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation .

Foundation Scholarship Recipients Recognized at Fordham Awards Banquet

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Brooke Burdge (left), Joel Feldman, Dianne Anderson and Ashley Wennersherron at the Senior Leadership Awards Banquet

Fordham University recognized Brooke Burdge  and Ashley Wennersherron at the Senior Leadership Awards banquet held on April 27, 2010  in the Atrium at  the Lincoln Center campus. Brooke and Ashley were recognized  as the first  recipients of the Casey A. Feldman Memorial Scholarship which was established at Fordham University, where Casey was a senior at the time of her death. Brooke and Ashley were both friends of Casey and had worked with her on the  Fordham student newspaper, The Observer. Rev. Michael Tueth, S.J., Associate Chair of the Department of Communications and Media recognized the recipients. In noting just a few of the many impressive undertakings of these  fine young women, Father Tueth  mentioned that both Brooke and Ashley made time in their schedule to do volunteer work with animals (something  also dear to Casey’s heart).

Both women received a $2,000 scholarship this semester from the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to assist with finances while performing unpaid internships. Brooke interned in the Sales and Marketing Department of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Central Park. Ashley interned at CNN in the Medical News Department. Brooke hopes to secure full time employment with The Ritz upon graduation and Ashley will be attending Columbia University doing graduate work in journalism. [See the Foundation’s previous news article, “Congratulations Brooke and Ashley!” ,1-14-10, for more information.]

Ashley also received  the University’s  Journalism Award and Brooke, an award as nominee for a Senior Leadership Award.

[Note: Watch the video of Father Tueth recognizing Brooke and Ashley and see more photos from the awards banquet . Give other deserving young people opportunities and contribute to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.

The Feldmans Meet With CU Alternative Spring Break Students in NYC

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

CU students, The Feldmans and Casey's Fordham roommate,Christina Halligan preparing meals at God's Love We Deliver on 3-24-10. Right front -scholarship recipient, Tsion Zergaw.

This week the students at The University of Colorado at Boulder are on spring break, where many have chosen to do an “alternative” break, volunteering their time in community service projects throughout the nation. Seven CU students received scholarships through the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation enabling them to participate in the “Alternative Spring Break” program this year.

Casey’s parents, Dianne Anderson and Joel Feldman met up with the twelve CU students who are volunteering in NYC this week at “God Love, We Deliver”, an organization that prepares and delivers some 3,200 meals per week to those living with HIV/Aids, cancer and other serious illnesses who are too sick to provide meals for themselves. The Feldman’s were able to spend an afternoon volunteering with these dedicated young people and meet scholarship recipient, Tsion Zergaw.  Casey’s Fordham University roommate, Christina Halligan, who would volunteer with Casey at Momentum Soup Kitchen, joined in on Wednesday to help out between classes. Casey’s Fordham friend, Brooke Burdge, who was interning for the day, met up with the Feldmans and the students for a dinner at the end of the day.

Note: A full story on all of the trips and the impact of the experience on the students and scholarship recipients will be forthcoming. To see more photos from this trip visit CaseyFeldmanNetwork.org and view the album, “God’s Love We Deliver – NYC Alternative Spring Break Volunteers“.

Congratulations Brooke and Ashley!

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Brooke & Casey at a Fordham Alumni Event in June 2008

Congratulations are in order for Brooke Burdge and Ashley WennersHerron, both seniors at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, who are the first recipients of the Casey Feldman Award.

Both women are friends of Casey and are fellow Communication students who have worked with Casey on the Fordham Lincoln Center newspaper, The Observer. The award is funded by the Casey A. Feldman Memorial Endowed Fund, and will provide support for the recipients, who are each pursuing a degree in Communication and Media Studies. 

This year, as a tribute to Casey’s graduating class, the award was given to two students, who will each receive $2000. With the financial support of the fund, the recipients are able to take advantage of an unpaid internship in their area of interest in the Communications field.

In the upcoming spring semester, Brooke will be interning at The Ritz-Carlton Central Park as the marketing and sales assistant for the

Ashley & Casey at the ACP’s National College Journalism Convention Mar. 2008

entertainment division Her duties will include market research for upcoming events in NYC as well as research and analysis on other New York luxury hotels in the Ritz-Carlton competitive set. Brooke will also be providing customer service and sales assistance  for potential clients and current guests. 

Ashley will be interning for the second consecutive semester in the medical unit at CNN. She will continue contributing to Paging Dr. Gupta”, Sanjay Gupta’s CNN blog, and researching in the edit bay. Additionally, she will begin associate producing packages for broadcast and writing articles for cnn.com/health.