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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]

 

Foundation scholarship enables Fordham student to pursue dream internship at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art

Monday, December 15th, 2014

By Kelsey Butler*

Jessica Wendroff

Jessica Wendroff

For one Fordham University photography student, her college experience became slightly more picture perfect when she got the chance to pursue a dream internship. Jessica Wendroff, a double major in communication and media studies with a concentration in film, and visual arts with a concentration in photography, was able to achieve her goal of interning at the Museum of Modern Art in New York after winning the Casey A. Feldman Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship was established at Fordham University where Casey was a senior at the time of her death, to assist students with finances so that they could gain valuable experience in their field by taking advantage of internship opportunities. Without the $2500 stipend, Jessica would have had to forgo the unpaid internship at the museum for part-time employment to help cover college expenses.

Jessica was able to spend her time at the Museum of Modern Art this past spring researching, organizing and correcting images for exhibits.  According to Jessica, “I was able to solely focus on my internship and thoroughly enjoy and absorb it, instead of having to juggle work and the experience.  The money helped fund my transportation and food, as well as allow me to buy a small subscription of Photoshop, so that I could practice what was being taught to me from home.  I was also able to buy more memory cards and camera equipment so that I could take more photographs and with better quality.”

Jessica Wendroff and Fordham professor & mentor to Casey, Dr. Elizabeth Stone at the Fordham Sr. Leadership Awards Banquet

Jessica Wendroff and Fordham professor & mentor to Casey, Dr. Elizabeth Stone at the Fordham Sr. Leadership Awards Banquet

Jessica, who graduated from Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in 2014, and has just completed travels to various countries to take street photographs, said her time at the school has given her experiences that she intends to carry with her in her career and beyond.

These include serving as an orientation leader and darkroom assistant at the university, as well as participating in Fordham’s Emerging Leaders program. Additionally, Jessica has volunteered at Free Arts NYC, which provides arts-based mentoring programs for young people.

She adds that the internship and award have also had a profound impact on her:

I am extremely grateful for having been granted this opportunity and have nothing but warm thoughts and gratitude for the Feldman family,” she said. “I feel that the experience helped move from where I wanted to be to where I needed to be and was definitely a catalyst for growth, both visually and intellectually. All in all, the experience helped carve an intern into a tech-savvy career woman with a heightened aesthetic sense and judgment. I am eternally appreciative for having an experience that not only bettered my resume, but my mind and the way I view the world and photography.

Fordham Professor Stephen Kalisky said Jessica stood out in his effective speaking class and called her “one of the true delights” of the semester because of her sense of humor and impressive work ethic.

“I often say that regardless of where they start, I want all of my students to move 10 feet forward during their semester with me,” he wrote in a recommendation letter. “Jessica leaped and bound past 10 feet. I haven’t encountered many students who overcame their blocks with such efficiency and determination.”

Please make a donation to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that additional students may experience their dream internship.

____________________________________________

*casey & kelseyKelsey Butler was one of Casey’s best friends and roommate at Fordham University. She works as a financial journalist in New York.

 

Foundation Sends Fordham Students to National College Newspaper Convention

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

 

L to R: Gabby Linzer, Rob Beatson, Casey Feldman, Craig Calefate, and Ashley WennersHerron at the convention in San Francisco, February 2008

As a result of a generous donation from the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, three students on the Fordham Observer staff  had the opportunity to attend the Associated Collegiate Press’ (ACP’s) 26th annual National College Journalism Convention in Phoenix, Arizona from  February 25 – 28, 2010. Stefanie Wheeler,  Assistant Online Editor, Anndrew Vacca, News Editor, and Liz Bowen, Opinions Co-Editor, were the recipients of the funds. They attended the conference  along with Assistant Features Editors Beata Cherapakhina and Faith Heaphy, whose  trips were funded  through the Observer.

The Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), is the oldest and largest national membership organizations for college student journalists with more than 20,000 students staffing ACP college member publications. This year’s four day convention in Phoenix consisted of idea-packed keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, displays and critiques  from some of the best journalists,  advisors and students in the country. It ended Sunday with the presentation of the Best of Show Awards.  This year, the Observer won second place for Best of Show for a four-year college, non-weekly newspaper, and first place in the multimedia package category.  Out of an entire nation of college newspapers – way to go Fordham Observer!

All of the students expressed their gratitude to the Foundation for the opportunity to attend the convention.  According to one of those students, Stephanie Wheeler, “I cannot begin to describe how inspirational, educational, and uplifting the Associated Collegiate Press Journalism Conference in Phoenix was this past weekend. I am so blessed and grateful….Without your help, I would not have been able to afford the expenses on my own. The trip was a reconfirmation that I am pursuing a career in a field that I feel extremely passionate about. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the most honorable and innovative professionals in the Journalism field and I have taken back with me a handful of learning tools that will be beneficial to me in my future endeavors as well as to others who I plan to share my newfound knowledge with….I will never forget everything I learned about journalism and myself….”

Casey with Gabby, being interviewed by another college newspaper. The interviewer becomes the interviewee!

Intent on pursuing a career in Journalism, Casey joined The Observer soon after arriving at Fordham University, getting her first news bylines as a freshman, becoming an assistant news editor as a sophomore and news editor as a junior. She was returning as news editor for her senior year at the time of her accident in July 2009. Casey was one of the students who was able to attend the ACP convention in San Francisco in February 2008 as a sophomore.

Ashley WennersHerron, currently Editor- in- Chief of the Observer, who attended the conference with Casey, recalled the group joking in San Francisco about the abundance of complimentary coffee. “It was like all of the students were competing to drink more coffee in order to be more ‘journalistic,'” Ashley said. In typical Casey fashion, she used her acting chops to expertly imitate a caffeinated reporter trying to conduct an interview.

According to Dianne Anderson, Casey’s mother, “I remember how honored and excited Casey was when she was told that she was chosen to attend the conference and what a rewarding experience it turned out to be for her. Casey was extremely proud of the fact The Observer won first place in “Best of Show” that year for a four-year college, non-weekly newspaper. She was really disappointed that she and all Observer staff members could not attend annually because of limited funding. We knew immediately when we established the Foundation that Casey would be so pleased if we could enable more students to benefit from attending this outstanding annual conference.”

Give other deserving young people opportunities and contribute to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation . Go to the Memories site and read Casey’s articles published in the Fordham Observer. See more photographs from Casey’s 2008 San Francisco trip with the Observer.

Pushing the Limits: One Student Sprints Towards Success

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Kayleigh Taylor,  of  Fordham University was inspired by Casey to run the Vancouver marathon to raise funds for blood cancer research for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS).  Kayleigh met Casey in the summer of 2006 at college orientation. “…the sweet girl I had met three years prior… accomplished more in her 21 years than many people do in a lifetime….The dedication of … teammates and my memories of Casey have given me reason to rise out of bed early Saturday mornings for long runs and the courage to push myself to limits I never thought possible….’

Read Kayleigh’s article published in the Fordham Observer on March 3, 2010 below:

Kayleigh Taylor, FCLC ’10, is working towards her goal of $4000 as she prepares to run a marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Last week while the rest of the northeast enjoyed a beautiful snowfall, New York City endured hours of freezing rain. I decided to run to practice, hoping to make the commute less painful. I shoved my ear buds through the lining of my inside pocket, and tried to zone out Manhattan as I soared as quickly as possible through a cloud of frantic umbrellas. By the time I arrived, I was completely drenched. As soon as I stopped running, my body temperature plummeted and I realized just how cold it was. I ducked under Bethesda Terrace to wait for my team and wondered if anyone else would be crazy enough to show up. In retrospect, it was silly to have doubts, my team is just as hardcore and dedicated to this cause as I am.

What cause, your asking? I am training this winter with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training to run the Vancouver Marathon. Team in Training provides its participants with expert coaches and training clinics, and in return, each participant agrees to fundraise a certain minimum for blood cancer research. My minimum requirement is $3,900, but I am really hoping to break $4,000!

I made the commitment to the LLS after the death of Casey Feldman this summer. I wasn’t a close friend of Casey’s, but she happened to be the very first person I met at Fordham at our Summer Orientation in 2006. Casey and I were placed in the same small group, so we spent the day together: listening to the information session, playing icebreakers and going on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood (which we won!). I remember the day very clearly, the things we discussed and my first impressions of my peers. While we walked around the city scouting take-out menus and Trump Hotel pens, Casey and I talked about leaving our high school boyfriends, our potential new roommates and the things we would miss about our hometowns. I was deeply affected by Casey’s death and monitored, somewhat obsessively, the developments her parents and friends made on her Web site.

I was comforted to discover that the sweet girl I had met three years prior had accomplished more in her 21 years than many people do in a lifetime. But I was also frightened to realize that life is so fragile, and that at any moment dreams can be taken away from us.

In October, I discovered that Casey’s parents had created a networking Web site encouraging Casey’s friends, family and peers to give back to the community and live life more fully. I decided immediately that I wanted to take action. Running is one of my strongest passions, and for a few years I had been tempted by the Team in Training program. The fundraising requirement is intimidating, for lack of a better word, so I planned to postpone joining until after graduation. But after perusing Casey’s site that night, I knew that it couldn’t wait, and the next evening, I went to a Team in Training information session and signed up.

Since registration, I have been in contact with Casey’s parents and friends. The pink commemorative bracelet they gave me helps me remember everyday why I’m training and striving to help the community. I have shared Casey’s story with my teammates, and many have shared their own stories with me. Some are blood cancer survivors, while others run in honor of a friend or family member. The dedication of these teammates and my memories of Casey have given me reason to rise out of bed early Saturday mornings for long runs and the courage to push myself to limits I never thought possible.

Thus far, my training has gone very well. I’m almost ready to conquer the 26.2 miles! Likewise, my friends and family have been very generous and I have reached the 50 percent mark in my fundraising. But I still have a long way to go! On March 6, I will be hosting an open bar fundraiser from 10 p.m.to 1 a.m. at Cinema Brasserie (45th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues). Everyone is welcome to attend! The cost of the open bar will be $25 for three hours and we will also have some games and raffles.

There was a time, not long so long ago, when I thought completing a marathon was an unrealistic goal for me. I loved running, but I never thought I’d find the time or energy to devote myself to such a rigorous training schedule. After receiving inspiration to take on the challenge and experiencing such tremendous success, I realize that the most restricting limits in life are the ones we place on ourselves. Everyday is a new opportunity, and those who are willing to embrace both spontaneity and discipline will live a truly full and happy life. I have found that there is a certain unmatchable joy in testing limits and in taking on a goal that seems unattainable. I challenge you to do the same.

http://www.fordhamobserver.com/pushing-the-limits-one-student-sprints-towards-success-1.2177686