Menu

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]

 

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)

Fordham Observer Scholarship Recipients Attend Associated Collegiate Press Conferences

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

By Dianne L. Anderson

Harry Huggins, The Observer’s 2011 Recipient

With scholarship stipends from the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, two students from Fordham University’s Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) were able to attend the 2011 and 2012 Associated Collegiate Press  (ACP) conferences. Both students are staff members of The Observer, the student newspaper at FCLC, where Casey was News Editor at the time of her death.

Casey was able to attend the San Francisco conference in 2008 and the scholarships in memory of Casey enable at least one student each year to attend this very informative and educational journalism conference from which Casey learned a great deal. The Observer won Best of Show both years for a four year non weekly newspaper and Best of Show this year for their website.

Harry Huggins, a native of Illinois and junior at FCLC, attended the 2011 conference in Los Angeles. Like Casey, his major is Communication and Media Studies with a concentration in Journalism.   Harry has been a staff member of The Observer since his freshman year, occupying the position of Opinions Editor for the last two years.  Harry has just been selected as Editor-in-Chief for next year. Reportedly “passionate about journalism”,  Harry’s  goal is to someday be an “editor … somewhere!”

In expressing his gratitude for the scholarship stipend, Harry reported that his time at the conference gave him the ideas and advice from media professionals that ignited his drive to turn The Observer into a modern online news source. According to Harry, “With the tips I got at the conference, we are now focusing on multimedia content and breaking news reporting to better serve the Fordham community.”

In addition to his work on The Observer, Harry  is interning this semester with MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. After studying in London last year and copy editing the party newspaper for the Liberal Democrat party, Harry interned with MSNBC’s Morning Joe upon his return to New York.  Back home in Chicago last summer Harry served as the Community Producer of the Chicago Tribune’s branch of hyperlocal websites, TribLocal.  His passion for journalism however, extends back to his pre-college years where Mr. Huggins was an Arts and Entertainment reporter for his high school newspaper and the Features Editor, senior year.

An honors student, Harry was also one of the coordinators of Fordham’s Emerging Leaders club last year and an Orientation Leader, positions that Harry stated also “fulfilled my love of leading others.”

Jasper Chang The Observer’s 2012 Recipient

A native of Staten Island, Jasper Chang received this year’s scholarship stipend to attend the ACP conference in Seattle. Also a junior at FCLC, Mr. Chang is an English major with a minor in Creative Writing and has been this year’s Assistant Sports Co-Editor of The Observer. Fluent in Cantonese, Mr. Chang is also an accomplished gymnast and has worked part time during college teaching gymnastics to young people.

In addition to writing for The Observer, Jasper has worked in NYC for FoodFan Inc. as a Social Media Intern where he photographed NYC restaurants’ food and drink items for upload on FoodFan’s social networks, wrote critical reviews on NYC’s cultural cuisines, assisted in maintenance and update of FoodFan’s Facebook page and managed and updated FoodFan’s Boston Twitter.

Currently the Editorial Intern at Marvel Entertainment in NYC, Jasper’s duties include reviewing and revising master scripts for grammatical errors, organization and coherent storylines.

With an interest in broadcast journalism, Jasper reported that his experience at the ACP Journalism Conference was “certainly worth remembering”.  According to Jason, “The sessions I attended were very informative and gave me a different perspective on how to produce news, create multimedia content, and write articles. I thank the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation for granting me this engaging and informative experience that has deepened my understanding of the world of journalism.”

Related Links:

Associated Collegiate Press

Fordham University’s Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC)

The Observer  (Student Newspaper of FCLC)