The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Central and South Jersey Affiliate hosted a cocktail reception at the Governor’s Mansion-Drumthwacket on May 18 to honor this year’s recipients of the Spirit of Jane Rodney Award.

Jonathan R. Pearson, community relations executive, and Greg Visicaro, event marketing consultant, both of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, received the award for their impact on the breast cancer community through their accomplishments, leadership, inspiration and dedication to the fight against breast cancer.

Rodney, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, was instrumental in bringing the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation New Jersey Race for the Cure to New Jersey in 1994. Before her death, in 2002, she made it her mission to educate women about the importance of early detection and to help those who had already been diagnosed (www.komencsnj.org).

Over 300 guests attended the event with over 70 volunteers. Through ticket sales, silent auction, and live auctions, the affiliate raised $100,000, $30,000 more than last year. In a project that raised more than $6,000, attendees “bought” $100 mammograms for women who could not otherwise afford one.

Approximately 2,000 people participated in the March of Dimes’ WalkAmerica event, Rangeela 2006, at Mercer County Park, helping to raise more than $422,000 in support of March of Dimes’ efforts to save babies from premature birth. Vijay Deshpande of Plainsboro, an agent with Allstate New Jersey, played a role in the fundraising effort.

As the March of Dimes’ biggest annual fund-raiser, WalkAmerica aids the fight against prematurity — a growing crisis that affects half a million babies born in the United States every year (www.marchofdimes.com).

According to event organizers, the number of babies born prematurely each year has increased by 30 percent since 1983. In New Jersey more than 14,000 babies are born prematurely every year. Some of those babies die; others face lifelong disability. The money raised during Rangeela 2006 and other WalkAmerica events support research and programs to find out how to prevent premature births and how to help families who experience it.

As part of the 40th anniversary celebration for Hillier Architecture, Hillier staffers picked up hammers, donned safety goggles, and got their hands dirty on June 17 to help the Trenton Chapter of Habitat for Humanity build three new homes on North Clinton Avenue in Trenton. Melinda Sherwood, Carl Counts, Enis Piskiner, and Gwen McNamara erected interior walls and cleared construction debris from the site, which will eventually hold a single family home and duplex.

“As architects and as a firm, one of the things we strive to do is improve the communities around us, and, subsequently, raise the quality of life of people everywhere,” said J. Robert Hillier, founder and chairman of the board of Princeton-based Hillier Architecture in a press release. “As busy as we can get, we rarely get an opportunity to take that vision and commitment out of the office and into our neighborhoods, where we can work with our hands and hearts, not just our minds.”

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