Pinelands Community Raises More Than $5,000 to ‘Love the Levines’

By DAVID BIGGY | Apr 03, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Nolan Rollison leads the way around the new track at Pinelands Regional High School, as he and hundreds of other students and staff participate in a run-a-thon fundraiser to help the Levine family of Manahawkin on March 27.

Nolan Rollison was just one of hundreds running or walking on the brand new track surrounding the football field at Pinelands Regional High School on March 27, and that fact wasn’t lost on him.

“Well, at least we know the track can hold up with this many people on it,” he mused, as some 350 Wildcats of varying kinds – from athletes to National Honor Society students to teachers and staff members – showed up to give some of their time to raise funds for a family in need. “But with everyone on the track, it looks great. We’re a community that cares about others.”

“A ’Cat Community that Cares” may have a catchy sound to it, but what really caught fire was the idea that, for as little or big a donation as he or she could make, a student or staff member could simply run or walk for a half-hour and help make a big impact.

“This is for a good cause, and all you have to do is walk a little bit,” said sophomore Mayia Raptakis, sporting a throwback “Star Wars” baseball cap. “I only donated $20, not too much, but with all of us putting in something it really adds up. The important thing was that we came together to help somebody.”

Pinelands staffer Amy Martelli was blown away by the amount of support.

“We have a lot of kids and faculty members out here, and all the support we’ve had so far today has been heartwarming,” said Martelli, the event’s co-coordinator and a friend of Stafford Township resident Maryann Levine, who along with her husband, Gregory, recently sustained multiple injuries in a car accident. In addition to several other serious injuries, Maryann had to have both legs amputated.

“We had our dress-down day within the district, and that typically brings in about $130,” she said. “But today, combined with the Crazy Hat Day for students, we’ve raised almost $2,800 for the Levine family, and that’s just outstanding.”

While teachers were able to dress down during school hours for a $3 donation, the “Love the Levines” fundraising effort featured all sorts of wacky head gear for students – Raptakis wore Planet Hollywood, Pokemon, Marvel and the aforementioned “Star Wars” hats piled on top of each other, while Rollison and several track and field teammates wore band uniform hats – who each donated $1 to do so. After school, the girls track and field and National Honor Society groups hosted the “Run-a-Thon.”

Girls tennis coach Sarah Ervin, whose 7-year-old daughter Alayna joined in with the activity because she “likes to run and get her energy out,” brought along her crew of players for the effort.

“It’s important for them to realize that giving back and being generous and caring toward others is always a good thing,” Ervin said. “Maybe someday they’ll be in need of something and the community will have to rally around them. Doing this helps a local family in need at the moment, and it’s nice to see such a big turnout from our entire school.”

Girls track and cross-country coach Holly Egan, who also helped coordinate the event, said the turnout was exactly what she expected.

“All the other coaches I talked to were on board as soon as I told them about it,” she said. “And it’s not a surprise that we have a lot of athletes out here, all wearing their team gear to represent their programs. I see the turnout and the enthusiasm everybody had for this, and it looks like to me that they get it – that it’s important to them to help a family in need.”

Later in the day, anybody who mentioned the fundraiser while dining at Mickey’s Port of Call helped contribute to the cause as well. Mickey’s donated part of its evening sales to the effort, which ultimately raised more than $5,000.

“The George J. Mitchell and Frog Pond schools also had dress-down and crazy-hat days, and we’re waiting for a few other teams, which couldn’t make it for the run-a-thon, to send in their donations,” Egan said. “But overall, it’s been a great week of giving and we’re really happy with how it all turned out.”

Martelli said she recently spoke with Maryann Levine and she was overwhelmed by the amount of support the family was receiving from the Pinelands community.

“Maryann’s heart is so full of gratitude right now,” Martelli said. “She sometimes gets discouraged, but this kind of support definitely lifts her up. She’s been through a lot so far, but her spirits are high. She’s just grateful for all the support.”

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