Mark your calendars! Every year since Valentine’s Day 1998, the Maplewood Rotary Club has celebrated February with its Affair of the Heart Gala benefiting the Gift of Life New Jersey.
This year's event on Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Woman's Club will feature the recipient of the Rotary's Citizenship Award — Thomas Kerns of the HK Community Fund. The award is given to an individual who lives by the Rotary International motto “Service Above Self” — a person who goes above and beyond in their personal efforts to make Maplewood and the surrounding communities a better place to live.
Kerns, a native New Jersian, and his wife Jeanmarie Hargrave moved to Maplewood in 1995 with their three daughters. After a long and successful career on Wall Street, Tom recently retired and he and his wife Jeanmarie launched the HK Community Fund of Maplewood and South Orange in 2009. The Fund has as its motto “Enhancing the Sense of Belonging and Unity."
The HK Community Fund focuses on four areas: Education, Cultural Affairs, Teenage Activism and supporting families during personal emergencies. In addition to his work with the HK Community Fund, Kerns has been actively involved with the Maplewood/South Orange Girls Softball program for many years and is a member of the Columbia High School Cougar Boosters Board of Trustees.
This year's Affair of the Heart event plans to bring together more than 150 Rotarians, local supporters, family and friends to celebrate the joys of charitable giving and volunteerism and to support the Rotary's Gift of Life programs. The evening includes a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, buffet dinner catered by Diana Hart, and live entertainment provided by Lisa Rott and her band.
Proceeds from the evening primarily go to support the club’s involvement in the district’s Gift of Life Program. Gift of Life Inc., NJ is a regional charity operated solely by volunteer Rotarians from District 7470. It organizes, sponsors and hosts children from under-developed countries who are in dire need of life saving heart operations. The surgeries are performed at hospitals in the United States, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and through medical missions abroad to countries such as Belarus, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Hungary among others. The local Rotary also provides support to the international Rotary’s Polio Eradication campaign and the Rotoplast program that provides children around the globe with cleft palate surgeries.
As of December 2008, GOL Inc., NJ had sponsored more than 1,000 children in its 22 years of service. The Maplewood Rotary has sponsored 8 of these children for life saving surgeries in the U.S. and helped fund several overseas missions, saving dozens of more young lives.
In 2009, through the generous support of those that have attended the Affair of the Heart, the Maplewood Rotary donated $30,000 to Gift of Life as the sole sponsor of a mission to the Dominican Republic. This mission, which successfully operated on 20 children, was headed-up by Dr. Joanne Starr, a former Maplewoodian. In 2010, the club sponsored another mission to the Dominican Republic donating $10,000 to help pay for an International Children’s Heart Foundation medical team to operate on another 18 children.
The 14th annual Affair of the Heart event will be held on Saturday, February 26, 2011, at the Maplewood Woman’s Club, starting with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. For more information on this event and Gift of Life, please contact Rick Porter, Co-Chairperson, Gift of Life at firstname.lastname@example.org, Steve Gussen at email@example.com, or Caroline Gosselin at firstname.lastname@example.org.