MAHWAH, N.J. (AP) - The sweethearts of three Camden County
firefighters killed trying to save children are among this year's
winners of the Russ Berrie Award for Making A Difference.
The Russell Berrie Foundation distributed 19 cash awards during
a ceremony Tuesday at Ramapo College in Mahwah. Winners were chosen
by a committee of business leaders and professionals from nearly
270 nominees.
The top award of $50,000 will be shared by families of Thomas G.
Stewart III of Gloucester City and James E. Sylvester and John
West, both of Mount Ephraim. They died trying to rescue three
children from a burning house in Gloucester City on July 4, 2002.
The children did not survive.
The awards were accepted by widow Angela West, and Danielle
Ruggiero, Stewart's fiancee. Marilyn Sylvester, who did not attend,
will receive hers by mail.
A $35,000 award went to retired physical therapist Roberta
Vickery of Pine Beach. Blind since birth, she founded the Ocean
County Volunteers for the Blind in 1968 to provide taped and
Braille materials.
School crossing guard Frances Jackson of Jersey City received a
$25,000 award for pushing three children out of the way of a
vehicle, which then struck her; she suffered neck, head and
abdominal injuries.
The awards were created in 1997 by businessman and
philanthropist Russ Berrie, founder of gift and novelty retailer
Russ Berrie and Company Inc. of Oakland. Berrie died on Christmas
Day 2002.
"Russ wanted to create an award specifically for unsung heroes
- people who really make a difference by dedicating their lives to
improving life or helping others," said Angelica Berrie, who
succeeded her husband as the company's chief executive officer and
is president of The Russell Berrie Foundation.
The foundation also distributed 16 runner-up awards of $2,500.
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Russ Berrie is headquartered in this FF's hometown of Oakland, NJ.