SPOTSWOOD, NJ – Santa Claus came early for a borough family, delivering a very special surprise to Alison, Benjamin, Colin and Dylan Shornock on December 16. The family will be heading to Disney World for an all-expense paid vacation courtesy of the Mama Mare Foundation and the Jilly Bean Dream Trip Award Program.
A contingent of elves comprised of family, friends and people touched by the Mama Mare Foundation gathered outside the Shornock’s Spotswood home shortly before noon yesterday. The group began a chorus of “Jingle Bells” before launching into “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”
Santa really did come to town, arriving with a big bag of goodies for the family complete with luggage, Mickey Mouse ears and Disney tees. Dale Gregorin was Mama Mare’s noteworthy Santa. Gregorian, whose daughter Jill lost her fight with breast cancer two summers ago, read a personally prepared poem, announcing the Shornock’s holiday gift. He, his wife and children teamed up with the Mama Mare Foundation to form the Jilly Bean Dream Trip Award Program after losing Jill.
Tears filled Alison Shornock’s eyes as she listened in disbelief to the poem. The very special present coincided with Shornock’s upcoming birthday to make the timing of the present even better. Shornock was diagnosed with breast cancer last December. The teacher and mom endured an extremely challenging year that included surgical and chemotherapy treatments at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. It was during her year of hell that Shornock came to know the people and the huge hearts behind the Mama Mare Foundation.
The Mama Mare Foundation was founded in 2010 by Krista Kasper. Kasper founded the Mama Mare Foundation in memory of her mother, Mary Ellen Pernice. Pernice lost her hard-fought battle with breast cancer in 2009. The Mama Mare Foundation offers assistance to breast cancer patients and their families.
“We offer a Hair to Heal program, which covers the costs of wigs for patient's whose insurance denies them,” Kasper explained. “We also just launched a program where we partnered with Eat Clean Bro to offer nutritious meals to families who are currently battling breast cancer. Another new program sets up house cleaning for people who are in active treatment. We also have a financial aid program that helps to eliminate medical debt as well as a travel program that sends patients and their families on dream vacations! At Robert Wood Johnson University hospital, we offer a complimentary massage program for in patients, out patients and their families.”
Typically, the organization delivers two trips a year to families that have battled breast cancer. There is an application process that families must complete in order to be considered. Shornock filled out the application, but never thought the family would receive the dream trip, describing herself as not being the luckiest person in the world.
“It is difficult to choose and we try to gift as many trips as our funds allow,” Kasper continued when asked how they make the tough choice. “Typically two per year and it's more of a first come, first serve type of a process. Some stories really pull at the heart when you hear what a difficult time these people are going through and you just want to be able to give them a piece of happiness and something fabulous to look forward to!”
“I’m a little speechless right now,” Shornock said when asked about receiving the dream trip for her and her family. “Jill (Thaisz) put me in contact with the Mama Mare Foundation when I first got diagnosed. It has just been one support after another that helped me get through it.”
Thaisz a fellow Spotswood resident was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She and her family were the recipients of the Mama Mare Foundation’s My Happy Place trip in 2015.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Shornock continued. “I just said this the other day to my parents. Getting diagnosed was obviously the worst thing that could have happened to me, but the people that I have met along the way; the friendships that I’ve made through cancer, is something you can’t understand unless you are going through it. Strangers that are just there for you and willing to help you.”
Shornock thanked Thaisz for introducing her to the Mama Mare Foundation before giving her a heartfelt hug. Thaisz spoke to Shornock about paying the kindness forward to others facing the breast cancer battle.
When the next dream trip is awarded to a breast cancer survivor, Shornock will most certainly be among the growing group of people touched by the kindness, compassion and generosity of the Mama Mare Foundation as is Thaisz.
Kasper’s mother, Mary Ellen dedicated her life to helping others. The Mama Mare Foundation is Kasper’s way of keeping her mother’s life goal alive. For more information on the Mama Mare Foundation and the groups' numerous fundraising endeavors throughout the year, visit their website.