Sussex County News

Sparta High School Students Visited by Modern Day Hero

3d953f6a8e07fa1d606e_IMG_3006.JPG
Boe Leslie, Kailen, Gillian Lichota and Laykelyn in the media center at Sparta High School Credits: Jennifer Dericks
c60d6f1fc1d054eaca4a_IMG_3008.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
7e0bff056189b2e27399_IMG_3010.JPG
iRise Above Foundation Gillian Lichota and English teacher Andrew Lowery Credits: Jennifer Dericks
fe657181c8a44d5c1bf7_IMG_3019.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
e23f2ae21991dca26030_IMG_3020.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
59210ceae57f5268dea2_IMG_3016.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
0b5043bc1a105276812f_IMG_3024.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
3d953f6a8e07fa1d606e_IMG_3006.JPG

SPARTA. NJ — The students in Andrew Lowery’s Heroes and Heroines senior English class had a special visitor last week. Gillian Lichota from iRise Above Breast Cancer foundation met with Lowery’s students and students from Kate Brennan’s Women’s Studies class as well as Emily Scott’s AP Government in Politics students.

The story of how Lichota came to be in Sparta is almost as remarkable as Lichota herself. Almost. Lowery and his wife had stayed at an Air B&B when visiting their son, Sean at the University of Delaware this past spring. Not so remarkable.

Out of curiosity while driving home, Suzanne Lowery looked at the profile of the owners of the property at which they had stayed. They learned that Lichota was a breast cancer survivor. But that was only the beginning. 

Sign Up for E-News

They learned she and her husband Boe Leslie, former professional hockey player, had started the iRise Foundation. The initiative is different from other cancer based organizations, however, much like the organization’s founders.

Lowery took Lichota’s story to his Heroes and Heroines class. They talked about how Lichota fit with the criteria the class had been developing as to “what makes a modern day hero.” According to Lowery, the class decided they wanted to do something to support the iRise Foundation.

When he reached out to Lichota to see what they could do, she turned the request around and asked if she could come to Sparta to speak with the students. Lichota and her husband and two children, Kailen and Laykelyn drove up and were staying at an Air B&B in Highland Lakes, just to speak with the Sparta High School students.

She began her remarks with a discussion of the word grit, including the idea that “it is a better predictor of achievement over IQ.”

She told the students she always envisioned herself as “a salmon, always traveling against the current.” She shared a bit about her childhood in Canada, showing by example that your history does not have to be a limitation to your future.

Lichota’s parents were divorced when she was four. Her mother had “progressive bipolar disorder and was very cruel,” and her father was a “raging alcoholic.” There was “no role model other than what I didn’t want to be.”

“My teachers and coaches rescued me,” LIchota said. She spent a lot of time in the stacks of the library “trying to stay away from my home life, using books to open my eyes to what things could be.”

Something as mundane as a resource from a fourth grade art project shaped who she would become, Lichota said. That was the first time she saw a National Geographic magazine. The first cover she saw was a woman holding an orangutan’s hand. Two others have stayed with her; a penguin wearing a geotracking vest and a diver getting ready to go beneath the sea ice. 

“They blew my mind and inspired me,” Lichota said. “I said, ‘I can do that.’”

She embarked on her own journey, eventually going to some of the locations she read about, including holding the hand of an orangutan in Borneo. She learned to dive “in all sorts of environments,” earning her PADI license to dive all over the world. 

“[Diving] is one of the few times you are forced to be in the moment,” she said.

She studies the migratory patterns of walruses using the same tracking devices she had seen on the penguin cover.

In January of 2006 she went to work for the “first ever Hero of the Environment, Sylvia Earle” in a study of the impact of global warming on the ice caps. She first “met” Earl “in National Geographic,” when Lichota was nine years old, pointing to Earl as having “influenced me the most to become a marine biologist.”

She told the students Marine Biology was her passion. She shared a story with the students about and encounter with her guidance counselor. He tried to dissuade her from the field by telling her she was “smart enough to be a doctor or a dentist or at the very least a science teacher.”

 “But that was not my passion,” Lichota said. She told the students she could not wait to go back and tell him about how she was the only English speaking person in the first joint U.S. Russian naval expedition in the arctic.

She had earned the Headmasters’ Trophy for being the top of her class academically. The award came with a full scholarship to any university of her choice. So she became a marine biologist.

 “Don’t give up on your passion,” Lichota said. “Don’t’ give up on your dreams.”

After university she took a year to solo back pack. “I love travel. I love submerging myself in other cultures,” Lichota said. “I encourage you to travel. Step out of your comfort zone.”

During that year Lichota said she became” more accepting of herself, learned to listen more and talk less and was humbled.” She returned wanting to give back, though she did not know what was next. She was “literally popping at the seams with passion,” wanting to inspire others to “be the change they want to see.”

Next for Lichota turned out to be jobs at the Smithsonian and NOAA in Washington D.C. as a researcher. She would work there for “about 20 years,” continuing to travel.

Lichota said she met the man of her dreams. “He got under my skin, challenged me. I was no princess who needed saving,” Lichota said. They got married. They got pregnant “after struggling with infertility” losing her first pregnancy before being pregnant with their first child.

Then in the second trimester she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She told the students the thought she had at that point was “this is super inconvenient for my life.”

Lichota told the students she embraced the phrase Sparta High School students had adopted with helping one of their fellow students who was battling cancer, “Be the Buffalo,” face the storm.

“I faced the storm head on for two years of radiation and multiple surgeries, including a mastectomy and chemotherapy while she was pregnant, to “save my life.”

“It was quite a juxtaposition; trying to nurture a new baby while trying to kill cancer,” Lichota said. Her mind and body had changed. She had to return to health and wellness. She set a goal to condition her body, mind and spirit to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, to “close one chapter of my life and open another.”

“The most cathartic moment was at the summit, after a six day accent,” Lichota said. “Sometimes the harder we fall, the farther we rise.”

During this time her oncologist reached out to her, asking her to meet with other young cancer patients. The average age of a breast-cancer patient is 62. Lichota said many of the issues that face young cancer patients are not considered or adequately addressed because it is more common to have cancer at an older age.

Some issues, she pointed out, include fertility, intimacy, child rearing. “You are modified when you have breast cancer … You kinda feel old and super tired.”

About a year ago Lichota found out she had metastatic breast cancer. “I was utterly depressed,” she said.

She told the students she spent three weeks in “a very dark place.” 

“I needed to work through the anger and sadness and ‘why me,’” she said. She told the students about a call she got from a friend at that point, asking her to go to the pool.

“I went to the pool and swam one kilometer in 23 minutes,” Lichota said. “I got out of the pool and I felt better. I decided I really want to change the paradigm of what it means to have had and have breast cancer. I wanted women to be empowered and inspired to help themselves.”

It was then they founded iRise Above foundation, “to help young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

This foundation differs from other breast cancer related foundations in that they “surround women with wellness options to build mind, body and spirit. We’re here to help.”

While early detection is much improved, with longer life expectancy, Lichota said, but there are not a lot of resources. With the foundation, they strive to “fill in the gaps.”

“We look to surround women, where ever they are in North America, with targeted support and at the end go on an epic adventure,” Lichota said. “It is about the journey more than the end.”

The foundation has partnered with large organizations including Johns Hopkins Medical Center and Underarmour.

“Cancer does not define me,” Lichota said. “I have taken rich experiences and passion for the natural world and for travel and married them to help women with breast cancer.”

She told the students “life is ten percent what happens to you and 90 percent what you do with it. We have choices. One person can change the world. Be the change you want to see.”

She closed by reminding the students to “follow your passion, that is where you will find your calling. That is where you will feel truly alive.”

Lowery said the class was still working on ideas to support the iRise Above Foundation. One promising initiative, suggested by students was a yoga-thon, though they are working on the details.

Students asked questions about her favorite animals- elephants and killer whales, the most beautiful place she been — “my heart is in Africa,” and her next goal — In November the family is headed to Patagonia with a two week trek through Argentina and Chili. In January, working with New Zealand partner Active Adventures developing “environmentally and socially friendly” trips, they will cycle on the South Islands and hike on the Milford track, kayak and Bungee in Queensland.” In April they will base camp at Mount Everest and then back to Kilimanjaro.

Those comments drew murmurs from the students. Lichota suggested student who were interested could look into the iVolunteer program through the foundation. Lowery suggested any students going to college next fall in the Washington D.C. area who were interested in the iRise Above foundation reach out to Lichota. 

“They are getting bigger,” Lowery said. “There may be internships available.”

Answering a question about unfinished work as a marine biologist, Lichota said “cancer is a real blow because it made me really tired so I had to step back. I would have loved to do more in the arctic.”

The final question from a student was about the most dangerous experience. After relating the encounter with a bull elephant she told the students “I believe in trusting your instincts. If you think it’s going to happen, it probably will.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Newton

Sparta Police: Two Injured in Car Versus Motorcycle Accident

July 16, 2018

SPARTA, NJ — An accident on Route 15 with a motorcycle and a car sent two people to the hospital. On July 12 Sparta police responded to the crash at the intersection of Route 15 and Wilson Drive around 6:37 p.m. police report.

According to police, while turning left on to Wilson Drive from Route 15 north, Carmen Emery of Highland Lakes cut in front of Richard Keim on a Harley-Davidson ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_50e2ca549a0aca1616bd_nj_blood_services

Sat, July 21, 7:45 AM

Saint Kateri Parish, Sparta

Sussex County Blood Drive

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, July 21, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_42776b9cbb4ed47ca5de_paintbrush-pallet-

Mon, July 23, 10:00 AM

Sparta Public Library, Sparta

Watercolor Workshop

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, July 24, 7:00 PM

Kinnelon Public Library, Kinnelon

Northern NJ Libertarian Party Monthly Meeting

Government

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, July 28, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_4795040bf6b6301f766b_adoptionevent2

Sat, July 28, 2:00 PM

Montville Animal Shelter, Montville

Summer Adoption Event at the Montville Animal ...

Home & Garden Other

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, August 4, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_9a5d139f428630567c69_at_the_station_-_mariylin_rose__wc

Tue, August 7, 12:00 PM

MAYO Performing Arts Center, Morristown

The Power of Nine - Fine Art Exhibit by the ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_9a5d139f428630567c69_at_the_station_-_mariylin_rose__wc

Wed, August 8, 12:00 PM

MAYO Performing Arts Center, Morristown

The Power of Nine - Fine Art Exhibit by the ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, August 11, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

No Dog Beach on Lake Hopatcong?

July 9, 2018

Hello Editor, 
 I have spent considerable time trying to find somewhere on Lake Hopatcong to bring my dog for a swim.
What I have found is ridiculous - this lake has approximately 28 miles of shoreline and I found NO PLACE am allowed to bring him.  Am hoping you can make the public aware and maybe someone will know more than me and inform where dogs are allowed?
Many thanks for ...

Chemist Congratulates Sparta High School Chem Olympians

Congratulation to the ladies from Sparta High School who finished first and second in the Chemistry Olympics.

I am very pleased to see women succeeding in chemistry.

Martin Feil,

Newton, NJ
Retired Chemist and Chemistry Teacher

US Junior Amateur: Chinn Earns Medalist and Top-seed honors, Misses Rain Delay, after Second Day of Stroke Play

July 18, 2018

Tuesday’s Second Round Scores, playoff participants (8 for 3 spots)

Wednesday’s Round of 64 matchups

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Kelly Chinn of Great Falls, Va., continued his stellar play Tuesday morning and missed an afternoon four plus hour rain delay on arguably Baltusrol Golf Club’s toughest layout, the Lower Course.

After shooting a five under 66 on the Upper Course Monday, ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

Presbyterian Church Steeple, a Roxbury Landmark, Gets Overdue Attention

ROXBURY, NJ - The long-sought restoration of the iconic, but decaying steeple atop the First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna is underway.

Using a massive hydraulic boom lift, workers from Main Street Custom Homes and Remodeling of Succasunna, got a close-up look today at the 165-year-old structure. The company, headquartered a few doors away, is volunteering the project management ...

Yardley, PA Man Charged with Assault on Long Beach Township Beach Badge Checker

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP - On July 4, a Yardley, Pennsylvania was charged with simple assault against a local beach badge checker.  The Long Beach Township Police Department responded and investigated that alleged act of assault on the beach badge checker. 

The police investigated resulted in the establishment of probable cause to charge Warren Marr, of Yardley, Pennsylvania for the ...

Ralph Lauren Signs Lease at Prism's On3 Redevelopment of Roche Campus in Nutley

NUTLEY, NJ — Eugene Diaz of Prism announced that Ralph Lauren signed the lease for a building at On3. The announcement was made at the July 3 Nutley Board of Commissioners Meeting. 

Ralph Lauren is expected to create 225 jobs in Nutley. The company will occupy 225,000 sq. feet of an existing building. 

In November of 2017, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority ...

You DO NOT Need 20% Down to Buy Your Home NOW!

The Aspiring Home Buyers Profile from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that the American public is still somewhat confused about what’s required to qualify for a home mortgage loan in today’s housing market. The results of the survey show the main reason non-homeowners do not own their own homes is because they believe that they cannot afford them.

This brings us to ...

Get Rid of Your E-Waste This Saturday in Sussex County

Team Nest Builder knows it’s easy for e-waste---tv sets, printers, laptops, etc.--to pile up. Here’s your opportunity to rid yourself of it in Sussex County! It’s the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority E-Waste Collection Event! The scoop:

DATE:

Saturday, July 21st

TIME:

7 am - 2 pm

LIMIT:

Up to 5 Units per vehicle at no charge.  Scale charges for ...

4 Top Tips for Kitchen Remodels

Getting ready to remodel your New Jersey home's kitchen? Team Nest Builder shares these top 4 tips for maintaining your sanity (and budget)!

Expect the Unexpected

Even the best-laid plans go awry during a kitchen remodel--be prepared!  Add a 10% cushion to your finanical plan for problems that may arise. In case something happens, this could save your time and budget.

Make A ...

Get Out and Garden During FREE Open Gates Weekend

Team Nest Builder wants you to discover the beauty and diversity of Morris County’s Community Gardens through the people, plants, and planting techniques that make gardens thrive. It's Morris County Community Garden FREE Open Gates Weekend!

Tour the many gardens, discover how to start one in your town, and learn more about growing your own food. Enjoy food tastings and demonstrations ...

Homes More Affordable Today than 1985-2000

Concerned that your family will no longer be able to afford the most precious piece of the American Dream – your own home? Let Team Nest Builder assuage your fears...

It’s not just a home’s price that determines its affordability--it’s also the monthly cost determined by the price and the interest rate on the mortgage used to purchase it.

Today, mortgage interest ...

Don't Miss Out on this DOUBLE Sparta 4BR OPEN HOUSE Weekend

Team Nest Builder offers not one, but TWO enchanting homes this weekend---185 Milton Road on Saturday, and 28 Waters Edge on Sunday (1-3pm both days.)  Seeking the perfect Sparta home? Make plans today! Want to learn more? Read on!

185 Milton Road: A Stately Sparta 4BR 2.5 Bath on 6+ Beautiful Acres

You’ll fall in love with this gorgeous 4BR, 2.5 Bathroom ...

The Sussex County Freeholders July 11 meeting video

NEWTON, NJ - The Sussex County Freeholders July 11 meeting video

 

Be a Triathlon Volunteer!

Summertime is here and upon us Sparta residents, bringing a variety of exciting events to our area. Well, Pass It Along is BACK with the 9th Annual Triathlon at Lake Mohawk Country Club, located in Sparta, on Saturday, July 28, 2018!

This athletic event draws in several hundred people, both participants and spectators, to Lake Mohawk. Volunteers are needed to assist with the event in ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.

 

 

Volunteers needed to help at blood drives

July 18, 2018

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED- New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS), which supplies blood to hospitals throughout the state, is in need of volunteers to help at blood drives. The blood drive volunteer is an integral member of the blood collection team whose task it is to assist donors with registration and/or at the refreshment area. No medical background necessary.  Volunteers should have the ability to ...

US Junior Amateur: Chinn Earns Medalist and Top-seed honors, Misses Rain Delay, after Second Day of Stroke Play

July 18, 2018

Tuesday’s Second Round Scores, playoff participants (8 for 3 spots)

Wednesday’s Round of 64 matchups

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Kelly Chinn of Great Falls, Va., continued his stellar play Tuesday morning and missed an afternoon four plus hour rain delay on arguably Baltusrol Golf Club’s toughest layout, the Lower Course.

After shooting a five under 66 on the Upper Course Monday, ...