SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – South Plainfield High School (SPHS) seniors Joseph Heilmann and Charles Lovett are among the recipients of the 2018 Marisa Tufaro Foundation Greater Middlesex Conference Student-Athlete Scholarship.

“Your applications were remarkable and your character is impeccable,” foundation co-founder Greg Tufaro told the students during a May 31 presentation held in the high school media center. “It is our distinct honor to congratulate you on being selected … your application materials, including your essay and outstanding letters of recommendation, made an indelible impression on our scholarship selection committee.”

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation was established in July 2017 by Tufaro and his wife, Cyndi, in memory of their late daughter, Marisa Rose, who passed away at the age of 13 from a rare form of cancer that developed following a heart transplant. 

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The goal of the foundation is to keep Marisa’s memory alive while assisting children and their families beyond those in medical crisis. Additionally, this year, the foundation awarded four Greater Middlesex Conference Scholarships to varsity student-athletes for their performance on the field and in the classroom, for their community service and for their ability to overcome challenges. 

Heilmann and Lovett, along with a student from Woodbridge and one from Monroe, each received a $500 scholarship. Tufaro, along with Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., a member of the Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s board of trustees, presented the SPHS seniors with their awards. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak, Athletic Director Kevin McCann, SPHS Principal Ronnie Spring and coaches Gary Cassio and Bill Pavlak were also on hand; a video of the May 31 presentation can be viewed on the foundation's YouTube channel at  

Heilmann, a member of the SPHS Wrestling Team with a 164-11 career record, is a three-time State Place Winner and recipient of the 2018 GMC Scholar Athlete Award. He has a 3.6 GPA and is a member of the Spanish Honor Society. On a local level, he has volunteered with Toys for Tots, Special Olympics, and the Church of the Sacred Heart. Heilmann plans to wrestle and study economics at the University of North Carolina in the fall.

“He is a great athlete and a great student,” said Pavlak, head wrestling coach at SPHS. “This is definitely deserved.”

Lovett served as captain of both the tennis and football teams and was a three-year varsity letter winner in both sports. Additionally, he will represent South Plainfield at the 2018 Snapple Bowl. Lovett has a 3.95 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society as well as involved with Heroes and Cool Kids, orchestra, and the robotics team. He plans to study computer science at Howard University in the fall. 

“He is a complete team player, has a great work ethic, and leads by example,” said SPHS football coach Gary Cassio. “He’s the kid any coach would want on his team.”

“We, who are born and raised in South Plainfield, are not surprised by the accomplishments of these kids,” added Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan, a member of the foundation’s board of trustees who was present for the scholarship presentation. “South Plainfield cultivates achievement from its young people and that is something our town celebrates and rightfully so. These two young men really reflect the values of our town – academic achievement, community service, and athletics.” 

“The great thing about this scholarship is you’re rewarding student athletes for their community service and, in most instances, they are helping students in need throughout Middlesex County and that fits with our mission statement,” Tufaro told TAPinto South Plainfield. “To have kids who are held in such high esteem represent their high school and our foundation is what makes us most proud.”

Funding for the foundation’s scholarships comes from private donors as well as fundraising events, including the first Marisa Rose Tufaro Dual Meet hosted earlier this year by the South Plainfield High School wrestling team. During the February meet, the Tigers took on Old Bridge and raised close to $4,500 for the foundation.

To learn more about the foundation or to make a donation, visit

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