WAYNE, NJ – On Tuesday night at the Brownstone in Paterson, the Wayne Education Foundation (WEF) held its first fundraiser: A Gala event with the theme of Denim and Diamonds.  Supporters, educators, parents, members of the Board of Education and the Wayne School District came together to recognize and support an integral part of the success of the Wayne schools in a fun, casual, party atmosphere.

There are many people in Wayne who have never heard of the WEF and don’t know what they do for our public schools. 

For the last seven summers, the WEF has provided an affordable summer camp program as a non-profit, with all proceeds from the summer camps used to support programs in Wayne Schools.

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“ArtQuest and Camp Adventure are two programs that the school district had been running in town for the past twenty-five years or longer,” said Karen Marron, the President of the WEF.  “They did a great job, but there became a need for an organization to take it over and try to expand it to become a funding source for the schools for things that weren’t covered in the budget.” The WEF took over the camps in 2013. 

Deborah Unger is the WEF Camp Director. “We run half-day and full-day camps for kids from Pre-K to high school each summer,” she said. “ArtQuest is a three-week, full theater camp.  The kids learn costume design, set design, they do theater and perform.”  

This past summer the ArtQuest campers put on a musical performance of The Little Mermaid, and twenty-one of the children from that camp came together at the Denim and Diamond event to reprise songs from their show. “For me, it was the best part of the night,” said Marron. “They got to perform in front of two-hundred people, and they were so excited!” 

Marron’s son Mike is a Counselor at Camp Adventure each summer. “In the beginning, we work with the kids to do confidence building activities and eventually move to the outdoor climbing activities like the zip line and the cargo net,” he said. Mike clearly enjoys what he does at the camps. “It’s probably my favorite part of the summer,” he said with a big smile. 

To date, the WEF has donated $242,500 to the Wayne Schools to support various programs in the areas of music, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and even culinary arts. 

The Denim and Diamonds Gala was their first non-camp fundraiser and part of the reason for the gala was to recognize the original board members who founded the WEF: Laura Stinziano, Robyn Kingston and Eileen Albanese.  

Dr. Mark Toback, the Superintendent of the Wayne School District spoke at the event and afterward he told TAPinto Wayne: “It was an honor to be able to recognize the founders and current members of the Wayne Education Foundation. It was also wonderful to be part of an event that brought the community together. Seeing so many educators and parents together in support of the Wayne Education Foundation demonstrates the impact this group has had on each of our schools.”

The monies raised from the nights activities, which included a silent auction on a variety of baskets ranging from Giant’s tickets to being Principal for half-a-day, will be used to support two initiatives at the school: One is to continue to support the STEAM program and the second was the Student Wellness program.

“Wellness has been a huge initiative over the last couple of years,” said Marron. “We want to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for students to go, to sort of catch their breath if they need it. Someplace that isn’t the nurse’s office.”

There are so many things that our kids are exposed to online that can lead to anxiety and depression,” Marron continued. “They’re seeing things that we never saw when we were growing up and it causes them a lot of stress and anxiety.”

“Social, emotional learning and student wellness is a primary initiative in the district. So, we’re really happy to be able to support it,” she said. 

The WEF has donated $70,000 to the Wayne High School’s Science program in 2016. Marron talked about a more recent example: “We put $35,000 towards a robotics program for fourth and fifth graders to get them interested and to teach them so that they have that interest level when they move onto middle school and high school,” she said. “The plan is that in the third year, which would be this next school year, the program will become part of the school curriculum.”

Their goal is to be able to fund programs and provide them for students as a pilot, and if enough interest is garnered, the district can then work it into the budget.

The WEF recently supported a pilot for a ‘strings’ music program. “We’ve always had band, but the district hadn’t offered the violin, cello, or other stringed instruments,” said Marron. “If a student wanted to learn a stringed instrument, they always had to have private lessons. So, we helped fund a pilot program last year.”

Wayne Town Councilwoman Aileen Rivera attended the event. "This is such a fun way to celebrate the great works of the Wayne Education Foundation," said Rivera. "I'm so happy to support people, like my friend Hilary Caruso, the Vice President of the WEF, who put so much effort into helping the Wayne Schools be the best schools in New Jersey."

Many local businesses, like The Bristal Assisted Living of Wayne, Castrol®, Ruby’s Travel and All Topics Tutoring sponsored the event, donating money for ‘micro-grants’ that were raffled off.  The thirteen grants were each won by principals, assistant principals or teachers specifically to use to support STEAM or the Student Wellness Initiatives in their schools. 

The gala event featured DJ and dancing, food, drinks and fun.  It was an opportunity for the education community of Wayne to come together and celebrate the incredible service they provide to Wayne Township.

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From the WEF:

The WEF has been providing summer camp services to families in Wayne and surrounding towns since the summer of 2013. We celebrated our seventh summer camp program in July, servicing 350+ kids from Pre-K to High School. 

We sincerely thank our camp families for supporting our fun and affordable summer camp program year after year. Your support has funded the following donations to our Wayne Public Schools totaling $242,500. 

  • 2013 Camp Season 1 – Donated $25,000 to support the High School bands, music and art. 
  • 2014 Camp Season 2 – Donated $20,000 to upgrade both High School culinary classrooms. 
  • 2015 Camp Season 3 – Donated $30,000 held over for the following year to impact STEM.
    2016 Camp Season 4 – Donated $45,000 for HS STEM science technology ($70K) and music ($5K) at both HS. 
  • 2017 Camp Season 5 – Donated $40,000 to support HS, MS, ES and Special Services.
    2018 Camp Season 6 – Donated $42,500 to support HS, MS, ES, Special Services and the Extended Day Program. 
  • 2019 Camp Season 7 – Donated $40,000 to support HS, MS, ES and Preakness Pre-K Program.