Evesham council held a small ceremony in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, proclaimed September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and swore in a new officer, all at its regular meeting on Sept. 13.
To kick off the meeting, Marty Martinez, chairman of the township’s Disabilities and Veterans Affair Committee, was joined by Master Sgt. Jaron Brown, who is also a committee member.
Martinez took a moment to bring attention to National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a national observance that takes place on Sept. 15.
“Since the American Revolution, people fighting to secure the freedom of the United States have at some point in time been held as prisoners of war,” Martinez noted.
She went on to explained that a national ceremony is held on National POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It features members from each branch of the military service and high-ranking government officials.
“No matter where they’re held, these ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing,” Martinez added.
After three bell rings, Martinez called for a moment of silence for prisoners of war still missing. Mayor Jackie Veasy expressed gratitude to the committee.
“I just want to say thank you again to the Disability and Veterans Advisory Board for the beautiful ceremony, and for reminding us to keep everyone who has loved ones that are POW or MIA in our prayers especially this week,” she said.
The mayor then invited Rich Nardiello, owner of PopPops Kustom Kars, to speak about childhood cancer. Kustom Kars is a nonprofit that promotes awareness of pediatric cancer’s effects by fabricating customized push cars to sick children in the area. They can be customized with sports themes, super heroes, or any theme requested by a child or caregiver.
Nardiello then brought the room’s attention to young Arianna Lewis, who stood beside him.
“I met (Lewis) five years ago,” he recalled. “Her nickname on the cancer ward in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) was ‘the mayor.’ She spent 409 days in the hospital, so she’s very special to me.
“The diagnosis for children with cancer as of 2018 is 1 in 285, and I’m glad I’ve been able to help 59 children in five years,” Nardiello added.
A special guest – Minnie Mouse – then arrived to Lewis’ pleasant surprise and she promptly embraced the famed Disney character. Veasy then read the proclamation recognizing National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Arianna as Evesham’s 2023 childhood cancer ambassador.
“Arianna Lewis can relate to the challenges of this disease, and as a resident of Evesham Township, she loves school and can’t wait to start third grade at Van Zant Elementary,” the proclamation stated. “Arianna loves dogs, and will always ask to pet any dog she sees. She also likes to play outside with her dogs and family, play soccer, lacrosse and read.”
Veasy then swore in Evesham’s Michael Gollnick as a class III SLEO (Special Law Enforcement Officer) for the Y.A.L.E. School’s NJ/LRHSD Sequoia Alternative Program.
“That combined school will now have an increased level of security with (Hollnick) in the school,” Police Chief Walt Miller noted. “We’re fortunate here in Evesham, as now we have officers in 11 schools throughout the community.”
Gollnick is an Evesham resident and graduate of Burlington Township High School who attended Saint Joe’s University on a baseball scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice there and served in the township police department for 25 years, retiring in 2022 with the rank of sergeant. Gollnick served as a deputy municipal clerk for Burlington City after his retirement from the force.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 11.