photo: “Literal Limbo’ – Comedian and Magician Tom Durnin stoked the crowd, showing some smooth moves of his own during Lions Literacy Day at Lunch Break, Red Bank, on March 2

     Middletown and Red Bank, N.J. – Lions love to ‘limber up for literacy,’ but not without a little help from their friends! Over 35 children from ages 4-8 gathered with the members of the Middletown Lions Club at Lunch Break, Red Bank, to celebrate Read Across America Day on March 2, a literacy initiative which was inspired by popular children’s author ‘Dr. Seuss,’ whose birthday is March 2. Every year, communities throughout the United States host special events on that day. This year, Middletown Lions decided to ‘get moving’ and invited children from the area to attend a literacy event that included music, magic and dancing, balloon designers and face painters, comedians, and yes of course, lots of books and reading! “Lions throughout the world champion the cause of literacy through support of the Reading Action Program sanctioned by Lions International. The goal was to emphasize that reading contributes to life success, first and foremost, and to show everyone that books are not boring. Watching the children ‘jump for joy’ on the dance floor and seeing the looks on their faces as they were engaged in fun activities was very special too. The entertainers kept the children happy, and that made group reading time a more successful experience,” noted Lions Chairwoman of the Board Lori Anne Oliwa, who created the event with collaboration from Sharda Jetwani of Lunch Break, the program manager there, and Abby Daly from the Bridge of Books Foundation, who donated over 150 books. The donation enabled every child to leave with several books, many of them authored by everyone’s favorite ‘Dr. Seuss.’

     The collaboration between individuals and organizations made the event a big success. Oliwa recognized the entertainers who donated their time and talents to make the day special for the children, and for the many parents and volunteers who were also ‘gyrating with glee’ on the dance floor. Disc Jockey Stephen Munger of No Limit Entertainment kept everyone moving with ‘bold, boogie-down beats,’ and Emilly Hueston of pARTy stARTers Face Painting turned the children’s cheeks into colorful works of art. Magician and Comedian Tom Durnin, Keyport, was an absolute delight as he juggled and performed ‘slight of hand’ tricks. Durnin also twisted and turned balloons into things like dogs, cats, and hearts that he incorporated into his magic and comedy show, captivating the audience with his charm.“There was no way I was going to leave. I was having too much fun myself,” commented one parent of a four-year old girl. Dr. Chris Pepitone, a Red Bank-based chiropractor who volunteered at the event, commented, “It was a blast.” Lion volunteers included Beverly Bova Scarano, Tom Davis, Kathleen Gifford, Trudy Lagan, Fran D’Esposito and Jackie Fone. Several members of the Coastal New Jersey Chapter of WGIRLS, headquartered in Red Bank, also volunteered to greet and interact with the children.  Oliwa, a journalist and entrepreneur who is president of The Write Angles LLC, tempered the spirit of the day with an admonition. “Without the ability to read and to understand the written word, people will have limited choices in their lives. They will remain captive and at the mercy of a cold world that often has zero tolerance for accommodation,” she stated emotionally.

     Information on the Middletown Lions Club is available by viewing the website Information on Lunch Break and the Bridge of Books Foundation is available by viewing the websites and, respectively.


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     The Middletown Lions Club was chartered in 1946 through Lions International and is an all-volunteer, charitable service organization which helps the community through direct service projects, fundraising initiatives and programs. The club assists individuals and families in need both locally and globally through programs which address sight improvement and the prevention of blindness. In addition, the club administers eye screenings through the all-volunteer, traveling vision screening team – the ‘Knights of Sight’ – which provides free testing for elementary school children in local school districts. The club has served the Middletown Township, Red Bank, Hazlet Township, and Matawan-Aberdeen School Districts. Club members also volunteer monthly at local food pantries and soup kitchens by purchasing, preparing and serving homemade meals for the hungry. The Middletown Lions Club underwrites free eye exams, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for those who cannot afford them and donates funds to local charities that advocate for disabled individuals and for families and children with special needs. 

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...