Patch Whiz Kid/Team/Club of the Week: Marissa London, high school junior
Whiz Kid's School/Church/Community Center: West Essex Regional High School, North Caldwell
Whiz Kid's Accomplishment: After learning of the life-altering injuries sustained by PFC Derek McConnell, Marissa London, a junior at West Essex Regional High School (WEHS), began "Hearts for Derek", a fundraiser to benefit the young soldier who was wounded over the summer while serving in Afghanistan. London kicked off the fundraiser at the North Caldwell Fireman's Community Center on Sunday, Oct. 16, during a pasta dinner held to benefit the West Essex grad. London also received permission from the high school to collect donations before and after school.
Whiz Kid's Key to Awesomeness: After hearing about PFC Derek McConnell’s situation from her mother last July, London, a longtime friend of McConnell’s younger sister, Kellina, wanted to do something for the family that she has known for more than ten years. London began thinking of ways to help.
“I was lying awake one night thinking about a fundraiser West Essex High School did last year, and it slowly morphed into my idea, “Hearts For Derek,” said London. “I ran to tell my mother about my brainstorm, and she’s been helping me sort out my ideas ever since.”
Several other people have helped London get her project rolling, including West Caldwell ShopRite owner Ned Gladstein, North Caldwell Policeman Sgt. Tom Mautone, West Essex Superintendent Barbara Longo, WEHS Principal Juliann Hoebee, and North Caldwell Boy Scout Troop 1 Scout Master Paul Holland. London even got sponsors for her event, including the West Caldwell ShopRite, B&L Printing, and MyBannerStand, to create the marketing materials she needed.
Hoping to raise at least $6,000, London is asking for $3 donations. For each donation, individuals sign a cutout of a Purple Heart medal and receive a few candy kisses. McConnell was awarded the Purple Heart last summer.
“This will be an ongoing fundraiser, so I may be accepting donations for about a year, possibly more,” said London. “My goal is to continue accepting donations until Derek is literally up and running.”
Aside from her fundraising campaign, London, an honors student, is a singer and violinist. London performs with Congregation Agudath Israel’s HaZamir Choir, and appeared with them at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center last year. HaZamir will be singing at Lincoln Center again next March.
In addition, London, who has been playing the violin since the third grade, will perform with the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey (MONJ), and is the Assistant Concert Master of the West Essex High School Orchestra. The MONJ will hold its fall concert on Dec. 4 at the Hartshorn School in Short Hills, performing compositions by Rossini, Mozart and Beethoven.