Jun 27, 2024 Perth Amboy Student Athlete Pays Kindness Forward

Perth Amboy Student Pays It Forward

As the recipient of a Greater Middlesex Conference Kindness Counts Award, Perth Amboy High School’s Dalisha Romero received $500 from The Peter Fund and The Marisa Tufaro Foundation to donate in her name to the charity of her choice that assists Middlesex County children in need.

Romero selected PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick as her beneficiary.

“The work they do to provide care and support to children and families in need is truly inspiring,” Romero said. “I am honored to be able to contribute in some small way to their important mission.”

Romero personally delivered her $500 check on Tuesday to Matthew B. McDonald III, MD, President and CEO at Children’s Specialized Hospital, Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation’s President and Chief Development Officer, Alissa Memoli, and Elena Herskowitz, Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation’s Director of Individual Giving and Family Philanthropy.

“I am truly inspired by Dalisha’s leadership and compassion,” said Dr. McDonald. “Kindness really does count, especially when you’re living with an illness or disability. Thank you to the Peter Fund and The Marisa Tufaro Foundation for creating this award to honor their children by recognizing kids who embrace and uplift others.”

Dalisha Romero

For exhibiting compassion, generosity, inclusiveness, and other qualities of benevolence, Romero was one of four student-athletes from the conference selected as a Kindness Counts Award recipient.

Each of the four honorees received a commemorative plaque during the Greater Middlesex Conference’s 23rd Annual Sportsmanship Awards Luncheon at The Pines Manor in Edison last month.

Captain of her high school’s swim team, kindness comes naturally to Romero, according to Perth Amboy High School coach Nicholas Cano. “She is one of those students that I have a hard time finding the right words for – she is just so good,” Cano said.

“She is very humble, she is very generous, and she has been my captain since her junior year. Anytime there are leadership conferences, I have her go represent the team. I know that her character is that of a leader.”

Romero, who swam the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, gets along with her teammates “fabulously,” Cano said.

“When she had a little bit of an injury and couldn’t be in the pool, she would come to practice and be like my second assistant coach and work one-on-one with the other kids and do drills,” Cano said. “Everyone pretty much looks to her as a leader. I have never had to question anything when I put responsibility in her hands.”

Among her other extracurricular activities, Romero is a member of Perth Amboy’s Heroes and Cool Kids club for student-athletes who have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities. Members visit the city’s middle schools for events and to mentor students.

“No one on my team can say anything negative about her,” said Cano, noting those who have met Romero are struck by her grace, empathy, and maturity. “She’s such a sweet, bubbly personality. Dalisha is one of those kids who does a lot — not for the recognition — but for the sake of doing it. Kids like her don’t do it for the accolades but it’s great when they are recognized.”

The Kindness Counts Award Romero received was established in loving memory of high school student-athlete Peter Bonn-Elchoness, who died suddenly and without warning in his sleep from a rare disease that causes damage to the heart.

The 17-year-old from Niwot, Colorado was renowned throughout his school-community as a magnetic presence and gifted student-athlete who always looked out for others.

Shortly after his passing 17 months ago, Peter’s family learned even more about his generosity of spirit through condolence letters they received from his classmates. Among other acts, Peter stood up to bullies, supported kids in crisis, and rooted for teammates and competitors.

His parents, Dave Elchoness and Eve Bonn, were told Peter saved lives. Dave and Eve established The Peter Fund, a nonprofit that encourages young people to mirror their son’s kind nature.

Peter’s father, Dave, an Edison High School alumnus, traveled nearly 1,800 miles to return to his hometown to present Romero and the three other recipients with their awards during the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Sportsmanship Awards Luncheon.

Dave Elchoness is a friend and former Edison High School classmate of Cyndi Tufaro, who along with her husband, Greg, founded The Marisa Tufaro Foundation in memory of their inspirational daughter to assist pediatric patients and children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area.

Born with a severe cardiac defect, Marisa survived six open-heart surgeries and a heart transplant before succumbing in 2017 to a rare form of cancer. She was just 13 years old.

With incredible support from Greater Middlesex Conference schools, The Marisa Tufaro Foundation has donated nearly $350,000 to fulfill its mission. The nonprofit has also donated thousands of toys, nonperishable food items, winter jackets, baby supplies, and other items upon which it has placed no monetary value.

In addition, The Marisa Tufaro Foundation has awarded $29,500 in academic scholarships to 42 Middlesex County high school seniors and sent 20 elementary and middle school students to attend a weeklong summer art camp at Rutgers University’s Zimmerli Art Museum.

In addition to donating funds to PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital, The Marisa Tufaro Foundation has proudly:

  • Provided Thanksgiving Day dinners to patients and their families.
  • Collaborated with the Colonia High School football team to tackle a Super Bowl-themed community service project that benefited patients and their families.
  • Conducted for multiple years a boardwalk-themed Family Fun Night during which the sights, sounds and smells of the Jersey Shore were brought to patients and their families through carnival games, food, prizes, music and more.
  • Assisted multiple PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital families whose children were in medical crisis, providing financial support through the payment of expenses to help lessen the burden of parents who lost wages while spending time at the hospital or caring for their loved ones.
  • Partnered with Teamwork Unlimited Foundation to provide medical alert bracelets to children with autism and pediatric patients with chronic illness who receive outstanding care from Children’s Specialized Hospital.
  • Partnered with the Saint Joseph High School football program and campus ministry to pack and donate more than 200 “Weekend Snack Bags” for patients and families.

“We deeply appreciate The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s generous support over the years,” said Alissa Memoli, President and Chief Development Officer at Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation. “It was an honor to accept this donation from Dalisha. Her decision to donate to our hospital embodies the spirit of kindness and selflessness that has a lasting impact on the children and families we serve.”

Marisa Tufaro benefitted at the beginning (as an infant) and near the end of her life (as a teenager post-transplant) from Children’s Specialized Hospital’s outpatient services.

After being fed via a nasogastric tube and kangaroo pump for months following the first of her six open-heart surgeries, which occurred within 24 hours of her birth, Marisa learned how to drink from a bottle through visits with a speech-language pathologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital’s Mountainside facility.

Following her heart transplant, which left Marisa with a contracture of the left foot and ankle, she worked with physical therapists at Children’s Specialized Hospital’s New Brunswick facility to learn how to walk again without the use of a cane.

The Peter Fund and The Marisa Tufaro Foundation were elated to learn Romero chose such a meaningful cause to pay forward her kindness, donating money to PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital of New Brunswick.

“Receiving this award serves as a reminder of the importance of kindness in our daily lives,” Romero said. “In a world that can often feel chaotic and challenging, acts of kindness have the power to uplift spirits, build bridges, and create a sense of community.

“I am grateful to be part of a community that values and celebrates kindness in such a meaningful way.”