Fundraisers Total Nearly $150K For Suicide Awareness, Prevention

By on January 22, 2018
Dine 4 A Difference

Newman Cares’ “Dine 4 A Difference” event brought together chefs Floyd Cardoz, Ariane Duarte and Carmen Quagliata, all Verona residents, with Cedar Grove native Amanda Freitag to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Last October’s Verona Park walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was the second largest in the state of New Jersey, with 1,200 participants raising $116,346 for suicide awareness and prevention programs. The Newman Cares Blockfest in September and its Dine 4 A Difference celebrity chef dinner in November raised an additional $26,000 for AFSP.

“There are whole walks that don’t raise as much money as a single team in the 2017 Verona walk,” said Elizabeth Roithmayr, New Jersey area director for AFSP. The 2016 Montclair-Verona walk raised $19,700 from 330 participants; the initial goal of the 2017 walk was $25,000.

The 2017 fundraisers were born from the loss of two young Verona men to suicide, one in 2016 and the other in 2017. “My goal in volunteering to start the first walk in Verona was to bring awareness towards suicide prevention and mental health in our communities, and get people talking and involved in creating culture throughout our towns that is smart about mental health,” said Rosemary Citrano Gabbe, co-chair of the Verona Park walk and aunt of one of the young men. “I feel strongly in that sometimes all it takes is a minute to change someone’s life.”

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“The ripple effect since the walk has been amazing and more people want to get involved and volunteer for next year’s walk, which is what we need to happen because it takes all of us,” Gabbe added. “I’m really looking forward to having AFSP present some of their programs in our schools & organizations this year because I know these will make a difference. I will continue my efforts in making the walk an annual event in Verona Park.”

Gabbe also helped to lead a suicide awareness event at a football game between Verona High School and Ramsey High School in late September. In honor of her work, AFSP has invited Gabbe to its national conference Charlotte, N.C. this weekend.

Montclair Verona Out of the Darkness Walk
Half of the funds raised will go to AFSP’s national organization, to support suicide prevention training and mental health programs, to advocate for policies that will save lives and to support those affected by suicide. The other half will stay in New Jersey, and Roithmayr says that “as much as possible” will be spent in the Verona area. AFSP offers 28 different community and school suicide prevention and education programs, such as “Talk Saves Lives“, “More Than Sad“, and “It’s Real: College Students And Mental Health“.

Gabbe has already met with the Verona’s superintendent, Dr. Rui Dionisio, about what programs could be brought to the public schools. Dionisio said earlier this month at a joint meeting of the action committees created in 2016 to review the district’s approach to mental health and the prevention of bullying that district administrators are going to watch several of the AFSP presentations and then make a decision on which to present, and when. Any Verona-area community group, however, can contact AFSP about hosting one of its programs. Interested groups can contact Roithmayr at
908-514-6028 or [email protected]

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“The amount of funds raised for charity work in this small town is a testament to the quality of the people within it’s boundaries,” said Newman Cares’ president, Tommy Conroy, by email. “Newman Cares is proud to be a part of this work. Join us at You’ll have a good time doing great things!”

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