by BRUCE DARROW
(cnbnews.net)Gloucester City was once described by a South Jersey newspaper as “a Beer drinking, Church going City” where Saturday was for partying and Sunday was for church and family. Another referred to Gloucester City as a community where “families looked after each other friend or foe.”
Regardless of the many views or opinions which surround the City, one thing it can never be criticizes for is its lack of caring. Every child who has ever participated in any sport in Gloucester City or travelled to another town to play witnessed the caravan of supporters. Win or lose parents, friends and neighbors showed their support for the youth of Gloucester.
This show of support by family and friends is on display outside of a sporting venue when annually during the month of April the National Multiple Sclerosis holds a local fundraiser at Washington Lake Park in Washington Twp. Each year over 1,000 walkers attend showing support for a loved one hoping that this little effort will in some way help bring a cure to this sometimes paralyzing and deadly disease. This disease does not discriminate; it unknowingly attacks groups of people of all age categories. Although cruel it is not only felt by its victims but has a major impact on families and friends for generations to come. Children of MS victims grow up sooner than most children. Young children become caregivers of their affected parent sacrificing their own childhood.
On a recent rainy Sunday supporters of these two local mothers walked the walk. These walkers trekked miles in a chilly rain in support of “Sweet Angels” a group who walked in the memory of Joanne Convery Gorman who on July 1, 2003 passed away as a young 46 years old and “Kate’s Crew” Kate Darrow Higginbotham who has battled MS for the past 20 years.
Joanne is survived by her husband Joe and mother to Sean, Keith and Rachel. Joanne a 1975 Gloucester Catholic graduate was a 3 sport athlete earning 9 varsity letters participating in field hockey, basketball and softball. Joanne continued her education at Glassboro State now Rowan University earning a degree which employed her as a first grade teacher at Cold Springs School.
Kate loving wife of Brian and mother of Kasey has spent the last 20 years wheelchair bound. Daily Kate’s struggles are overcome by the love of Brian and Kasey and friends. Kate a GHS graduate ironically played basketball at Gloucester City HS for then Girls coach Joe Gorman.
Both families torn by this illness continue to face life’s challenges daily. Physically Joanne is not around to hold or see how remarkable her children have grown or how they carry-on the love of their mother as parents or expecting parents themselves. Joanne’s 5 grandchildren and expecting Sean and Erin will never know the physical love or warmth that Joe and Joanne would have enjoyed. Kate wheelchair bound will never run, play or verbally express the joy future as a future grandparent.
But as the “Sweet Angels” and “Kate’s Crew” assembled to walk for this fundraiser the Gloucester High School Dance Team performed on stage for the nearly 1,000 walkers (Sweet Angels 100 walkers and Kate’s Crew 50 walkers). Many people who love these two ladies continue to show up year after year. Both groups have raised over $20,000 combined through the years. The commitment and support from Gloucester City continues in ways many never expected. It is sad that Joanne is now gone but to see what Joanne and the Gorman Family has meant to so many people is overwhelming. To see how Gloucester City supports Joanne is overpowering. The physical relationship with Joanne may have been ephemeral. But the impact she had on others will continue to live on. Kate is emotional of the all the attention and as she approaches each day from her wheelchair her love and kindness continues to be promoted through many caring people.
City residents take on many tasks each day for their OWN families but their outward support for a couple of neighbors continues in many ways. As they walk the walk they put one foot in front of another and with each stride they support many people. As Gloucester City continues to give of itself each passing day the names of Joanne Convery Gorman and Kate Darrow Higginbotham establish yet another milestone in the charity and caring. Outsiders approached Sunday’s as a fun family day, working in their yards playing with their children or just sleeping in. In Gloucester City the former takes a back seat when it comes to a neighbor. Never asking to be recognized these volunteers will go unnoticed in surrounding communities but their love and support will be cherished within in a City where love and support is not judged by money but by sacrifice of one’s own time.