One of the biggest songs and more well known of David Bowie is "Heroes", where in it he recites the line, "if we could be heroes, just for one day", and that line can be used to describe a number of different people and groups.

There is one award, one foundation and one college in particular working together to recognize the unsung heroes in our life, those going above and beyond and those doing the right thing impacting the lives of a couple others, hundreds of other or perhaps thousands of others.

92.7 WOBM logo
Get our free mobile app

The 'Russ Berrie Making A Difference Award', now in its 25th year, from the Russell Berrie Foundation run alongside Ramapo College continues to shine a special light on individuals who are all about community service, doing good work for others and reshaping the future.

Meredith Lee, who is the Program Director for the award at Ramapo College, takes us back to the origins of the award and foundation, that begins with Russ Berrie and his vision and goal to honor those acting in selfless ways of soulful generosity.

"Russel Berrie was a New Jersey based entrepreneur, who founded a toy and gift company that was a global company, and he traveled the world and was very engaged in philanthropy but what he realized was that he was not necessarily a person who was on the front lines of doing good work and of serving his community and he wanted to be able to recognize those folks who were," Lee tells Townsquare Media News.

In 1997, Berrie created the 'Making a Difference Award' and he approached Ramapo College, which was in the vicinity of where his office was located.

Once all parties were on board, an award ceremony was scheduled to honor those doing good service in their communities.

"Russ was super excited, he was handing out checks and giving out hugs and just really so happy to be able to thank people who have given of their own time and effort and he realized some of their financial resources, which is why there is a really unique component of giving a financial gift to the winners  that has no strings attached, it's for them to use however they see fit," Lee said.

The award is given to residents across the state of New Jersey, who've got some real impactful stories to tell or others are sharing on their behalf.

"This is a grassroots effort where we say to individuals in the community, 'you tell us who the unsung heroes are in your community, people who've affected your own life or your families and we have a nomination form where they described how that person has made a difference, how long they've been active, what it really means for others in the community, what the impact has been," Lee said.

An advisory board then reviews all the submissions about people who have given of themselves at a time of great need where they were called to do something just a little bit more and above and beyond.

Pino Rodriguez, Melissa Gertz and Rev. Mildred Farrar were the top three winners in 2018 of The Russ Berrie Foundation Making a Difference Awards at Ramapo College. (Photo Courtesy: Taft Communications)
Pino Rodriguez, Melissa Gertz and Rev. Mildred Farrar were the top three winners in 2018 of The Russ Berrie Foundation Making a Difference Awards at Ramapo College. (Photo Courtesy: Taft Communications)

"They've often confronted an issue in their own lives, in their families lives and instead of really allowing that to maybe create sadness and bitterness and getting stuck in that situation, they said to themselves, 'I have to make it better for others who are experiencing that' and whether it's children who have suffered from cancer or families who have been through the pain of addiction, domestic abuse, violence, folks who have tackled unusual issues that you may not hear about everyday such as child marriage or forced marriages," Lee said. "The overwhelming trait that we see are people that said, 'I'm not going to let this stop me and I'm going to use these situations that I've been through to help others."

They also take a good look at those bystanders who have watched something unfold before their eyes and took action.

"This year, there's the young men in Middletown who rescued the two kids who had slipped into a pond on their sled, these were teens that said 'gosh, we gotta do something right away, these kids could get hurt', and we have another young man who jumped into Newark Bay to save someone who was sinking in a car that had gone in," Lee said.

There will be 24 people honored at this year's virtual ceremony on Friday May 7 at 11:30 am, including a Monmouth County resident, Lynn Regan the founder of the 'CFC Loud N Clear' Foundation.

"It's one of those stories where she and her family just went through an agonizing situation of addiction with a family member, just years of really, being tortured, by this disease and not seeing any relief and they put together the pieces that seemed to work in their own family, just different pieces that they picked up along their journey of being in rehabs and in active addiction and created this model for CFC Loud N Clear Foundation that is a relapse prevention model that has successfully seen thousands of young people be able to achieve sober living," Lee said.

You can watch the ceremony this year on the foundation website and then nominate someone for next years awards.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to

NEXT: 10 Jersey Shore School Districts Losing Millions From S2 School Funding Formula

Have You Seen Them? Ocean County's Most Wanted

Have You Seen Them? Monmouth County's Most Wanted

Ten times drunk driving changed New Jersey Lives Forever

12 Times Being High Cost NJ Residents & Towns

Strange NJ Laws You've Never Heard Of

Marijuana legal in NJ: How do the laws work?

Answers to common questions about legalized recreational marijuana in New Jersey and rules about underage use of weed.



Go Inside Mike 'The Situation's' NJ Mansion


Jersey Shore Nor'easter 2021 Listener Pictures

LOOK INSIDE: The Most Expensive House in Rumson

This is the most expensive house for sale in Rumson, NJ in 2021

Peek Inside Snooki's New Toms River Waterfront Home

LOOK: See the iconic cars that debuted the year you were born

NEXT: The 100 Best Places to Live on the East Coast

More From 92.7 WOBM