By Chris Rotolo |
RUMSON – As a longtime educator, Shari Feeney has been instrumental in developing the hearts and minds of the young people of Rumson.
That’s why planners say Feeney, who is of Irish descent, was a natural choice for grand marshal of Rumson’s festive St. Patrick’s Day Parade, planned for 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 11.
“This year we were searching for someone who was deeply involved in our community,” said parade committee member Deirdre Courtney. “We saw Shari as someone who grew up in Rumson and came back to be a highly influential educator of our youth, someone who is really shaping the minds and lives of our kids for the better. It really was an easy decision for us.”
This will be the sixth year for the parade and the first time a woman holds the grand marshal position, something Feeney is particularly proud of.
“Being the first woman selected does make the honor even more special,” Feeney said. “There are so many opportunities for women and young women now. The more my kids at school see that, the more my daughter, who is 30, sees that, the more society will see that women do matter and do have the ability to make a difference in their communities.”
In recent years the procession has been led by Louis “Lee” Carr, Brig. Gen. Peter Dawkins, now-Gov. Phil Murphy, Jack C. Howley and Tim McLoone, company Feeney says she feels humbled to keep.
“One of the reasons I was so taken aback by the committee choosing me is because of the people they’ve chosen before me,” Feeney said. “These are people who have done so much in their lives and for our community. I’m completely humbled to have even been considered.”
Feeney’s job will be to lead a colorful and cheerful procession on a mile-long route down River Road from Allen Street to the intersection of Carton Street and Forrest Avenue. Last year’s event drew 1,250 walkers representing 96 groups, eight bands, 32 autos, nine floats and an estimated crowd of 12,500 lining the route.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Feeney, who plans to lead the parade from a seated position within a vehicle. “I’ve always wanted to make an impact on my community and as an educator I’ve been able to do that. But rarely do you get to see the whole picture and just how large an impact you’ve had. But when you are part of an event like this you can really absorb it.”
Feeney moved to Rumson with her family in 1977 and attended Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, where she starred on the field hockey pitch and was named a co-captain of the Bulldogs program in her senior season.
After graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree, she earned a Master of Arts in teaching from Monmouth University.
She served 20 years as an English/language arts and science teacher in the Rumson school district until her studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University helped her earn a principal’s certificate which led to an appointment to that role at Deane-Porter School in 2013.
Since becoming the principal at Deane-Porter, Feeney has helped launch the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, as well as introduce STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), a program first instituted at the beginning of this current school year.
However, it’s another of her recent initiatives, the training of a district therapy dog named Boomer, that will be on full display come parade day.
Boomer – an Aussiedoodle (a cross between an Australian shepherd and a poodle) puppy that Feeney traveled to Ohio to pick up and drive home – will be marching in the parade. Local families who purchase a “March With Boomer” sponsorship can march alongside the puppy that has been essential in soothing the emotions of district students.
Proceeds from these sponsorships, as well as other sponsorship packages, will benefit a pair of charitable organizations in The Parker Family Health Center of Shrewsbury and LADACIN Network.
“We have been involved with so many great charities over the years, but these two in particular have stood out for the incredible work they’re doing in our community,” said parade committee president Jamie McManus.
The LADACIN Network, which was founded in 1952, helps provide a continuum of care, including educational, therapeutic, social, residential and support services to infants, children and adults with complex physical and developmental disabilities or delays.
The Parker Family Health Center is another local healthcare organization that provides free treatment for Monmouth County residents who do not have medical insurance or the ability to pay for medical care.
“We feel honored that we’re able to give back to incredible groups such as these,” McManus said. “It’s rewarding because we know how far the proceeds will go toward helping our community members in need. They’re both great causes and we’re proud to support their incredible work in any small way that we can.” Courtney added.
“Shari has had a lifelong dedication to our town and to our kids and continues to do just a wonderful job of bettering the lives and education of our young students,” she said. “She is more than deserving of being recognized in this fashion and we’re happy we could help point the spotlight on such an incredible community leader.”
WHAT: 6th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
WHEN: Sunday, March 11 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: The approximately 1-mile-long parade route starts at Allen Street and River Road and ends at the intersection of Carton Street and Forrest Avenue.
MORE INFO: rumsonstpatricksdayparade.org
This article was first published in Around Town: Rumson special section in the March 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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