November 26, 2013 —
“Use your head,” my mother used to warn. “You need to think about what you’re doing.” Regardless of Mom’s attempts to drill this into my thick skull, I’ve always been a little late to the party when it comes to planning and more often than not suffer the consequences. No surprise then that with only a few pages left on this year’s calendar, I’m falling behind schedule as the holidays begin in earnest. Pondering what the next year will bring reminded me that I’d been presented with the rare opportunity to observe a calendar-in-the-making photo shoot happening in Shohola, PA. Intrigued, I made my way to a charming farmhouse setting where a dozen beautiful young ladies were posing for photographer Michael Bloom (www.michaelbloomphoto.com ) amid a crew of assistants, all of whom were working hard for a common cause: The Allyson Whitney Foundation.
The non-profit organization (www.allysonwhitney.org ) was “created in love and memory of Allyson Whitney Strong, 25 years old, taken too soon by a rare and aggressive cancer, small cell cervical.” Its mission, “to improve the quality of life, as well as provide emotional support for patients,” is shouldered strictly by volunteers, including the models who will grace the pages of next year’s calendar, which will be sold as a fundraising effort. Chief marketing officer Gabrielle Scott was on the premises, supervising the shoot and lending a hand wherever she could. “This is our second calendar,” she told me. “Nicole Nixon and Michael came up with the idea last year, and it was so successful that we decided to do it again. One of our goals is to provide funds directly to actual patients in need, and [with various fundraisers] we’ve raised nearly $80,000 in the last two years.” Bloom is (IMHO) a master behind the lens, and it was a treat to watch him work, sharing a few tricks of the trade with me, while setting up shots with the alluringly attired women. My knees were a little weak watching the local calendar girls, gorgeous to a fault, pose for Bloom. Each of the ladies is personally connected to Allyson, and the calendar is slated for release before Christmas, making it a perfect gift that will keep on giving, in more ways than one. To snag one of your own, call 845/798-1501, visit the website, or www.facebook.com/AllysonWhitneyFoundation  for more information.
I’ll need to be on my toes in the coming weeks, as Dharma (the Wonder Dog) and I are slated to help out at holiday events throughout the Upper Delaware River Valley—and it’s already begun. In anticipation of the sixth annual Santa’s Village at Hilltop Homes extravaganza in Monticello, I drove the pooch to Liberty, NY so she could lend a paw decorating the M&M Auto Group showroom where elves (www.facebook.com/santasvillageathilltophomes ) were busily decorating trees side by side with assorted community organizations. Among those on board the Hilltop Express are the folks at Thunder 102 (www.thunder102.com ) with their mission to make sure that “No child in Thunder Country should be without a toy for the holidays.”
Prior to his appearance that same night in the Lava Lounge, (www.monticellocasinoandraceway ) Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) national spokesperson Jimmy Wayne stopped by to chat on-air with Ciliberto and Friends before the show. U.S. Marine Crops Staff Sgt. Jason Humphrey and Sullivan County coordinator Fred Stump represented the local Toys for Tots drive, and the country concert that evening raised funds for CASA as attendees donated cash and more than 300 toys in lieu of admission. Local entertainers Jason Casterlin (www.jasoncasterlinband.com ), and Ken and Barry Somerville (www.facebook.com/SomervilleBrothers ) opened for headliner Wayne’s (www.cmt.com/artists/jimmy-wayne ) third annual “Where You’re Going” event, and I snapped pics of the singers, as country fans danced the night away.
Leaving the venue, I scowled at the snowfall and precariously headed home, slipping a bit en route, as the first flakes of the season slicked the roads. Happy to be home, I flung open the freezer in search of ice and a brick of frozen ground beef flew out of the door, slamming my foot, resulting in two broken toes. With the circle now complete (and my mother’s voice ringing in my ears) my week of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” drew to a close, and I’m checking my calendar while planning to head out again, limping through a winter wonderland.