BRICK – It’s been over four years since Karen Minutella, 47, died in a motorcycle accident. She was driving in a line of 13 motorcyclists in Connecticut when a 16-year old, distracted by her radio, crossed the highway’s center line.
Minutella was the mother of three, a grandmother, and fiancée to Ken Healey, who, to honor her memory, has spearheaded the Karen Minutella Reading Initiative Program, coordinated by the Brick Elks #2151, and the Bayonne Elks #434 where she was an officer.
“Karen loved reading to children, and the last thing she did as an Elk member was read to third grade students at a school in Connecticut,” Healey said on Saturday afternoon September 21 when the annual fundraiser was held at the Brick Elks.
Healey was driving his motorcycle behind Minutella’s and spent a year in the hospital after he was injured. Minutella was killed instantly. They had been a couple for six years.
Now in its second year, the Karen Minutella Reading Initiative Program gave away a total of 2,300 books in Bayonne, and in Brick which received 750 of the books. Each book has a sticker inside the front cover that reads, “Donated by Karen Minutella Reading Program.”
Last year books were purchased using an Elks Anniversary Grant, but this year the initiative was not eligible for a grant since the grant has different criteria now, explained event chair Lisa Halligan.
This year’s event featured DJ Wolf and a barbeque for $15. There were also basket raffles and a 50/50.
Healey thought about raising money for a scholarship to honor his fiancée, but he wanted to reach more than just one person.
“I became good friends with Ken and his story inspired me,” Halligan said. “We said, let’s just do it.”
Healey said the committee chooses books for third graders based on the state curriculum.
Many members of the Elks read to third graders during Reading Across America Week, said committee member Denise O’Keefe.
“When you read to these kids, you look up and see their faces and it really gets to your heart,” said committee co-chair Jackie Holt.
Each child gets a book, “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume, and during the annual Brick Memorial Day parade, the Elks gave our 150 of the books to children along the route.
Keira Scott, 10, is the Elks Ambassador for the Special Children’s Committee Area 1, and she was selling some of the hundreds of bookmarks she created for the fundraiser.
“She wanted a project to help out today,” said her grandmother Karen Scott. “She decided to sell bookmarks to help other children learn to love reading.”
That’s true, Kiera said. It takes her about 10 minutes to make one bookmark, and she raised over $700 between June and September 21 for the initiative.
“I love to read, and I love to (read) baby books to my baby brother,” said the Drum Point Road 5th grader.
Past Exalted Ruler of Bayonne Elks #434 Carl “Duke” Angermeyer rode his motorcycle to Brick to attend the fundraiser.
“Karen was one of the happiest, most giving people we ever met,” he said. “It was a devastating loss. Her nickname was “Dimples.” Angermeyer was one of four Elks members who made the trip from Bayonne.
Brick Police Detective and Elk member Dan Waleski, who was born and raised in Bayonne, attended the fundraiser and said he was happy to be part of such a great cause and that he wanted to thank everyone for their support.