Elisa Lanera Foundation - ELF Helps Africa


"Polar Plunge to support school-building mission" - Journal News

Northern Westchester Express (Thursday)- The Journal News
Charity swim set for Saturday to help children in Ghana
Written by: Barbara Livingston Nackman- bnackman@lohud.com


GOLDENS BRIDGE — Two women seeking to build schools in Africa are hoping a chilly New York swim will net them lots of money.

And they say that school-age children in Ghana who sit in a dingy and ill-equipped school with limited materials are counting on them.

Jaymie Lanera and her longtime friend Kristin Collins run the Elisa Lanera Foundation (ELF) to support educational and HIV/AIDS awareness programs as well as upgraded schools in Africa. To reach their goal they are hosting a Polar Plunge event Saturday at Lake Katonah.

Lanera, 26, started the nonprofit foundation in 2009 to honor her mother, Elisa, who at 21 years old was killed along with a friend, F. Douglas "Rex" Pompadur, in a highly publicized drunken-driving crash in 1985 in White Plains. The accident prompted changes in state law that restricts those convicted of vehicular manslaughter from shaving time off their sentence as this 19-year-old driver had done.

Jaymie Lanera studied French and nursing at St. Bonaventure University, which led her to travel to Ghana in Africa. There she created a French-language curriculum in a school and was inspired to do more, she said. A new school building and basic supplies were needed. Once home in Westchester she began finding ways to make this happen. So far, she has raised nearly half of the $20,000 she estimates it will cost to get the job done.

Her longtime friend, Collins, handles the paperwork and keeps the foundation organized. In the future, Lanera hopes to work with schools in South Africa, but she promised the students in Ghana that she would not return until she had what they needed for a proper school. A new website shows plans for a two-story building with a library and computer center slated for the Ghana community where Lanera volunteered.

Previously, she and Collins ran a golf outing, sponsored runners at a Chicago marathon and held concerts as fundraisers.

"I tried this time to think of something that would spark wintertime interest," Lanera said of the Polar Plunge.

At least 20 people are signed up to jump into the expected cold water at about noon, she said. Each is expected to line up a minimum of $50 from sponsors.

One participant, Christopher Dzielak, 27, of Pleasantville, said he learned of the foundation through Facebook and mutual friends.

"Something just hit home about this and their efforts. Maybe it's that my mom and sister both work in education," said the utility worker for Consolidated Edison who admits he is a bit nervous about the icy plunge.

"I am not one for the cold, even though I work outdoors. But for a good cause, I'll give it a try," he added.

He said he hopes to be able to donate at least $300 to the cause.

Click Here to see pictures from the Polar Bear Plunge


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