Step Up for Colleen

MVS Offers Free Couch to 5K Training Program

Want to get outside, get healthier, and have some fun? Merrimack Valley Striders is offering a free Couch to 5K training program that begins on March 10th and runs for 8 weeks leading up to the May 5th Step Up for Colleen! This program is available to MVS members and non-members. Training is suitable for the walker, the runner with some experience or who has not run in some time, and the experienced runner. The sessions are coached by MVS members and will take place in Andover on our race course. Visit to learn more and to register!


Step Up for Colleen

2022 Best of Northshore Editors’ & Readers’ Choice Award Winner

Thank you to everyone who voted for the Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run for the Best Community Walk/Run/Race in the Northshore! It is an honor to receive the recognition and it serves as a reminder that Colleen and her legacy continue to impact and inspire so many.

Best Community Walk/Run/Race

Editors’ & Readers’ Choice

Step Up for Colleen, Andover

Standout Qualities: With over 3,000 runners and walkers, this 5K run and walk is held each year to honor the memory and support the legacy of Colleen Ritzer, a Danvers High School teacher and Andover native who was tragically killed in 2013. The money raised goes to charities that further values important to Ritzer, including a scholarship fund for graduating seniors from Andover and Danvers who will be pursuing a degree in education.

Insider Tip: In 2022, more than $70,000 in scholarship money was awarded to future teachers & leaders.

Click here to learn more about the “Best of the Northshore” 2022 Award Winners.

Square BONS vote
Step Up for Colleen

Please Vote! 2022 Best of the Northshore Nomination

Thanks to the support of everyone in the community, the Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run has once again been nominated for a Best of the Northshore (BONS) Award by Northshore Magazine! Our 5K Walk/Run has won several times in recent years, and it’s been an honor to be recognized. Colleen’s family and the entire Step Up for Colleen team appreciate everyone that has voted for us and has helped us carry on Colleen’s legacy.

Please vote for the Step Up for Colleen as the Best Community Walk/Run under the Play category. 

You can vote for us and all of your favorite local businesses and organizations by the May 1st deadline by clicking here. Contact with any questions. Thank you all for your incredible support!

NewsScholarship Recipients

Inspire Kindness & One Wish Project

In 2020, we created the Inspire Kindness scholarship. Hannah Finn, the inaugural recipient from Andover, was the inspiration for this scholarship. At 14, Hannah started a nonprofit, One Wish Project, an endeavor that provides birthday celebrations for children in need who live in a local shelter. Hannah recognized the need and felt that every child deserves to have their birthday celebrated. Hannah baked a cake herself and through donations, buys gifts for the child, then delivers the cake and gifts to the shelter. Five years later, she has expanded from humble beginnings in Lawrence to include several shelters throughout Massachusetts. She has grown the nonprofit, which used to operate out of her home, to now having an office in Andover, MA and storage space at the Andover/North Andover YMCA.

Earlier this month, Boston’s Magic 106.7, partnered with Hannah to promote her nonprofit. Hannah had previously been interviewed for Inspirational Women, a podcast the station sponsors. For two weeks, the morning team at Magic would talk about One Wish Project and interviewed someone daily, including Hannah, her mom, Claudia Mintz, who handles the day-to-day work while Hannah is away at college, volunteers who now deliver the birthday cake and gifts for Hannah, and some of the recipients of the project. The initial goal was to have listeners donate by going to the One Wish Project Amazon List and choose items that are delivered directly to her storage space. Their goal of 200 toys was met on the first day of the promotion! By the end of the two weeks, over 2,400 gifts were donated.

We are honored to have Hannah as a scholarship recipient. Colleen loved birthday celebrations so we know she would have loved this. Hannah, who is currently a sophomore at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, is a Communications Major in public relations. Hannah hopes to start a One Wish Club next year at the University to get more students involved in community service. She is also hoping to join a Women in Business club. Hannah is hoping to study abroad in Australia in her Junior year.

Hannah is an amazing young woman who has already done so much good for others at such a young age and we expect she will continue to do great things.

To learn more about her One Wish Project please visit  You may also listen to Hannah’s interview at  and other interviewees.

We wish Hannah continued success with her nonprofit and look forward to following her journey as she continues spreading kindness!

Danvers 2021 Recipients w Catie and Sam
Scholarship Recipients

Inspiring and Impactful Future Educators Awarded 2021 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarships

Inspiring and Impactful Future Educators Awarded 2021 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarships

(ANDOVER, Massachusetts) – Following another challenging year that instilled in teachers and students alike a newfound sense of resiliency, the family of Colleen Ritzer, Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura, announced the 2021 recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in education. The recipients of this scholarship will strive to carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher. In addition, “Inspire Kindness” scholarships were also awarded to students, one in honor of Andover’s Brian Feeney, who exemplified kindness in action and deed, and caring through his selfless work throughout the community.

This year, the Ritzer family awarded over $63,000 in scholarships in Colleen’s name, including $22,000 to 2021 graduating seniors and over $41,000 to previous years’ recipients. Since its inception in 2014, over $370,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 82 future teachers and leaders, some of whom have already begun their teaching careers and are pursuing master’s degrees.

“With over 80 current and future teachers and leaders following in Colleen’s footsteps, we are in awe of the continued impact of Colleen’s legacy and the influence she continues to have on so many current and aspiring teachers and those committed to community service,” said the Ritzer family. “It gives us hope of the good in this world as we witness these former students begin their teaching careers. We are honored they have allowed us to follow their progress.”

“This year we lost our dear friend Brian Feeney, the team leader of ‘Team Helpers’ from Century Bank for the 5k held each year in Colleen’s memory,” added the Ritzer’s. “Brian was a steadfast supporter of our family and the Step Up for Colleen and he shared so many qualities similar to those of Colleen. It is an honor to award a scholarship in his memory this year. Each of the recipients are caring individuals who demonstrate passion for their chosen profession, just as Colleen did.”

This year’s recipients from Andover and Danvers High Schools demonstrate a strong will for serving others and are excited to begin their journey towards their own classroom. Each recipient exhibited tremendous promise through their high school endeavors from National Honor Societies to participating in extracurricular activities and community service such peer mentoring and not only playing, but coaching and mentoring the athletes, in the sports they love.

The 2021 Scholarship recipients from Andover include Paige Gillette, Kaelyn Grava, Ashley Kendrigan, Alexandra Papazian and Madilyn Serapiglia. The Scholarship recipients from Danvers are Jared King, Jenna Lowd and Liana O’Brien. The 2021 Inspire Kindness recipients are Navya Pandya of Andover and Ashely DeRocco of Danvers. The recipient of the Inspire Kindness Scholarship in Memory of Brian Feeney is Benjamin Miragliotta of Andover.

Learn more about each of this year’s recipients here.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Fund, Inc. is supported by donations made in the wake of Colleen’s passing in October 2013 as well as the Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run and other tribute events held to honor Colleen’s life and legacy. The Scholarship is a permanent tribute to Colleen and builds upon her legacy by helping future teachers obtain a college degree so that they, too, can share their passion for teaching with future students.


Inspire Kindness Scholarship Awarded in Memory of Brian Feeney

Name: Benjamin Miragliotta

Hometown:  Andover, MA

High School:  Andover High School

College/University: University of Massachusetts – Amherst

 Extracurricular Activities: Varsity Hockey, Track; Volunteer: Senior Center, Restore/Habitat for Humanity, Atria Marland Place; Employment: Pet Sitter (owner), Brightview (food server)

Awards & Achievements: Excellence in Physical Science; National Honor Society; MVP-AHS Hockey

College Expectations: “I was chosen to be part of the Isenberg Fellows Residential Academic Program, and offers me mentors in my program…I expect to have many opportunities to connect with thoughtful leaders and great people. I will major in Finance, with a Real Estate Certificate, in affiliation with the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship.”

Inspiration for Community Service: When Ben chose to be part of the AHS hockey team, he never imagined the impact it would have on his life. His team established a relationship with a local senior living community. The team began visiting the residents on a regular basis helping to brighten their day. Ben shared “I have come to embrace how simple acts of kindness can be so impactful”. He found this experience very rewarding. Ben also is involved with Habitat for Humanity Restore where he discovered “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”. When Covid hit, Ben went outside his comfort zone and began working at another local nursing home. He finds this work very fulfilling seeing the impact he has on the residents. Through these experiences Ben shared “I have come to fully embrace the value of taking extra time to show someone kindness, whether it be holding the door open for someone or giving an elderly person my undivided attention.” When his mask shielded his smile, he made sure to brighten his eyes so they knew he was smiling.