Category: Announcements


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.

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Introducing the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Fund, Inc.

For more than 7 years, the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) has been a trusted partner of our family, the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship and the Step Up for Colleen helping us to manage the resources generous individuals and organizations have donated in support of Colleen’s legacy. That legacy is a significant purpose in our lives.

We have been supported by many who have been touched by Colleen’s story. After much thought and consideration, thanks to your support and shared passion for Colleen’s legacy, we have formed an IRS approved 501(c)(3) and registered nonprofit with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office guided by an independent Board of Directors. The Board Members– who are all volunteers and will not be compensated – are passionate about creating an enduring legacy for Colleen, especially in the areas of assisting future teachers through scholarships, kindness initiatives, assistance for teachers, school safety, etc.

We truly believe that we can make a greater difference in this world and for future generations beyond scholarships through the works of this new organization. The support we have received from so many, including you, has made this dream a reality – establishing a means to enable Colleen to have a greater impact on our communities. We have learned we are stronger together.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Fund, Inc. fosters a society of compassion with kindness as a motivating influence in all its endeavors. Renowned for her kindness, zeal for life, teaching, and love of family, the organization emulates Colleen’s compassion through scholarships, grants and other programs with kindness and education at their core. 

The scholarships and the Step Up for Colleen 5k will continue, just as they have these past seven years, but the funds will now be managed by the independent Board with the highest levels of transparency and oversight. We also look forward to introducing a number of new and exciting and innovative initiatives that will enable Colleen’s legacy to continue impacting our communities in greater ways.

As we embark on this next step, we invite you to visit our new website that was created by volunteers at no cost to the organization. We look forward to your continued partnership as we empower others to be inspired by Colleen’s legacy. We would like to once again thank ECCF, our extended family, friends – new and old, and all those that continue to support our work in spreading kindness and compassion in Colleen’s honor. Our hearts are still broken over the loss of our beautiful daughter and sister Colleen, and they always will be, but they have also been strengthened because of your support.

Thank you and we look forward to having you all on this journey with us.

Tom, Peggie, Dan & Laura

AnnouncementsStep Up for Colleen

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & the 2021 Step Up for Colleen

Updated February 22, 2021
Thank you for your continued support! As we continue to follow the news relative to Covid-19 and the current restrictions, we are now hoping to hold an event in September, rather than May. While there is still much uncertainty as to what this event may look like with the restrictions at that time, there will be an event in Colleen’s honor. Whether we see you in-person or virtually in September, we encourage you to keep Colleen’s legacy alive and spread kindness! 

Updated December 20, 2020
We hope you and your family are all safe, healthy and practicing social distancing!
We continue to follow the news relative to Covid 19 and the current restrictions. Although hope is on the way now that the vaccine is beginning to be administered, we are still unsure as to when in 2021 road races will be able to begin. We have reserved our May date, however, we do realize that it is unlikely that our event will be able to be held at full capacity at that time. As a backup plan, we are reserving a Fall date where we can hold our event at full capacity and if not, we will consider a virtual event or hopefully a mix of in-person and virtual depending on gathering limits. 
We will do our best to keep you up to date on our plans. Thank you for your patience and your continued support.

Updated April 2, 2020
We hope you and your family are all safe, healthy and practicing social distancing!
A few weeks ago, we reached out to you regarding the postponement of the 7th Annual Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run. As the pandemic continues to affect all of our lives, we realize that this is not only a socially difficult time, but also a financially difficult time for many. For these reasons, we have made the heart-wrenching decision to cancel the 7th Annual Step Up for Colleen.
As difficult a decision as it was to cancel our event and not gather the sea of pink to remember Colleen this year, the health, safety and financial needs of our community are our top priority. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and how long it may last, we believe it would not be appropriate to hold the event and we strongly believe we should focus on healing and supporting the community. While a virtual event was proposed, upon further thought, we have decided not to pursue that option as our event is not just about raising funds for scholarships, it is about bringing the community together in one place to celebrate Colleen’s life and legacy.
Within the next few weeks, we will be in touch to outline your options regarding your paid registration fee. We are working closely with our registration software company, RunSignUp, to send these emails soon, but we ask for your patience while we navigate this.
While this was an extremely hard decision to make, we continue to hold hope that no matter what is happening in the world, Colleen’s legacy will continue to shine bright and we look forward to awarding scholarships this June.
In place of this year’s event, we are organizing a kindness initiative that will take place in May to continue Colleen’s legacy and give the community a reason to smile during these difficult times. This is continuing to evolve and we will share more information soon!
Thank you for your heartfelt support of Colleen, her legacy, our family, and the Step Up for Colleen 5K! We hope to see you all in May 2021!
As Colleen would say, always remember to find the good in every day and be kind to one another.
With gratitude,
Tom, Peggie, Dan & Laura Ritzer

Updated March 16, 2020
We hope you are all staying safe and healthy!
Following the guidance of state officials, the 7th Annual Step Up for Colleen will be postponed to a later date, or if needed, shifted to a virtual event. We are working with town officials to explore alternative dates in the summer or fall. While this has been an extremely difficult decision to make, your health and safety is our top priority. We know that no matter what is happening in the world, Colleen’s legacy will continue to shine bright and we have individuals such as yourself to thank for that. As Colleen would say, always remember to find the good.
Thank you for your continued support of Colleen, our family, the Step Up for Colleen 5K and Colleen’s legacy! As we finalize plans and have more information, we will keep you updated. 
The Ritzer Family

We thank everyone who has already registered for the 7th Annual Step Up for Colleen 5K and those who continue to support Colleen’s legacy each and every day. We are closely monitoring developments regarding the coronavirus situation and collaborating with town officials to ensure a safe and successful event.

As of today, the May 3 Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run will proceed as scheduled. We will continue to monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and make decisions based upon their guidance.

As the situation is rapidly changing and progressing, the Committee and Advisory Board are exploring alternative options as a precautionary measure. These options could be a postponement or shift to a virtual event.

With the event only seven weeks away, we are fully prepared to hold if possible and safe to do so. In the event we cannot host the event on May 3rd, we will shift to a virtual event if postponement is not a feasible option. While our hope is to have the sea of pink gather the first Sunday in May as we usually do, we know that Colleen’s legacy will be honored, supported and spread, whether the event is held as usual or virtual.

The Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run continues to be the major fundraiser that supports the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund. Whether the event happens as planned, is postponed or shifted to a virtual event, we ask that you continue to do your part in keeping Colleen’s memory alive and spreading her legacy. 

We encourage you to continue to register and invite your family and friends to join you in honoring Colleen. 

With our heartfelt gratitude and wishes for your continued safety,
The Ritzer Family


AnnouncementsStep Up for Colleen

Why did they race?

You are invited to watch the below video that shares why many decided to “Step Up for Colleen” on May 3, 2015.