Women Who ROCK Hall of Fame
2018 Women ROCK Winners
Lynnse Merfert is rockin’ her 20s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. Lynnse is a former police officer who uses her love of writing to help build police-community relations.
Nicole Johnston is rockin’ her 30s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. Nicole is a teacher who, in the midst of battling her own health issues, started a tutoring program at her local hospitals. Her innovative program uses technology to help children explore the world through virtual reality.
Cathy Carisi is rockin’ her 40s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. Cathy founded and continues to run Camp Acorn in Allendale for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Through Camp Acorn, Cathy has touched the lives of dozens of children and their families.
Virginia Roriston is rockin’ her 50s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. Virginia opened her home and her heart to three young men from Africa who were recruited to the U.S. to play basketball. With Virginia’s help, all three young men have found a new family, and two are continuing their dreams with full college scholarships.
Denise Ely is rockin’ her 60s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. Denise battled a genetic liver disease while raising two young sons. A liver transplant saved her life, inspiring her to go back to school and get her nursing degree. Today, she dedicates her time to raising awareness about organ donation.
Carolyn Blake is rockin’ her 70s and a 2018 inductee into the Women ROCK Hall of Fame. After raising her four children, Carolyn went back to school and become a social worker. Carolyn mentored dozens of New Jersey homeless teenagers, going the extra mile to make these teens feel supported and respected.
2017 Women ROCK Hall of Famers
Read about our hall of famers and what we look for in a “woman who ROCKS!”
Kerianne suffered from anxiety and depression when she was just 14 years old, but persevered with so much tenacity, grit, and courage.
Rockin’ Her 20s
Erika co-founded Breast Intentions when she was just 15 years old after 3 family members were diagnosed with breast cancer. She started out by selling candy bars at church, and then put together a gala, and was off to the races from there. The goal of Breast Intentions® is to provide crisis intervention for women who are facing financial hardship as they battle breast cancer. In the 10 years that she has been the Co-President of Breast Intentions, she has raised over one million dollars and has helped hundreds of women who are in financial crisis and are struggling with breast cancer. She and her team have opened chapters in 4 states: NJ, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois. She is dedicated to Breast Intentions and its mission, all while finishing college and starting a career.
Rockin’ her 30s
Megan has given hope to her students and their families through her job as a youth ministry leader at St. Paul’s Methodist Church.
Rockin’ her 40s
Patty has dedicated her entire life to help people in need, including through her professional work as a non-profit development consultant and her volunteer work where she raises money for underserved children.
Rockin’ her 50s
Miss Jay Lee mentors and educates students through the arts, specifically dance, while undergoing treatment for cancer and being a caretaker for her husband who suffers from PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease.
Rockin’ her 60s
With pediatric cancer near and dear to her heart as her daughter Ashley Lauren Vermuelen was diagnosed with cancer when she was three years old, Monica started The Ashley Lauren Foundation to provide hope and help for children battling cancer in New Jersey.
Rockin’ her 70s
Leelee has spent her whole life giving back to her community both in the U.S. and abroad. She graduated in 1965 from Temple University with a nursing degree. She took her expertise as a nurse to volunteer for the Peace Corps, where she was stationed in Afghanistan. There she established a school, where women and young girls learned nursing and midwifery skills. She also took part in a Peace Corps Training Program that oriented and helped train new Peace Corps Volunteer nurses. Now retired, she takes elderly and incapacitated individuals to appointments that they cannot get to on their own, such as doctor visits, grocery shopping, etc. Leelee is quick to help a friend and neighbor in need, in addition to her routine volunteer duties.
Rockin’ her 80s
Mary Ellen O’Connell
Mary Ellen raised 7 children as a single mother, while working and with a smile on her face, always. She provided and gave her children what she could and they never knew anything different. Mary Ellen always had her door open for everyone even though things might have been hard for her, no one ever knew it. She would help others in need – she was the one they would come to and lean on. She has 19 grandchildren, attends many of their activities, and is an important role model for their whole family.
2016 Women ROCK Hall of Famers
Wise Beyond Her Years
Decade Category: Age 14+ “Rising Star”
Nominee: Marie W.
Nominator: Lori W.
Wise beyond her years this rising star was nominated by her mother, who is incredibly proud of her ability to deal with the stressors of life in the right way. Marie was born in to a split family and encountered some difficult circumstances at a young age. She was wise enough to know to seek out someone who had similar experiences to hers to get the help she needed. She was able to work though her challenges with help from a Student Assistance Counselor and now she is studying to help others with the same issues. Marie is a well-rounded student who is certainly paying it forward.
Always There for Mom
Decade Category: 20+
Nominee: Sophia T.
Nominator: Eleanor T.
Sophia’s ability to succeed and become a well-rounded, reliable young woman has been an inspiration. Her accomplishments range from playing music, being promoted to manager at her first job, graduating Georgian Court University with honors and is currently pursuing her masters, while working full time. If you ask her mom, however, her greatest accomplishment was her ability to be there for her mom as she battles breast cancer. She encourages her mother to keep fighting every day. Sophia is a true example of resilience. The amount that she has accomplished at the mere age of 23 is inspirational.
Making Wishes Come True
Decade Category: 30+
Nominee: Danielle G.
Nominator: Claude D.
When she’s not making children’s wishes come true, she’s helping those less fortunate, and inspiring others through her selflessness and dedication. Danielle, CEO and founder of OneSimpleWish.org, has helped thousands of foster children and raised millions of dollars to help them have a better life. The concept of this wonderful organization grants foster children wishes through donations and partnerships. Danielle is a true collaborator and is the vehicle through which many wishes are granted. She has lectured throughout the country and was the recipient of the CNN heroes award.She’s loved by many and her love for others has no limits.
Against All Odds
Decade Category: 40+
Nominee: Mary Joy “Jessica ” M.
Nominator: Reverend Martin M.
Against all odds, Jessica survived and thrived after unspeakable hardship as a young child living in a remote village of the Philippines. She used that to fuel her spirit and to overcome anything life has thrown her way. And life has certainly not been kind. She’s battled her own health issues, lost a child, and is caretaker for her husband. However, Jessica remains the definition of resilience. In her life she’s accomplished so much, she’s volunteered her time to help under privileged children in need in Long Branch, started a “welfare to work” program, and became a world-class Iron Man triathlete donating all of the money she raised to building clean wells in villages in need across the planet. She is the “example that nothing is impossible for those who put others first.” Jessica will surely be the first Woman Who ROCKS to have a movie made about her life!
Advocate for Change
Decade Category: 50+
Nominee: Joanne J.
Nominator: Jennifer T. & Erica L.
Joanne publicly shared her story about her breast cancer and advocated to change the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) law to exempt drivers from MVC photo ID regulations if their appearance has temporarily changed due to a medical procedure. Through her fortitude, she was able to bring more compassion to people going through very difficult health experiences. Beyond this extraordinary deed, she’s also a single mother, a mental health and addictions professional, and professor of counseling at Monmouth University. n advocate and inspiration for all those fighting an illness, she is the true definition of a warrior.
The Shoes Off Her Feet
Decade Category: 60+
Nominee: Barbara T.
Nominator: Lisa T.
When a person is truly kind and generous, people will say “oh, she would give you the shoes off her feet.” Barbara has literally done just that. After losing her mother at the age of six to cancer, and moving to the U.S. at age 19 from Poland, Barbara never forgot where she came from and what it took for her to learn a new language and customs.. While attending a party, Barbara met a younger woman who had emigrated from Poland to the U.S. She had admired Barbara’s shoes and had very little to her name. Barbara gave her the shoes off her feet, and wished her luck in this new country. Nominated by her daughter, she is described as “a kind, generous, hardworking and selfless example of all that is good in the world”. Her important work at Meridian Charity Care has also touched the lives of thousands.
Ain’t No Stopping Her Now
Decade Category: 70+
Nominee: Virginia K.
Nominator: Jessica S.
A true and generous caregiver, Virginia, overcame adversity, climbed the corporate ladder to better provide for her family and was there as a caregiver when her husband needed her most. Growing up in a poor household, she was not afforded a formal education but never let that stop her. She has run several successful businesses, including her own, raised children, took care of her sick husband and has been a true role model for her daughters. Certainly a woman who rocks!
Grateful Dedicated Volunteer
Decade Category: 80+
Nominee: Norma P.
Nominator: Elaine R.
“She misses her husband who passed 10 years ago, but gets up every day, and is grateful for another beautiful day.” Norma, has dedicated her life to volunteering, from being an instrumental part in getting a quality hospital in Brick, NJ, to Girl Scout Troop Leader and PTA president. She was named Brick Citizen of the Year in 1976. She has also been honored twice by the NJ State Legislature and was acknowledged by the State Commission of Health for her role in bringing a medical center to Brick. She continues to be active on the Community Advisory Committee of Ocean Medical Center and is still an active member of the Ocean Medical Center Association, of which she has been president numerous times, and still to this day is running fundraisers for the hospital. At the young age of 88, she still perseveres and gives gratitude for every day.
The Wisest of Them All
Decade Category: 90+
Nominee: Michelina Dolly L.
Nominator: Patrice Lo S.
Michelina is a dedicated wife, inspirational mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and friend. She was married 60+ years when her husband passed away. She was there for him every day. She raised six children and took several other teens into her home when they were struggling. At 95, we can learn from her lifetime of knowledge and wisdom. She believes you can find the good in everyone and have whatever you want as long as you work for it, while standing up for what you believe.