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SkillsUSA officers Lily Ward, Antonio Elias, Shaylee Ryan, Ashley Thomson, Aolani Luczynsk, Meghan Mongeon, Erin Ciempa and Noah Braman present a check to AYJ Fund founders Joe and Kathy Arabia. Not pictured is student Josephine Hartwig.

McCann Raises More than $1,000 for AYJ Fund

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The McCann school community raised $1,350 for the AYJ Fund through a "coin war."
The school's SkillsUSA officers, who organized the coin war, presented AYJ founders Kathy and Joe Arabia a large check made up of small change Thursday.
"That's what we find so amazing is that you are, number one, so successful, but really it's because of your commitment and want to do something for other families," Kathy Arabia said. "Because you're helping to make that difference for someone else. Things will be a little better for them and that is because you did what you did."
AYJ Fund was founded by the Arabias in honor of their daughter Anna Yan Ji Arabia, who passed away at age 16 from a rare brain cancer called gliomatosis cerebri in 2013. 
"Just think about it. It is you're a freshman in high school, and you've been diagnosed with cancer. You've got a circle of cohorts that you've gone through elementary school together with," Joe Arabia said. "And now your friend, your classmate, your cousin, is going through this devastating disease … it's hard for kids to go through. It's hard for students in their teens to see one of their friends suffer like that. So it is important for kids to be able to reach out."
SkillsUSA students placed receptacles in all of the shops throughout the month of March to collect change. It was somewhat of a challenge to see who could collect the most change.
"We were expecting $300 and like half the shops were already over $100 dollars in the first week in like pennies too," senior Shaylee Ryan said. "So, it definitely piles up."
Sophomore Meghan Mongeon said they chose AYJ because it has been an ever-present and inspiring organization in the community that helps kids.
"It is just amazing to see how this started so small, and a few people can make so much change," she said. "... It makes such a big difference and the fact that you have been able to support research and help these kids have a better experience going through treatment."
It was an effort that sophomore Aolani Luczynski said said is in line with SkillsUSA's mission 
"SkillsUSA within our school really drives helping our community and making our community and school a better place," she said. "It just builds a connection with our community, and I think it is great that our community was able to raise so much."
Joe Arabia said he was impressed by the school's fundraising efforts noting every little bit counts. He said donations big and small have helped them raise awareness and make a difference.
"It's been 10 years. It has been phenomenal to see the kind of support that we received that has allowed us to really move the needle," he said. "When we were starting out it was little dribs and drabs. And now we are hosting events and doing as much as we can and have been pretty successful."
Kathy Arabia agreed and said it is never about the size of the check but the passion behind it.
"We told the doctors we're not going to be your biggest supporters. We never imagined that we would have, donation-wise, funds to be able to do what we've been able to," she said. "But we said we would be the most passionate ones, and that is what makes the difference."

Tags: cancer support,   donations,   McCann,   SkillsUSA,   

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BRO MX Ordered to Comply With Conservation Restrictions

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave BRO MX until July 28 to place signage marking conservation-restricted area they improperly mowed as well as hire a botanist to review the area.
The commission on Thursday went over some conservation restrictions included in the deed of motocross track owners Jason and Jessica Langenback that they unknowingly violated.
"The reason why you are on the agenda is that there have been suggested anomalies of the management and the use of the conversation restriction … wetlands encroachment and things along those lines," Chairman Andrew J. Kawczak said. "So I am hoping … this gets the conversation started." 
Specifically, the restrictions control mowing in a meadowed area as there are endangered insects and plants.
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