MAN OF THE YEAR: Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith, Red Bank. “I ate the way I wanted to for 47 years,” says the comedian and director behind Dogma and the Clerks movies. “(Now) I will try to eat way I’m supposed to.” Smith barely survived a “widowmaker” heart attack that inspired him to try his daughter’s vegan diet and an exercise program that even a Jersey boy could love. The result: A 50-pound weight loss in six months.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Victoria Caetano, Rumson. She’s a high school senior with a benign spina bifida tumor that affects the nerves in her right leg and requires periodic nuerosurgery. Yet she runs track and cross-country, babysits, even holds down a part-time job. Her future plans? College, medical school — and becoming a neurosurgeon!
HONORARY JERSEY GUY HONORS: W. Kamau Bell, California. After fifteen years of marriage and three children, the comedian and CNN host decided that it was time to put an end to his being “footloose and condom-free.” After a little research, plus a hard look at what truly defined his manhood, Bell concluded that a vasectomy didn’t rank with “bungee jumping with the KKK.” And to make it easier for others to make a similarly informed decision, he put the entire procedure on film.
HONORARY JERSEY GAL HONORS: Susan “Erica Kane” Lucci, New York. Between having a father who died of a heart attack and a husband with atrial fibrillation, you’d think she would have been a little more diligent about her own chest discomfort. But after successful heart surgery, Lucci has since stepped up by becoming The American Heart Association’s newest poster girl — even if she did end up sitting on the catwalk at a Go Red For Women benefit fashion show!
LEAST WELCOME TREND: Addiction Chic. A black market has sprouted in THC vaping products and liquids, along with hospitalizations and two deaths nationwide. There have been arrests in New Jersey involving the human consumption of the “catnip cocktail” pet sedative. An anti-diarrhea medicine has the potential to act as an opioid in very high doses. And speaking of opioids, one may be resistant to the opioid overdose supressor Naxalone.
MOST WELCOME TREND: Looking (And Poking) Addiction In the Eye. Fortunately, there are some winners in this year’s round of the war against addiction. One ex-addict invited the millions of viewers who made her arrest photo go viral three years ago to participate in a remake now that she is a healthy, sober, full-time mom. Another cycled one hundred miles to raise funds for the Coming Full Circle organization. And while it might not be surprising to get warnings against addiction from the New Jersey county prosecutor’s office, this one came directly from a county prosecutor!
DISS-HONORABLE MENTION: Google/YouTube’s Discrimination and Censorship. They took action when a YouTuber revealed that pedophiles were time-stamping videos of girls doing athletics. But their actions included deleting the comments of grassroots disability channel and YourHHRS News partners Special Books For Special Kids, stifling a community of a million subscribers. Special education teacher and SBSK founder Chris Ulmer fought back: “(T)here has to be a way that we can…protect…minors…(and) your advertisers…without isolating and silencing the disability community once more.”
HONORABLE MENTION: The Jonas Family, Wyckoff. Becoming as prominent and celebrated as his sons, who make up teen idol trio The Jonas Brothers, was probably not in the plans of Kevin Jonas Sr. But when diagnosed with colon cancer, he took on the challenge of becoming an ambassador for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and helping spearhead the year’s #StrongArmSelfie fundraiser (while his kids pitched in with the release of their first song in six years).