Each person knows an individual who gives back to the community by creating positive
change. The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award has been recognizing those changemakers for 27 years – unsung heroes from around New Jersey who demonstrate their passion and unstoppable commitment to serve the most vulnerable.
This year, one of those honorees is the Toms River “Field of Dreams.” A car accident left Christian Kane’s son, Gavin, with traumatic brain injuries and unable to walk or speak. After struggling to access recreational spaces with his son, Christian decided to build a comprehensive recreational facility where children of all abilities and their caretakers would feel at home. Christian spearheaded a multi-year campaign to raise funds and build the RWJ Barnabas Health Field of Dreams in Toms River which opened in 2022.
Established by the late Russell Berrie, funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation, and hosted and managed by Ramapo College of New Jersey, the awards honor New Jersey residents whose outstanding community service and heroic acts have made a substantial impact on the lives of others.
Eleven outstanding changemakers will be honored at the 27th Anniversary Award Ceremony on Friday, May 5, 2023, 11:30am at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
With 419 honorees since the inception of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award in 1997, more than $4 million in cash awards have been presented to recognize the personal sacrifices and commitments these individuals have made to serve others. Their work is improving people’s lives and making communities stronger.
The nominees include community leaders, affinity groups, ethnic and religious organizations, nonprofit leaders, volunteers, among many others in such areas as community service, volunteerism, social justice, community life, environmental issues, and a range of advocacy topics.
This year, awards totaling $160,000 will be presented to 11 honorees.