Andrea Verdone Gorsegner: Member in the Moment

Meet Impact 100 Jersey Coast Member Andrea Verdone Gorsegner

By Janet Mazur Cavano

Meet Andrea
Riding one’s exercise bike for 24 straight hours is an impressive feat, most would agree. Raising more than $85,000 for charity while doing so catapults this feat to another level entirely. Just ask Impact 100 Jersey Coast member Andrea Verdone Gorsegner, who recently accomplished exactly that when she clipped into her Peloton bike at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and pedaled straight through 9:30 a.m. Sunday, stepping off only for brief bathroom breaks.

Spin 4 Kids

The result? Infinite Love’s “Spin 4 Kids” event netted $85,196.74  for Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer, the non-profit (501(c)3) she founded in 2013 when her then two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.  Since its inception, Infinite Love has raised $1.4 million, most of it targeted for research and the rest going directly to families with affected children. It is an entirely volunteer-run organization that helps families with “whatever they need.”

If you congratulate the 44-year-old  Middletown resident on her marathon achievement, however, she will emphatically point out that “Spin 4 Kids” was a communal effort. Long before she’d even sat on the bike, teams across the country had already pledged nearly $40,000. Additional funding came from corporate sponsors, Peloton community members who joined her for part of the ride, as well as donors watching the Livestream event on Facebook.

“My 24-hour ride did catch a lot of eyes, but in no way was I in this race alone,” she said.

Her family was equally supportive, particularly her two daughters, Natalie, now 11, cancer-free and leading a healthy life, and Hannah, 13.

Not only did they watch their favorite Marvel movies together, but Hannah, whom she describes as a “mother bear,” stayed awake all but 15 minutes of the 24 hours and acted as a trainer. She placed frozen towels around her mother’s neck, created a special playlist to put on only “when I really needed it,” and supplied water, snacks and pain relievers.  When Gorsegner’s knees began to ache, Hannah snipped the toes off a pair of compression socks and slid them over her biking shoes and up her legs for extra support. 

“She was my lifeline the entire time! I couldn’t have done it without her,” Gorsegner said.

Altogether, she pedaled 213 miles at a pace of between 7 and 14 miles per hour and burned 3,246 calories. She began her journey on a live Peloton ride with 200 other registered supporters sporting the hashtag #Spin4Kids before eventually switching to a scenic ride.

“All throughout the 24 hours, there would be at least 1 or 2 people riding with me,” she said. “People went way out of their way to ride with me, even in the wee hours.”

When Gorsenger felt weary or discouraged, she reminded herself of the many courageous children her organization helped, children battling a devastating illness and enduring far more pain and hardship than the aches incurred by a marathon ride. This, she said, kept her going.

As for her Impact 100 Jersey Coast involvement, Gorsegner joined in 2020, having initially learned of the group when multiple people suggested that Infinite Love apply for an Impact grant. Thinking that her group wouldn’t qualify, she never did.

But then, at an event at Bell Works last year, she was drawn to a table staffed by Impact volunteers. There, she recalled meeting Deirdre Spiropoulous, Impact’s president and co-founder, who “handed me a folder and said, ‘Take a look.’ “

She did and joined soon thereafter. 

“I love women helping other women, using our intelligence and hearts to make a difference. I am drawn by that alone,” Gorsegner said. “I just love being a part of Impact. It’s a great way for me to meet other women in our area – you never know who you might want to partner with.”

Serving on the Focus Area Committee (FAC) for Arts and Culture last summer, Gorsegner was struck by the group’s professionalism and efficiency, even as meetings were held virtually.

“The respect everyone had for everyone else’s opinion was impressive. Everyone had a voice and was heard. That is how I view women working together. It felt like a true democracy”

She points out that this is strikingly at odds with cultural depictions of women pitted against one another, ala “Mean Girls.”

 Her advice to anyone considering joining Impact 100  is simple. Think investment.

“It’s an investment in our community. We rise by lifting others. The stronger we can make our community, the better for us all. We are all on one path, on the same circle, and it all comes back to you. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?” 

Meanwhile, it took Gorsenger nearly three weeks before she hopped back on her Peloton after Spin4Kids. ”It was hard mentally, though physically it was fine.”

She has already begun planning a similar event for next year. Learn more by visiting Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer or their Facebook group Infinite Love IN MOTION.

Have or know of a similar story? Share similar inspiring stories of your own efforts or other Impact 100 members here.

Eileen Higgins: Beyond the Grant Member Spotlight

Meet Impact 100 Jersey Coast Member Eileen Higgins

By Janet Mazur Cavano

For the last three years, you’ve served as Executive Director of the Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore. Before that, you were the Executive Director of the Monmouth County Workforce Development Board.

Surely, you learned of Impact 100 Jersey Coast through your community involvement?
Actually, no, I did not! Claire Knopf (an inaugural member) invited me to an Impact event and how do you say no to her? I’ve been a member since 2017.

What inspires you about the organization?
I’ve been involved in the non-profit world, and we’re always scrambling to get little gifts. But to receive a “gift” or grant as large as what Impact gives can make a significant difference! I also like that Impact works at giving a voice to some organizations we’d never ordinarily hear about.
There are so many organizations out there with great missions and to even apply for a grant, they have to step up. Even if they’re not selected to be one of the finalists, a huge number of influential women at Impact have been exposed to them. For the organizations, it’s about much more than the grant. It’s an awesome opportunity and non-profits should not lose sight of that.

Do you have a favorite Impact success story or memory?
After the annual meeting a few years ago, I went up to a finalist that did not win a grant, The American Littoral Society, and told them, “You need to stay with this because you have a great story to tell – you can’t give up!” It was nice because Girl Scouts later connected with them.

Speaking of Girl Scouts, please tell us more about this venerable 108-year-old institution and your role on the local level.
We serve 10,000 girls in Monmouth and Ocean counties and have 4,000 adult volunteers – that’s the cookie moms, the dads, the troop leaders and more. We actually have a troop that’s run by an engineering group who’re looking to get girls interested in engineering and STEM. People think you have to be a leader to be involved and that is not the case. You can come in and do a one-time event. We are open to anything and everything. It’s a great opportunity for our girls to sample so many new things – we’re much more than the cookies!

And right now (February) is the most important time of year for you — Girl Scout Cookie season, no?
That’s right! It’s important to note that the cookie sales are a program, not a fund-raiser. It teaches girls entrepreneurial skills and goal-setting. It is the largest girl-led program of its kind. Our girls have run a robotics team, traveled to Peru and tried a lot of new things, all funded by the cookies. Also, last year, through the pandemic, the girls learned how to be resilient and how to pivot.

So, how are YOU are you keeping sane during the pandemic and lockdown?
My family has been awesome! My husband has worked out of the house for years, I work out of the house more than not. We go for walks, and I read. I try not to watch TV because I’m so tired of hearing the vitriol, I stay off social media too. We play golf, but not often; we also turned our basement into a gym. Like everyone else, I’m just treading water.

You’re a native of Monmouth County?
Since the age of 6, I grew up in Brielle. I went to St. Rose High School (in Belmar) and then the University of Richmond. My husband and I moved to Fair Haven when our children were small. I sat on the Rumson/Fair Haven school board for seven years

How about a fun fact about you? Something we don’t know
I used to water ski competitively. My mother didn’t like salt water, so we spent our summers on a lake in Connecticut where there was nothing to do but swim and water ski!

The most recent book you’ve read?
“The 10,000 doors of January,” by Alix E. Harrow. It’s a very unusual story and it took me a while to get into it, yet something about it is so interesting. It’s very different than what I normally read.

Bottom line. What would you tell a woman considering joining Impact?
I would tell them not to be scared by the price tag. The $1,100 donation can be intimidating for some women, yet the rewards are there. It’s definitely a group to get involved with – you’ll spend your time with some of the most creative, insightful women who’ll lift you up!

Eileen lives in Fair Haven with her husband Kiernan and their dog. They have two grown children.