Lions Club finds a worthy recipient for camp scholarship

Photo by Daniel Jackovino At center is Gabby Salazar, a visually impaired BHS student, with her mother, Lisa Ramirez, and Shane Berger, a school-board member. Gabby is the recipient of the first camp scholarship from the Bloomfield Lions Club.
Photo by Daniel Jackovino
At center is Gabby Salazar, a visually impaired BHS student, with her mother, Lisa Ramirez, and Shane Berger, a school-board member. Gabby is the recipient of the first camp scholarship from the Bloomfield Lions Club.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Seek and you shall find. But sometimes a little inside information helps to connect the dots.

The Bloomfield Lions Club, which was looking for a potential recipient for a one-week scholarship to Camp Marcella, a summer camp for visually impaired children, by chance found that person — singing.

Gabby Salazar, a Bloomfield High School junior, competed in the most recent “Bloomfield’s Got Talent” competition. One of the judges was Bloomfield resident Shane Berger. Berger, from his volunteer work with Bloomfield United Way, knew the Lions Club was looking for a student to attend Camp Marcella. He asked a fellow-judge if the singer on stage, Gabby, at the time, was visually impaired. When this was confirmed, Berger remembered the goal of the Lions Club and made the connection.

The scholarship is named after Dominick Seville, who died two months ago, according to Lions Club President Catherine Loreto. Loreto said Seville, a Bloomfield resident, had graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1962.

“We named the scholarship in his honor,” she said.
The scholarship is the Dominick Seville/Camp Marcella Scholarship. Gabby is the first recipient. Before he died, Seville knew the search by the Lions Club had ended with success.
“I did tell him we found someone,” Loreto said. “He did know before he passed.”
It was not easy finding someone, she said.

“We reached out to Bloomfield Human Services, schools, word-of-mouth,” she said. “To be eligible, you have to be sight-impaired, a student, and you have to be a Bloomfield resident.”

At a table in a Bloomfield Avenue coffee emporium, Berger, Gabby, 17, and her mother, Lisa Ramirez, spoke about the past and future. Ramirez and her daughter moved to Bloomfield in May.

According to Ramirez, Gabby was born 15 weeks early. At birth, she was 1 pound, 3 1/2 ounces.
“Steaks weigh more than Gabby did,” Ramirez said.

The infant was hospitalized for three months and her eyes were fused shut. Doctors said she would most probably have one of three problems, being born so prematurely: blood on the brain, a lung disorder, or a vision problem.

“Thank God I just lost my vision and nothing serious,” Gabby said.
There was mischief in her smile.

Ramirez said her high blood pressure was the reason her daughter was born so prematurely. Gabby had retinal surgery and the doctors were able to save a little vision in her left eye.

“I was a singer ever since I was a baby,” Gabby said. “My mother had a cassette recorder and played it back to me. My love for music just expanded.”

Gabby writes her own music and plays the guitar. But she is a pretty good student, too, with a 3.7 grade-point average, and sings in the regular concert chorus for BHS. An aide helps her get around the school.
“My goal is to get rid of the aide,” she said.

Gabby has been attending Camp Marcella every summer since she was eight. Her mother said the camp is not free. The scholarship is for $1,200. But over the years, Ramirez said she has been able to cobble together the necessary funds.

Gabby will be going this summer for a week, rejoining friends she has made at camp over the years.
“The thing about being visually impaired, with those people, it’s like ‘wow,’ they know what it is like,” she said. “We have a creative bond.”

Gabby hopes to study journalism in college, or guitar instruction and teach disabled students. She would like someday to attend Montclair State University.

According to Loreto, this is the first camp scholarship the Lions Club has given in four or five years.
“Nobody was there to give us a name,” she said.
This year, there was.

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