SOMERS POINT — More than 100 guests gathered on the lawn at Shore Medical Center July 3 to celebrate the nation’s freedom at the hospital’s second annual Celebration of Independence and Essay Contest, hosted by Shore’s Chief Information Officer and veteran Fred Banner, who spoke on the importance of freedom and how much we owe to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom. Local students were invited to submit essays on what independence means to them, and winners were invited to read their essays aloud.
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Marco Polo Smigliani, a veteran advocate and four-time Purple Heart recipient, who then performed a rendition of “The House I Live In,” made famous by Frank Sinatra, from the Broadway show "Let Freedom Sing." Then, Linwood resident Scott Cogan, 17, performed taps on the trumpet. Shore employees Michael Green then played guitar and sang the national anthem.
Next, children who entered Shore’s essay contest read their essays on independence aloud, beginning with Kendall Barnes, 9, of Ocean City, followed by Kaiden Grim, 9, of Ocean City, and ending with Ava Rivera, 11, a summer Ventnor resident from Los Angeles. Two additional winning essayists, Kyler and Ryan Bender, of Somers Point, were not in attendance. All student essays were also published in the July 3 edition of The Current newspapers.
The event concluded with a performance of “God Bless America” by Shore employee Saundra Stokes, and complimentary red, white and blue popsicles for everyone.