Friends and supporters of Aquebogue Elementary School kindergarten teacher Keri Stromski are organizing a “glass slipper fun-drive” on Saturday, April 3 beginning at 10 a.m.
Participants should gather in the parking lot of the former Walmart store for a parade down Main Road to Edgar Avenue. Organizers will be there with glass slippers to accept donations for the beloved teacher and her family.
Stromski is a metastatic breast cancer survivor who is currently undergoing treatment at Stony Brook University Hospital. First diagnosed in 2016, Stromski has fought for awareness of and funding for research into Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
She has been an outspoken and passionate advocate for “Stage IV Needs More” and has not been shy about calling out corporations and large nonprofits who use breast cancer awareness month for their own benefit.
Stromski said she is grateful for the support of the school community and the Riverhead community at large, which has been overwhelming.
But she said she really wants next Saturday’s “fun-drive” to be about the kids, not her.
“I don’t want any of them to be scared or hear ‘cancer’ or see pink,” she said today.
She wants the cars to be adorned with blue and white — Riverhead’s colors — and would love to see kids dressed in super-hero or princess costumes.
“Who doesn’t love a parade of superheroes and princesses and Blue Waves?” Stromski asked.
The better question may be “Who doesn’t love Mrs. Stromski?”
The veteran kindergarten teacher now has an adoring multigenerational fan club. With more than 24 years in the classroom, Stromski, now 48, has taught the children of former kindergarten students.
“The kids all adore her,” said Cory Fife of Aquebogue, whose daughter Baye is one of Stromski’s current students. Stromski has been teaching a remote learning kindergarten class during the pandemic. Her class of 24 kindergarten students from across the district are all enrolled in full-remote instruction.
“She is just amazing,” Fife said. “Without ever being in the same room with them, she has managed to become part of their families and has made an impact on all of us,” she said.
“All of the kids believe Keri is a real-life superhero, with magic hair color-changing fairies, a button that makes her fly, and now she is on a super top secret mission to save Blue Waves Billy,” Fife said, describing the story line Stromski created to explain her absence while undergoing treatment in a way that wouldn’t frighten her young students.
“Baye just loves her so much and wants to be a superhero just like her,” Fife said. “That’s why she needed a purple superhero costume.” Purple is Baye’s favorite color and her teacher wears purple wigs sometimes just to give the child a thrill.
“For Keri, it’s always been all about the kids,” Stromski’s sister Jill Kubetz said today.
“She is determined to do everything she can to support the kids and support the budget passing,” Kubetz said.
Stromski is a relentless advocate, as anyone who has encountered her knows. Whether it’s fighting for passage of the school district budget, fighting for high school seniors be recognized during the pandemic, fighting the “Stage IV Needs More” battle — or fighting for her life, Stromski is tireless and determined.
The mother of three, who has continued to work full-time despite many difficult struggles with her disease, also remains active as a community volunteer. Stromski is running the “Adopt a Senior” Facebook page for the Class of 2021 and made an extra effort to ensure that special needs students were included.
“In order to keep their anonymity, Keri sent out a request for people to adopt students from the special needs group. The response was overwhelming,” said Laura Stimpfel, the mother of a special needs former student, who said she “jumped at the chance” to help Stromski with the program.
“Over 1,000 people showed interest and close to $2,000 was raised,” she said. Stromski had to ask people to stop donating because she had reached her goal amount, Stimpfel said.
This weekend the group’s first monthly installment of gifts went out, Stimpfel said. “It included a cupcake from NoFo Flour Shoppe, Riverhead face masks and gift certificates from Carlo’s Pizza Oven. The next few months will have gift certificates from Bagel Lovers, Lucharitos, and Dari-land Ice Cream — all a surprise for our “special 33,” Stimpfel said. There will also be other Riverhead gear and surprises in store for them, she said.
“It is truly amazing what this town and community have done and what residents are capable of doing to support one another,” she said.
Kubetz agrees. “The most beautiful thing about the Riverhead community is how people pull together and show how deep and intertwined our roots are,” she said.
“The support that Keri and her family have gotten this past week alone has been overwhelmingly beautiful,” her sister said.
“To those who have supported Keri in prayer and lift her name up, we say thank you,” Kubetz said.
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