Stromski, whose story about a kindergartener who created a “hug machine” for her recently to help her connect with those who love her during the pandemic went viral with its message of hope, has been a fierce advocate for Stage 4 cancer research.
The “Glass Slipper Fun Drive”, a car parade in honor of Stromski, who lives in Jamesport and teaches at Aquebogue Elementary School, is planned for Saturday, April 3 at 10 a.m. Those attending will gather at the former Walmart parking lot on Old Country Road in Riverhead; the parade will kick off at 11 a.m. and head east, passing Aquebogue Elementary School.
Participants are invited to attend with their cars, trucks, and motorcycles decorated in blue and white, with kids encouraged to dress up in superhero costumes and princess dresses, or Blue Wave gear, to celebrate school spirit. Kids can also bring puppets, in honor of the well-loved puppets Stromski has used to teach her virtual classes this year.
No matter what challenges she’s faced, Stromski has also kept her kids — both her own three children, as well as the students she’s shepherded through the pandemic while teaching virtually – front and center. In recent weeks, she created a Facebook page to celebrate Riverhead High School seniors, so that the community can sprinkle some magic during a year where so many seniors’ dreams were derailed due to the coronavirus.
That’s why it came as no surprise to many that when Stromski was told about the parade, she immediately shifted the focus to the children.
“So many people have had well-deserved recognition during the pandemic. I’ve been hospitalized several times and know firsthand how amazing the medical community has been,” Stromski said. “First responders never stopped, the restaurants and local small businesses all have been amazing. Schools have had to pivot multiple times with plans, and families have been working so hard with staff.”
But, she added: “The unsung heroes have been the children. They have been learning in a way that has never been done before with resilience, grace, grit, and perseverance. I’m so proud of all of these Blue Waves, from the senior Class of 2020 last year who pulled together with a video, a parade, and left the district to go on to do great things in such a different way — to the kindergarten classes of this year who begin their Blue Waves story in a way that has never been told before. These students are my heroes, and they all deserve recognition. They make our community proud.”
Jill Kubetz, Stromski’s sister, wrote a post on social media about her sister’s selfless dedication to her students.
“Keri was a cheerleader in high school. It didn’t stop in high school. Keri is one of the biggest advocates and cheerleaders for our community and children. Keri is an outspoken supporter of all children … No student in her class felt unloved or unimportant in those hours she had them. Who among us shows such strength and fortitude to fight to live and live to fight?” she asked. “This could be a parade for Keri, but in true ‘Stromski Strong’ fashion, my sister has flipped the switch” to spotlight the children.
Her sister, Kubetz said, “changed the dialogue” about Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, demanding that “Stage 4 needs more” and educating.
Especially during October, when what Stromski calls the “pink-washing,” the rah-rah and hoopla for “Save the Ta-Tas,” the pink ribbons, balloons, and goodie bags of pink plastic beads, the proliferation of pink cocktails, parties, and what she deems empty pink promises have had Stromski literally seeing red. “Pink is not a cure,” she said.
Instead, she has said, the focus needs to be on critical research for Stage 4 cancer that’s needed to save lives.
But as hard as Stromski fights to raise awareness, she is a tireless advocate for her students, especially during a year like no other, when the shift to virtual learning created a whole new reality for her young charges.
“From the newest kindergartners who are learning to navigate their day in masks, to our high school seniors who have missed out on proms and the many memories that all of us have cherished from our last years in high school— overcoming adversity and standing up for what she feels is right for the Riverhead community’s children is the greatest gift Keri has given our schools,” Kubetz said. “Our students have adapted and persevered through this difficult year so let’s cheer Keri on, but let’s cheer on and appreciate how resilient our Riverhead children and all children have been — children who are learning and blossoming through this difficult time.”
All proceeds from donations at the parade will benefit the Stromski family.