‘Star-Ledger’ Pulitzer Prize Money Goes To Foster Children’s Group

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By: Joe Strupp

Foster kids in New Jersey have little interest in the Pulitzer Prizes. For them, finding a permanent home is more important than the annual journalism awards that will be presented during Monday’s Pulitzer luncheon.

But, thanks to The Star-Ledger of Newark, some Garden State foster children may eventually get a new home because of the Pulitzers. That’s because the newspaper, which picks up its breaking-news award Monday, plans to give the $10,000 cash prize that comes with it to The Heart Gallery, a non-profit group that helps foster children find homes.

“It was the staff’s idea,” said Editor Jim Willse. “We asked everyone what they thought was a good use of the money and they agreed on this. That is the kind of thing that you’d expect from this staff.”

The Star-Ledger’s management will match the $10,000 prize, which means the paper will provide a $20,000 donation to the foster-child group. The paper won the Pulitzer last month for its coverage of the resignation last year of former Gov. Jim McGreevey, its second Pulitzer in four years.

“The Pulitzer money, in essence, would have been shared by the entire [Star-Ledger] staff, meaning each would have gotten about $33 or something,” said Pim Van Hemmen, assistant managing editor/photography and a co-founder of the Heart Gallery. “So someone said ‘why not do this’ and everyone agreed.”

The Heart Gallery, which launched in January, provides photos and descriptions of foster children available for adoption in an effort to help the most difficult-to-adopt cases gain attention. Currently, about 150 of the children’s images are on the group’s Web site, www.heartgallerynj.com.

“They are typically hard-to-adopt kids because they are older and some have siblings,” Willse said. “It is a project that accomplishes something good.”

Aside from the donation, the newspaper also is involved in a photo tour that will occur this summer around New Jersey, in which photos and bios of the youngsters will be viewable at various locations through Labor Day. In addition, The Star-Ledger plans to run a special section devoted to the children on June 12, with a least 60 of the youngsters highlighted in print and more on the Web.

“A lot of our staff has been involved with it and it was a project on the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Van Hemmen said. “And it involves kids, and you can’t go wrong when you are helping kids.”

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