Friends, fans of Wendy Chioji raise $35K

Do­na­tions in mem­ory of late TV an­chor will go to Pelo­to­nia, a non­profit can­cer re­search char­ity

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Hal Boedeker [email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com [email protected]­lando sen­tinel.com @lack of de­fense

For­mer WESH-Chan­nel 2 an­chor Wendy Chioji’s friends and fans have do­nated more than $35,000 in her mem­ory to Pelo­to­nia, a non­profit for can­cer re­search that she cham­pi­oned.

The to­tal stood at $35,243 on Nov 22, the char­ity said. An Or­lando event Nov. 21 raised $7,660, and a trib­ute do­na­tion link in Chioji’s obit­u­ary brought in $27,583.

“We loved Wendy very much, and it is in­cred­i­bly hum­bling to see her con­tin­ued im­pact,” wrote Steph Zim­mer­man, Pelo­to­nia’s di­rec­tor of stew­ard­ship and spe­cial as­sis­tant to the CEO.

The Nov. 21 event at The Abbey in Or­lando was a joy­ous af­fair with a Grow­ing Bolder film about Chioji, who was at WESH for 20 years. There were funny and heart­felt rem­i­nis­cences from for­mer WESH col­leagues An­drea Batch­e­lor and Marc Mid­dle­ton, who founded Grow­ing Bolder.

For­mer WESH Gen­eral Man­ager Bill Bau­man talked about the Wendy Chioji Memo­rial Schol­ar­ship at Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida.

Host Dar­cel Stevens presided over the free­wheel­ing event with mem­o­rable sass and praised Chioji’s sup­port of drag queens. Miss Sammy, dubbed “Or­lando’s first lady of drag” by Stevens, per­formed “Cabaret.”

Chioji’s ex-hus­band, at­tor­ney Mark NeJame, and for­mer boyfriend Kelly Greene spoke lov­ingly about her. Good friend Mike Gon­ick, who also spoke, later said she would have ap­pre­ci­ated the night.

“A lot of peo­ple who do­nated weren’t there Thurs­day night,” he said. “The schol­ar­ship was an ab­so­lutely amaz­ing thing that goes on. It was won­der­ful they cre­ated this other out­let that will have legs.”

Be­fore she died in Oc­to­ber at 57 af­ter a long bat­tle with can­cer, Chioji had bat­tled the dis­ease by

fight that had taken place be­tween her and other stu­dents from school.

“By the time Officer Reid got there, the fight was over,” Os­borne said. “There was no phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion or any­thing that re­quired any type of force when he came upon the scene.”

Fletcher and Os­borne ques­tioned whether Reid had ad­e­quate train­ing to work with chil­dren, not­ing a lapse in his em­ploy­ment as a law en­force­ment officer be­fore be­ing hired at the Sher­iff’s Of­fice in Fe­bru­ary. Reid worked for the Or­ange County Sher­iff’s Of­fice be­tween 2000 and 2004, then for an agency in North Carolina be­tween 2005 and 2016, the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice has said.

In an email, the Sher­iff’s Of­fice said school re­source deputies are typ­i­cally cho­sen from within the depart­ment and must have worked for two con­sec­u­tive years on pa­trol. The deputy has to be con­sid­ered rais­ing money as well.

“I should also add that since 2015, Wendy per­son­ally fundraised $29,465 through her an­nual par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Ride event,” Zim­mer­man said. “So al­to­gether, she is re­spon­si­ble for more than $64,708 raised for can­cer re­search through Pelo­to­nia.”

“At Pelo­to­nia, 100 per­cent of ev­ery dol­lar raised goes di­rectly to in­no­va­tive, life­sav­ing can­cer re­search — and over the past 11 years, our com­mu­nity has raised $207

“in good stand­ing” with the depart­ment and un­dergo train­ing that in­cludes cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion and re­source deputy train­ing, as well as an­nual firearms and ac­tive shooter prac­tice, the email said.

If a deputy is hired from out­side the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice for a school po­si­tion, he or she must have two years of pre­vi­ous law en­force­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and must pass all hir­ing re­quire­ments by the agency, in­clud­ing a back­ground check and psy­cho­log­i­cal exam, as well as un­dergo the same train­ing as in­ter­nal re­source deputy can­di­dates, the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice said.

The email said the agency is con­duct­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Reid, which will be sent to the State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice to de­ter­mine if charges are war­ranted.

Fletcher said he thinks the in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Reid and a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent that took place in Septem­ber, in which two mil­lion for the cause,” Zim­mer­man said. “Wendy was so proud of this and was es­pe­cially ex­cited when we re­cently an­nounced a land­mark pledge of $102 mil­lion to cre­ate the Pelo­to­nia In­sti­tute for Im­muno-On­col­ogy.”

You can join the fight Pelo­to­nia.org/DEFY.

And you can boost the UCF schol­ar­ship at ucf­foun­da­tion.org/ wendy or call 407-823-5526.

6-year-olds were ar­rested by an Or­lando po­lice re­serve officer at a char­ter school, in­di­cate a larger prob­lem with school officer train­ing in Cen­tral Florida.

In the Septem­ber in­ci­dent, OPD officer Den­nis Turner de­tained the el­e­men­tary school stu­dents while work­ing a shift at Lu­cious and Emma Nixon Academy. Turner, who was a re­tired OPD officer work­ing as part of the agency’s Re­serve Unit, was fired af­ter the ar­rests, hav­ing vi­o­lated an agency pol­icy.

The Or­lando Sen­tinel has since re­ported that sev­eral of­fi­cers on OPD’s Re­serve Unit, which of­ten fills shifts at schools, hos­pi­tals and the air­port, have dis­ci­pline or ar­rest his­to­ries.

Reid was fired from the Sher­iff’s Of­fice on Nov. 8, af­ter Mina said his “be­hav­ior and ac­tions vi­o­lated many poli­cies, our stan­dards — but, more im­por­tantly, the vi­sion and at ex­pec­ta­tions that set as sher­iff.”

Fletcher likened Wilmica’s treat­ment to “more like a vi­o­lent crim­i­nal than a child.”

Af­ter she was de­tained by Reid, the teen sat in the back of the pa­trol car for more than 10 min­utes while her mother ar­gued with deputies. Wilmica said she thinks Reid’s ac­tions were racially mo­ti­vated be­cause of the de­mean­ing way he was talk­ing to her and the other chil­dren.

Os­borne said more sen­si­tiv­ity is needed in some of­fi­cers who are as­signed to schools, “es­pe­cially when you’re deal­ing with kids who are in sixth, sev­enth, eighth grade.”

“A bet­ter ap­proach, more train­ing, more sen­si­tiv­ity is needed in these sit­u­a­tions,” he said. “She’s deal­ing with a hurt neck. What’s go­ing to be next?”

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