Friends, fans of Wendy Chioji raise $35K
Donations in memory of late TV anchor will go to Pelotonia, a nonprofit cancer research charity
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?”