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Retired music teacher cited at dinner

Vicki J. Mehr, a retired music educator and adviser for the Joseph and Riva Mehr Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, was given the city school district's Golden Apple Award on Thursday in recognition of "extraordinary service to the students of Niagara Falls."

She was among dozens of parents and "school partners" who were honored at the district's annual Parents and Partners dinner in Niagara Falls High School.

The fund, named in memory of Vicki Mehr's parents, has donated thousands of dollars to the school district's Camp Wolverine Functional Skills Summer Camp.

School Board President Carmelette Rotella said Thursday's event was "designed to acknowledge and thank the many parents and community volunteers, businesses and agencies who take an active role in our schools."

Former Buffalo Bills running back and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, the keynote speaker, picked up on the theme of parental involvement with their children and with their children's schools.

"Parents have to be part of their children's lives. We all have to be involved in our kids' activities," the football Hall of Famer told the audience of about 150 people. "Exercise with your kids. Be healthy. Eat right so you can be role models for your children "

Among others honored at Thursday's program were Police Superintendent John R. Chella and the Niagara Falls Police Department for their service to the schools; Maralynn E. Giancola, a special-education teacher at LaSalle Preparatory School who helps administer the Wolverine summer camp; "parents of the year" designated by each of the city's schools; and 149 businesses or organizations that have formed partnerships with the schools to provide materials or programs that otherwise could not be offered.

The theme of Thursday's program was "Never stop learning."