Bamboozled: Good deeds can be the nicest gift of all

No lumps of coal today.BB branding

You see, Bamboozled has an “in” with Santa Claus.

While the man in the red suit usually reads this column to see who should be added to the “naughty” list, today we wanted to give him some tips about some readers who should top the “nice” list.

It’s going to be a very special Christmas for Kelly Cogswell, 6, and her family.

Bamboozled brought you Kelly’s story in October after we were contacted by Andy Cogswell, Kelly’s dad, who was in a fight about bank fees charged on an account that housed charity funds for Kelly’s care.

In 2010, the Brick Township Policemen’s Benevolent Association raised $20,000 with a charity basketball game for Kelly. She has Mitochondrial Disease/Leigh Syndrome, and lives with a tracheotomy, a feeding tube and a ventilator.

Event organizers put the money into an account at TD Bank.

After Cogswell spent most of the funds for Kelly’s care, he didn’t pay attention to the statements because the account had a balance of less than $500. That’s when monthly fees kicked in, something Cogswell didn’t notice for many months.

122412When he asked TD Bank to help, he got nowhere. When we asked the bank to examine the account, it returned the $175 in fees to Cogswell’s account.

Every little bit of money helps, he said, noting that Kelly’s cost of care is high and the family struggles to keep up with its bills. Finances were likely to continue to be tight, he said, because insurance doesn’t cover medical transport for Kelly and the family needed a handicapped van.

Thanks to a Bamboozled reader, they now have one.

The reader knew someone with a 1993 Dodge Voyager with low mileage and an electric wheelchair lift. The family who owned it couldn’t use it anymore, and they wanted to be sure it went to someone who needed it.

The van now has a new home in the Cogswells’ driveway, and it’s already been used to take Kelly to a “Lunch with Santa” at her school.

Cogswell says it’s going to make a huge difference in their lives.

“It’s going to allow us to bring Kelly to family functions,” Andy Cogswell said. “We haven’t brought her to any functions with our family in a long time because of the challenge of transporting her. Kelly will get to spend Christmas with the whole family for the first time in several years.”

Fabulous. But Bamboozled readers were not done with this family yet.

Three separate readers sent checks for the family, wishing them well and hoping to ease the financial burden just a little bit.

“Obviously I was very moved by the Cogswells’ plight and felt I should do something to help them,” one reader wrote. “Hopefully the donation may help make their holidays a bit more enjoyable this year.”

The Cogswells said they put the money to good use, including settling a debt with Kelly’s pharmacy and paying a mechanic to inspect and tune-up the van.

“For the people that have been kind enough to donate, I’d like to sincerely thank them. It has been a huge help for us,” he said. “It’s made a significant difference in regards to our immediate needs. There is no way we can properly thank everyone that has helped and supported us.”

You can read more about Kelly on a Facebook page created for her benefit — Kisses-for-Kelly .


Newlyweds McKenzie and Jesus Ortiz have gotten their money back.

The couple was scheduled to marry on Nov. 3, and their reception was to be held at Pantagis Renaissance, a Scotch Plains banquet hall.

But days before, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey and Pantagis lost power. Less than 48 hours before the reception, the company canceled the affair.

The couple understood the cancellation, and they scrambled to arrange a new party at the gymnasium of a school run by their church. That’s where family and friends celebrated after the couple took their vows.

The Ortizes asked Pantagis for their money back — nearly $10,000 — but citing an “act of God” provision in the contract, Pantagis refused.

Until hundreds of Bamboozled readers inundated the company’s Facebook page and, the online home of The Star-Ledger, with negative comments about the decision.

“Give them their money back,” most commenters said.

Other media outlets also picked up the story, and word spread.

Three attorneys contacted Bamboozled to offer free legal services to help the couple get their money back.

The Division of Consumer Affairs got involved, asking the business for information about the case, and the couple had an attorney send a letter to Pantagis.

Before long, we received an e-mail from McKenzie Ortiz.

“We received a full refund from Pantagis tonight thanks to yourself and The Star-Ledger, Consumer Affairs, our attorney and the myriad readers, friends, family and co-workers who bombarded Pantagis with their thoughts and feelings,” she said. “In a world that so often feels cut off from others, it amazes me to see so many people outraged on our behalf. We are eager to put this behind us and to move on with our lives.”

Not just yet.

Before the couple got their money back, Bamboozled received a call from Marion Roberts, a Union County woman who said she wanted to give the couple a gift.

Roberts sent it to us, along with a handwritten letter for the couple.

“I am very glad you wrote your story so Bamboozled could share it with readers. It makes us realize that life has its ups and downs,” she wrote. “We all have experienced the good and the bad situations and people and we continue to go forward. When I read your story I wanted you to know there are many of us who understand your upset and don’t want you to be disappointed in mankind!”

“I want to give you a ‘Wedding Gift’ of $2,000 to ease the burden of your financial loss,” Roberts wrote.

A check was inside the envelope.

Before telling the Ortizes about Robert’s generosity, we wanted to tell her that the couple got their money back. Perhaps she’d want to take back the gift.

“No, send it to them,” she said. “They’re just starting out, like I was once. I’m sure it will help them. I want them to know there are good people out there.”

Marion Roberts, you are one of them.

We then called McKenzie Ortiz to share the news. Ortiz, who at first was speechless, said she was “awestruck by her generosity.”

“We are so incredibly thankful. It really does show when things get rough, people do come out and support you and help you,” Ortiz said. “To receive a wedding gift from a complete stranger warms my heart.”

Ortiz said the couple would save the money for the future — maybe their first house.

“We’re definitely not just going to spend it,” she said. “She just got our nest egg started.”