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Ceilie Reynolds Receives Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s 2023 Phenomenal Women Under 40

Ceilie Reynolds, a junior political science student, was one of ten women to receive the award title, “Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s 2023 Phenomenal Women Under 40.” The award is given to those dedicated to community service, who possess proven leadership skills, and who consistently go above and beyond in their personal and professional lives.

On Sept. 9, 2019, Reynolds was involved in a car accident on Route 18, which left her with numerous injuries, including a collapsed lung, cranial damage, and broken bones. “The biggest one was my brain injury; I am missing 20 percent of my brain now, and, along with that, it has affected my executive functioning, which is deciding what to do, when to do it, and if it’s okay to do something,” explained Reynolds.

She is now legally blind due to the accident, but has since started working with the New Jersey Commission For The Blind.

“I only have about 20 percent vision out of my one eye, and it’s nearsighted now, which is another great addition. I work with the New Jersey Commission For the Blind, and they have helped me a ton, getting me back into school and getting my life going again,” she said.

Reynolds can no longer drive a car because of her vision. “I lost my license… It wouldn’t be safe for me to be behind a wheel. I have improved my scanning a lot; post-accident, for about two years, I would run into everything; my legs would be covered in bruises, and that’s another big hindrance in my vision.”
She feels honored to be the youngest person given the award. “I said the word honor so much in my acceptance speech when I received it, but I really was, and still am, honored. I also said in my speech that it makes me excited because I was a Girl Scout of the Jersey Shore, and it makes me feel like now those young girls have a girl closer to their age to look up to, and while more people received the award of Phenomenal women under 40, I am the youngest ever to receive it,” she explained.

Although Reynolds has sustained a lot, she continues to help those around her. She is involved in the Monmouth Park Charity Fund, The Beauty Foundation for Cancer Care, and Clean Ocean Action. Likewise, she recently began working with the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, the American Heart Association, and The Human Library.

Danielle Ruggiero, a three-time graduate of Monmouth University, close friend of Reynolds, and one of the founding members of the Beauty Foundation that Reynolds works with, said, “The Beauty Foundation for Cancer Care was started by two of our Board Members Carla Scarabino and Krista Olsen-Dibsie, Monmouth County women, who aimed to develop a way to directly assist men, women & children experiencing a financial hardship while receiving treatment for cancer,” she said.

“Together, we have raised over $2.5 million and helped over 3,000 families in our 15 years. I was fortunate to be asked to join the Board (we are all volunteers), along with Ceilie’s mom, Dr. Stephanie Reynolds, when Ceilie was in 8th grade. Ceilie immediately became an integral part of our fundraising. There’s no end to the work Ceilie will do to help these families.”

She reflected on first hearing of the news about Reynolds’ car accident. She explained, “I remember like it was yesterday. I received the text from her mom, Stephanie, in the middle of the night that Ceilie had been in a horrific accident. I felt helpless, literally praying to God for hours on end to please save my friend. Her family remained faithful and strong by her bedside, which I know in my heart Ceilie could sense, which gave her strength to fight her way back.”

She continued, “My fellow Board members and I drove to Philly a few weeks later, and we got to see Ceilie. We held her hand and prayed by her bedside. Honestly, we all cried for days after the accident, but when we saw her, we felt hopeful. The incredible team of doctors and nurses who loved her as much as we all do gave us back our incredible girl. We are so lucky that there are medical care providers (her mother included) who love their patients like Ceilie was.”

Chris Marzarella, Reynolds’ personal trainer and friend, said, “She’s an amazing person who I’ve seen overcome many obstacles, and she absolutely deserves to be acknowledged. Nothing keeps her down, and she’s a strong role model for women. She inspires many people, including me.”

“When I first met her, her responses to my ‘trainer’ questions took a bit of time, and she delayed in her responses, I’m guessing because of the injuries. Now? I feel like I’m seeing the old but improved version of Ceilie— quick-witted, funny, full of life, and at times sarcastic in a loving way,” he explained.
He added how people can learn a lot from her and her story of overcoming difficulty no matter how challenging. “If I could define some of the lessons she can teach others, overcome adversity, find your inner strength, gain wisdom from your experiences, become a positive influence to others, once you gain momentum, don’t stop. Sure, there are setbacks, but the old saying is true the comeback is greater than the setback. That is Ceilie.”

Kevin Reynolds, Reynolds’ father, said, “Ceilie is truly an inspiration in a couple of ways. She has worked through all her injuries and rehabilitation without complaint. She is also inspirational in the recovery she has made. People have trouble believing the extent of her injuries and how far she has recovered to a very normal appearance.”

K. Reynolds is grateful that his daughter’s contributions are being recognized by those around her, but to him, it is more than just that, “Ceilie being named by the Girl Scouts is an honor she really appreciates, but to me, it’s more about the people that get to learn and be motivated by her incredible spirit.”

He goes on to say that Reynolds attributes her recovery to prayer. “Ceilie will also tell you that she credits her recovery and survival to the power of prayer. I can tell you that if it wasn’t for our close and extended family and friends’ prayers and positive thoughts, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Ceilie will also tell you that what she and we went through was hard but not the hardest thing. We truly see the ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ as words to live by.”

Ruggiero concluded, “You’ll never see Ceilie feeling sorry for herself, nor will she accept limitations. She pushes herself to every next level in her life: in her education, her physical capabilities, and her service to others. It’s unbelievably refreshing to watch! She’s just fearless – in every direction of life. Ceilie has overcome so much, yet her primary focus in life is what she can do for others.”