Monmouth Beach Group Helps
By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
MONMOUTH BEACH – It started with a Thanksgiving Day football game among a few neighbors and friends nearly nine years ago. The small group of 16 men, trying to get out of their “wives’ hair” on Thanksgiving morning played an informal game of two-man touch in the town’s Griffin Park.
Two years later they found their casual game – dubbed the Turkey Bowl – was gaining popularity and players; they were up to 40 men by this time. “We decided maybe we can do something with this little game,” said Mark Gardener. “Maybe we can help.”
By putting out a collection bowl and asking players and their newfound fans – family members and neighbors – to donate nonperishable foods, the Turkey Bowl raised $800 and food for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
“A lot of people might be deterred,” said Gardner, who thought they could raise more. “So the next year we organized better and we made $8,000 and 500 pounds of food for the FoodBank” of Monmouth and Ocean counties.
As a result, a group of the men, including Gardener and Kenneth Shaw, formed Shore to Help, a local organization that works to ease the burden of families in difficult times.
Now in its ninth year, with more than 300 people participating, Shore to Help has raised $250,000, for local charities.
“We realized we can create our own charity,” said Gardner, who serves as vice president of the nonprofit’s board of trustees. Shaw is the president. Members of the group, who have met each other through the town and their children’s schools, are made up of small business owners, managers, teachers and others. “We can raise these funds and help people who are in need,” said Gardner.
Among the organizations that have benefitted from Shore to Help’s generosity are The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County, Family and Children’s Services and Make Some Noise and Cure Kids Cancer Foundation.
After Super Storm Sandy caused catastrophic destruction in their own town Monmouth Beach, Shore to Help was able to help neighbors and strangers alike to start picking up the pieces of their homes and lives.
Three and a half weeks after the Oct. 29 storm, the men were organizing the annual Turkey Bowl. “We sat in Kenny’s living room and thought what’s happened to our town? Seven out of our 11 board members were knocked out. We knew we had to help,” said Gardener. “We said we have the ability to help raise funds for people in the shore area and we put our focus on that.”
After that, Shore to Help gained even more momentum. “The town really embraced us,” he said. “It’s the community and they came together.”
Last year more than 110 players participated in the Turkey Bowl, with 150 wives and friends on the sidelines and more than 100 kids playing in side games. With food collections, T-shirts, tailgate parties and sponsors, the bowl has grown into an anticipated annual event. “Last year we had sponsored tents, massages, a doctor, a breakfast tent and baked goods,” said Gardner. “We had over 330 people there that day,” and the proceeds all went to Mary’s Place by the Sea. We’re proud of that.”
After last year’s event, Shore to Help donated $40,000 to Mary’s Place by the Sea in Ocean Grove, a mission to support women during and after cancer treatment. “They do God’s work,” said Gardner. “They’re one of the organizations we like to hook ourselves with.”
Shore to Help’s donation will help build a spa for Mary’s Place by the Sea; the mission will honor Gardner and Shaw for their humanitarian work in October.
“This year we’re branching out,” said Gardner of Shore to Help.
In addition to the Turkey Bowl, Shore to Help will hold its first golf outing on Aug. 31 at Deal Country Club. “2015 will be our biggest year,” according to Gardner.
“It’s more than Monmouth Beach now,” he said. “Most of our children are in their teens and they’ll inherit this in a few years. We’d like to keep it going and reach out to Monmouth and Ocean counties…We look forward to working with other charities too.
“Over the years we’ve had some bruised bones, pulled hammys and battered egos,” said Gardner, but they’re still going.
For more information on the golf outing, visit shore-to-help.com.
Published August 13, 2015
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