Party brightens holiday for Ocean County youths

With some help from the Ocean County Young Republicans, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County put smiles on the faces of hundreds of youngsters this holiday season.

On Dec. 16 the organization hosted a holiday celebration for 250 attendees, including children and their families, at La Bove Grande, a banquet facility and restaurant in Lakehurst. Owner Jerry Bove provided the facilities and food for the event.

Bove said, “I had to compose myself before going upstairs. Last year I began to cry when I saw the looks on all their faces. To see such happiness brings me such joy. As long as I am alive, this event will be held here.”

The holiday event was sponsored by the Ocean County Young Republicans, according to Jackson Township Council-man Scott Martin, president of the organization.

“We agreed to sponsor the gift giving and so we divided the list up and purchased the necessary gifts,” he said. “We needed to raise $5,000. Big Brothers Big Sisters program director Kelly Hill collected wish lists from the kids in the program. She gave the lists to the Young Republicans, who did the shopping.”

Martin thanked Target of Toms River for opening early to accommodate the people who shopped for the gifts.

“We had the store to ourselves,” he said. “We divided up the list and spread out throughout the store. It was a lot of fun.”

After all of the purchases had been made, the gifts – more than 450 of them – were transported to the Lakewood office of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Once there, the items were carefully wrapped for distribution. This year the Ocean County Board of Realtors teamed up with personnel from Naval Air Engi-neering Station Lakehurst to wrap the gifts.

The day of the event is very special, Martin said.

“Each child receives their gifts and gets a picture taken with Santa,” he said. “To see the looks on their faces makes this whole thing worthwhile. To know you are making a difference in a child’s life gives you such a warm feeling inside.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Sue Sedevic said, “The children had a very special holiday. There were smiles on all of their faces.”

Martin thanked Manchester Council-man Brendon Weiner for his help with the fundraising.

Other contributors included Jackson Councilwoman Emily Ingram; Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority Commissioner Bill Allmann; the Jackson Regular Republicans; Berkeley Council-man Carmen Amato; Brick Councilman Dan Toth; Plumsted Councilman Mike McCue; Ocean Township Mayor Dan Van Pelt; and Bob Schroeder, former gubernatorial candidate.

Corporate contributors included Yezzi Associates, Toms River; Designer 446, Freehold; Maser Consulting, Matawan; Schoor DePalma, Manalapan; United Water, Toms River; and Garvey, Ballou and VanDyke, Toms River.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County currently serves more than 630 children, with 463 children matched with big brothers and big sisters.

“We need mentors for 135 children throughout Ocean County,” Sedevic said. “It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference in a child’s life. This is the best holiday present ever.”

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County, call (732) 905-5349.