Locals go fishing to help boy with leukemia

Staff Writer

I t wasn’t just a fluke. The outpouring of support for the Mayor’s Fluke Tournament, held June 15 at the Sewaren Boat Launch to help a Woodbridge fifth-grader who is battling leukemia, was a concerted effort on the part of many to be there for one of their own.

“It went very well,” Woodbridge police Capt. Bob Brady said. “We raised over $7,000 for the little boy.”

Joseph “Thomas” Kurzeja, 10, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 143 and a volunteer with his school’s Community of Caring program. He has played flute with the school band and received the Mayor’s Citation in May 2012 for an essay he wrote on recycling. In December, Thomas was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow. Though the survival rate for ALL has increased in recent years, there is no cure. Thomas will undergo chemotherapy and targeted therapy for at least three-and-a-half years.

But some good news came on the night of the tournament, sponsored by Mayor John McCormac.

“Actually, at this point, his levels are normal,” Brady said. “However, he’s going to have to be treated for three years before they say he’s OK.” The turnout of supporters at the fluke tournament showed that many are pulling for Thomas.

“The community really came out,” Brady said, adding, “Our sponsors … were there for us.”

The fishing contest reeled in 45 boats, the most the tournament has ever seen, according to Brady. This was particularly remarkable considering how many people lost watercrafts in superstorm Sandy, he said.

The first-place fish weighed in at 13 pounds, winning a cash prize of $1,000 for Paul Patadatos. Second place and a $500 prize went to Gary Read, who caught an eight-pounder. Anthony Toggio won third place with a prize of $250, and Tommy Nespole won $150 for fourth place.

Participation cost $125 per boat. Along with fees and donations from attendees, local businesses and others contributed to help Thomas. One such show of support came from Home Depot in Woodbridge, which donated a backyard makeover to the Kurzeja family. In addition, the event yielded an Xbox system and accompanying games for Thomas.