Police & Fire

NJSFMBA Receives Recreation and Parks Award for Sandy Ground Project

Summit Firefighter Tim Duetsch, Central District VP, NJSFMBA, and Summit Firefighter Lou Vecchia, President Summit Local 94 accept the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association’s Board of Trustees Award for The Sandy Ground Project

SUMMIT, NJ - The New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) honored the New Jersey State Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association (NJSFMBA) with their Board of Trustees Award for their “Sandy Ground Project, Where Angels Play”.

Presented at the NJRPA’s Annual Business Luncheon at the 39th Annual Conference and Exhibition at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, the NJRPA  represents more than 700 recreation agencies throughout the state.  This is the first award of its kind, due to the exceptional nature of the efforts of the NJSFMBA.

The NJSFMBA took on a monumental task in 2013.  In response to Hurricane Sandy and the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, they committed to rebuild 26 playgrounds in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in honor of the lives taken that day at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Recognizing that the playgrounds would be one of the last priorities in Hurricane ravaged communities, and seeking a way to memorialize the lives of those young children and teachers, this huge undertaking was created. In all, three million dollars would have to be raised.

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Currently there are seven completed playgrounds in New Jersey, including Belmar, Highlands, Mantoloking, Manasquan, Asbury Park, Union Beach and Sea Bright.  The next two playgrounds are scheduled to be installed in May at Long Beach Island and Ocean City.  Each playground is assembled by volunteers including New Jersey Firefighters, their friends, and family.  Volunteers from around the country have lent a hand.  Families of the children and teachers lost are also involved.

This effort, which is now known as “The Sandy Ground Project’ “Where Angels Play” was not the first, or only, act of kindness associated with the NJSFMBA.  Firefighters from around the Garden State also assisted in cleaning and rehabilitating homes of those most in need throughout the shore area.  When not helping to rebuild, they were serving hot drinks, soups, and chili to those cleaning their homes throughout the winter months.  T-shirt sales, contributions, and volunteers all helped to make this dream a reality.

This entire effort can be traced back to post 9/11, when kids from the south wrote to New York and New Jersey firefighters.  When Hurricane Katrina hit, the NJSFMBA responded there by building three playgrounds.  When Hurricane Sandy hit the Tri-State area, the children of Mississippi collected toys and sent a trailer with 1,000 toys to kids in New Jersey along the shore who needed some Christmas cheer.  All of these acts of kindness ultimately resulted in the Sandy Ground Project.

The New Jersey Recreation and Park Association’s membership  not only recognized the NJSFBMA with this special award, but provided a standing ovation for this magnificent effort.  The NJRPA Board of Trustees Award will be celebrated again, when the next playground build gets underway in Long Beach Island on May 8.

For more information on The Sandy Ground Project, go to: www.thesandygroundproject.org


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