BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Parents always try to do as much as possible to ensure their children succeed in the classroom and on the field. Whether they are a star athlete or an honors student, kids need to be provided with the best resources.
In Berkeley Heights they realize this and to help pay off the debt from the field that was installed in 2006, the Highlander Foundation took their love for meatballs and fundraising and held the first ever Meatball Madness Saturday, Feb.2, at the Connell Corporate Center. Co-chairs Jeanne Kingsley and Lisa Smith and many volunteers worked hard to prepare for the event.
The field was in bad condition, so in 2005 the Board of Education held a referendum for a new one, but it was voted down. However in 2006, a resident agreed to co-sign a loan for a field and the board agreed they would pay the bank back. But things took a turn for the worse when another resident sued the board, claiming the action was illegal. After several appeals, the board lost the case in September 2012 and the person who co-signed the loan now has to pay the bank.
Smith said once this happened she and the members of the booster club knew they had to do something.
“The resident who donated the money didn’t do it for the recognition,” Smith said.
So they decided to have a night of meatball tasting, drinking, eating and socializing. With restaurants, parents, teachers and even children participating, Smith said it was going to be a fun night.
“We figured this is a nice inexpensive way to do a fundraiser,” she said. “The good thing is the meatballs have got to be delicious.”
People were judged by Giovanni Apicella, a chef in New York City, Ciro Scalera, owner of 27 Mix, a restaurant in Newark and a mystery judge. People also could put tokens in front of someone’s meatballs that they liked and the contestant with the most received the People’s Choice award.
The restaurants that participated were Clememte’s, Coppola’s, Deena’s Delights, Delicious Heights, Dimaio Cucina, Subway, Subzone, Trap Rock Brewery and Trattoria Di Francesco. There were also numerous parents and teachers representing different sports teams who made meatballs.
Trap Rock took home first place, while Clemente’s and Coppola’s finished second and third. In the non-professional category, Mary-Jo Stearns and Stephanie Zecca of Nonna’s Meatballs finished first and Keith Lerch of Little Sweeties placed second.
Selected by their peers were Robin Keller, Margie Cranston and Karen Bandics with Just Ballin’ and Detective Joe Williams of the BHPD in second with the Governor Livingston cheerleaders.
Among the many chefs at the festivities was 12-year-old Brendan Probst, who made buffalo chicken meatballs. While he could not attend, his mother Elisa was there on his behalf. Brendan, who plays soccer in the community, has a passion for cooking and is a chef in the house, his mom said.
“When the opportunity came to enter it, he jumped at the chance,” Probst said.
Paul Ippolito, whose son plays hockey for the high school, made an old family recipe with pork, beef, pignoli nuts and raisins.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “A lot of people here are having a good time.”