Giving Back

Jack’s Kids Benefit from Somerville Elks July 8 Softball Tournament

Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks
Jack's Kids Softball Tournament 2016. Credits: Courtesy Somerville Elks

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Hundreds of softball players will fan out throughout Somerset County July 8 to play ball for a cause in the 25th annual Jack Gardner Softball Tournament.

Jack’s Kids will be the beneficiaries of the day’s events, which culminates with an afternoon party and awards’ ceremony at the Somerville Elks Lodge #1068, 375 Union Ave., Bridgewater.

Jack’s Kids is a non-profit organization that helps to ease the financial burden for families dealing with serious childhood illnesses and/or serious disabilities; many of these children have spent most of their life in and out of hospitals.

Sign Up for E-News

More than 50 softball teams, including 14 women’s teams, have already signed up for the round robin tournament. Entry fee is $400, which entitles each team to a minimum of three games. There are two brackets, competitive and recreational.

Jack’s Kids is named in memory of Jack Gardner, a former detective in the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and later warden of the Somerset County Jail. He grew up in North Plainfield, where he was an outstanding athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.

He was also a member of the Somerville Elks Lodge #1068.

“Jack was a treasure. His main virtue was his willingness to help people,” said Hank Werner, a Bernards Township police officer and Jack’s Kids chairman the past five years. “Anyone who came to Jack for help was assured that he would come through. Throughout Somerset County he is noted for helping many people, especially the younger generation. He was kind, thoughtful and always gave of himself,” Werner added.

Jack’s Kids began in 1992 when Pierce Frauenheim, retired football coach at Immaculata High School and Gardner asked the Somerville Elks to host a softball tournament to raise money for a friend’s child who had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of two.

Gardner passed away the following year, prompting the Elks to name the tournament in his honor. Over the years the name was shortened to “Jack’s Kids.”

The organization continues to grow and now helps over 40 families with their financial needs as they care for their children. Jack’s Kids is a non-profit 501c3 organization under the Charitable Trust within the Somerville Elks Lodge.

“It’s all about the kids and everybody believes in that,” Werner said.

Each year the tournament will raise a minimum of $50,000, according to Werner. This year’s goal is $100,000, he said.

“These kids and their families are an inspiration to us all. We do this for them. We do it for the smiles we see on their faces and the joy they bring to us all,” Werner said. “These kids are the pure meaning of strength. Their struggles and sometimes pain is not the first thing you see. You see innocence and love. They teach us every day what selflessness means and what it truly means to give back. They come and help as they get older and share in the excitement of each other’s milestones.”

New Jersey State PBA President, Pat Colligan will serve as the Honorary Chairperson of this year’s tournament.

“I am honored to be the Honorary Chair of an Organization that is full of true superheroes, these small children fighting big battles. Their hearts and perseverance are an inspiration to us all,” Colligan said.

Several area police departments have entered teams in the tournament, including the Bridgewater PBA, Franklin PBA, Somerset Corrections Department officers and a combined team of  Bernards and Bernardsville officers, according to Werner.

“Although this tournament is a wonderful way to share the day with these truly heroic families and kids, none of it would be possible without the outstanding and generous support from our softball teams who come every year, the amazing umpires and other people who volunteer their time that day, the amazing restaurants who donate enough food to feed over 5,000 people, and our sponsors and business owners who donate money and gifts,” said Lisa Werner, treasurer.

She also coordinates the teams and 45 volunteer umpires for the day. “It is a daunting but very rewarding task,” she said. “Without them we could not help Jack’s Kids and their families.  It is hard enough watching your child hurt and not be able to help. To worry about finances on top of that is even worse.

“The bills build and we are here to help chip away at that. It’s the least we can do for them,” she added.  “Every year we have a larger impact on these families as well as our community. We are blessed and honored to be a part of it.”

The day starts at 8 a.m. on nine fields throughout Somerset County with the ceremonial first pitch. Some of Jack’s Kids will attend the games. The teams all play throughout the morning and into the afternoon while volunteers pick up food, set up the lodge and get ready for the day’s events.

Werner's husband will be on the field at Van Derveer School in Somerville, just down the road from the Elks Lodge to participate in opening ceremonies, which will include bagpipers.

After the games, the teams will return to the lodge for Opening Ceremonies at 2 p.m. Following the opening ceremonies, the winning teams are all presented with their trophies. There will be food and drink, a DJ, 50/50 raffle and kids’activities.

The event at the lodge is open to the public; admission is $10.

Jack’s Kids organizers are also looking for more volunteers and more donations from area businesses.

Additional softball teams are invited to sign up.

More information can be found on the website at www.jackskids.org or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jackskids1068 or by calling 908-722-4634.

There are links to volunteer and donate.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Bridgewater/Raritan

Upcoming Events

Tue, December 12

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Tue, December 12, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

2017 International Juried Exhibition

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, December 12, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

2017 International Juried Exhibition

Arts & Entertainment

Neshanic Station Man Arrested for DWI Following Crash, Bridgewater Police Say

December 8, 2017

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Neshanic Station man was arrested for driving while intoxicated after a motor vehicle crash on Route 22 East Nov. 29.

Bryan Bakunas, 41, was issued summonses for driving while intoxicated, refusal to submit to chemical testing of his breath, careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.

Bakunas was released pending a court ...

What, Where, and When to Recycle Items in Somerset County During December

November 30, 2017

BRIDGEWATER - Residents are urged to take advantage of the last First Saturday of the Month Drop-off event in 2017 on Dec. 2 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Somerset County Recycling Center, located at 40 Polhemus Lane, Bridgewater 08807.  

First Saturday drop-off events enable busy residents to recycle tires; clean, dry textiles; and usual curbside items in one fell swoop.  They ...

Somerset County Commission on Status of Women Seeking Nominations for Outstanding Women

December 9, 2017

SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - The Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women is seeking nominations for the 2018 Outstanding Women in Somerset County awards program, and nominations are due by Dec. 31.

"We have many women in Somerset County doing amazing things every day," freeholder Patricia Walsh, commission liaison, said in a release. "It is most appropriate that during ...

'An Act of God' takes a leap of faith at George Street

‘An Act of God’ takes leap of faith at George Street Playhouse

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – If anyone can portray God, it must be Kathleen Turner. Local theatre goers are fortunate indeed, to have the throaty, stage smart Turner in our midst.

Turner, of course, is not only an acclaimed actress, but a female God with plenty to say about the ups and downs of religion ...

The Winter Blues

The weather is getting colder. The days are shorter. People leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark.  Winter is here and with it comes an increase in heart disease and heart related deaths.  There are many reasons why winter weather worsens heart problems. Heart patients are under more stress at the extremes of temperatures. Cold weather increases the workload on the ...

Freight Train Derailment in Union; Raritan Train Station Service Suspended

December 8, 2017

UNION, NJ - A freight train derailed in Union at about 2:15 p.m. this afternoon, and Raritan Borough Police say train service is suspended at the Raritan Train Station until further notice because of it.

Preliminary details indicate that the train derailed past the Union Train Station.  According to Township of Union Business Administrator, the freight train contained 141 cars.  ...