UNION COUNTY, NJ — Since 2001, the Ryan Patrick Faella Foundation has raised more than $125,000 for scholarships and youth activities.

The foundation, which “facilitate[s] resources to support and enhance academic, athletic, [and] altruistic opportunities for young people” according to its website, was founded in memory of Ryan Patrick Faella, who died in 2000 when he was just 13 years old.

Ryan’s father, former County Manager Al Faella, started the foundation along with his wife, Mary. On the foundation’s website, they say their mission is to “provide educational resources and support to youth and young adults in pursuit of educational and related youth activities in memory of our son, Ryan.”

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“Together we can continue to make a difference in the lives of many aspiring youths,” the foundation’s website says. “With your help, we can ensure that the memory of Ryan will continue to touch and influence our future leaders.”

The foundation awards scholarships to students on a yearly basis. The foundation’s website says previous winners have volunteered in Appalachia, organized anti-drug and peer counseling programs, coached youth sports throughout the state, qualified for the Olympics trials, and obtained advance degrees in many professions.

“The foundation scholarship recipients have astounded and inspired with their accomplishments year after year,” the website says. “It is an honor to have Ryan’s legacy play a role in their lives and assist in their academic careers.”

Fundraising events sponsored by the foundation include a Golf Outing, a 5K Run and Walk, and Ryan’s Toy Roundup, which collects toys from those in the community to donate to those in need.

This year’s toy drive is scheduled to take place from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22. Meanwhile, the 5K took place at Oak Ridge Park Oct. 6, while the golf outing took place at Galloping Hill Golf Course Oct. 7. Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski attended the 5K, along with several other members of the freeholder board.

“I’m pleased to report that the event was a great success, raising thousands of dollars that will be donated to Prevention Links, which works to combat substance abuse,” Kowalski said at a recent freeholder board meeting.

The money raised during the 5K, Kowalski said, will be donated to the nonprofit organization Prevention Links, which partners with the county on several initiatives. At a presentation in May, Prevention Links Director Morgan Thompson explained that the organization provides recovery coaches for two county drug abuse prevention programs, Operation Helping Hand and the CLEAR Program.

“Addiction is a chronic condition, regardless of the substance,” said Thompson, who has maintained her own recovery for 10 years. “The supports that are needed are very long-term.”

“The CLEAR Program and Operation Helping Hand … are entry points, and we look for more opportunities to create entry points,” she added.

Prevention Links provides additional services for people facing addiction and their families. These services are explained on the organization’s website.