DENVILLE, NJ – Denville residents came together at Gardner Field for the Joey Bella Memorial Fund’s annual tricky tray on July 2 and beefsteak dinner on July 3. Despite the scorching early July heat, an aggregate of approximately 700 people attended both events and appeared to be happy to share in the fun while supporting a charitable cause.
The Joey Bella Memorial Fund is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that seeks to provide for families who have children suffering from serious diseases. The fund was founded in 1989. Before then, the local community had been raising money to provide to the Bella family whose five-and-a-half-year-old son Joey was dying from Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. Joey was first diagnosed in 1986 and sadly passed away in October 1988.
To honor Joey’s memory, the Joey Bella Memorial Fund has provided emotional and medical support to more than 65 families in Denville, the Rockaways, Mount Tabor, Rainbow Lakes, Morris Plains and Randolph, and has donated more than $1 million over the past 30 years.
“Anything that the insurance companies don’t pay, we pay,” said Richard Yobs Sr., Denville resident and president of the Joey Bella Memorial Fund.
“Joey Bella pays co-pays and fees for doctors out of state. One time, we built an entire room to be added to the house of one recipient. The children we help are doing well. We get them through catastrophic times, and the community really comes together.”
“I always tell people that after Joey passed away, one thing I wish I could have done is see him once a year,” said Joe Bella Sr., Joey’s father.
“That can’t happen, but this event is a way that I can be with him. After all these years, it’s still emotional for me. These people here, volunteers and attendants, make it happen. The kindness is what brings back my son.”
Bella is a Rockaway Township resident who is a founder and has served as a board member of the fund for the last 30 years. He and his family attended the tricky tray and dinner, helping to serve and organize activities.
“It’s a different generation here today, but the Joey Bella tricky tray and beefsteak dinner keep going on,” said Denville Mayor Thomas Andes.
“My oldest was the same age as Joey Bella, and all I could think about at the time was it could have been my kids. It really impacted me and others. I consider this as Denville’s own charity event.”
Mayor Andes and his wife Sharon have attended the Joey Bella tricky tray and beefsteak dinner for 24 years. They also help sell tickets.
“It’s great to help other families,” said Denville resident Robert Barnes, who has attended Joey Bella events for the last four years.
“Though it’s nice to win a prize at the tricky tray, it’s more about the families who have been affected by terminal diseases.”
For Barnes, charity events such as these remind him of his cousin who is wheelchair-bound by multiple sclerosis. Other guests, like Denville resident Sue Carol Scannelli, also thought of the great things that can happen for lots of families by simply attending and lending support to the fund.
“Both events are … wonderful … and … very community- and family-orientated,” said Scannelli, who also volunteers on occasions.
“Many families have been helped since the Bellas have gotten it started. The events are always packed with people, and it makes me proud to be a part of it. It’s also a way of getting together with people you don’t know but become friends with. In all, it makes you a better person when you leave.”
Although the exact fundraising numbers have not yet been finalized, love and support were felt by all who attended, and the future for all family beneficiaries of the Joey Bella Memorial Fund seem very bright this summer and beyond.
To learn more about the Joey Bella Memorial Fund and its current activities and events, visit the organization’s website at http://joeybella.org/.
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