MONTVILLE, NJ – When friends Cameron Zurawlow, Brian Lieber and Alex Kim felt that there was a lack of recognition for veterans in town, they decided to do something about it.
The trio started a chapter of Wounded Warrior Project during their junior year at Montville Township High School.
WWP is a military and veterans charity service organization empowering injured veterans and their families, according to the WWP website.
“We felt it was a good fit,” Zurawlow said.
The trio asked teacher Max Dorsey-Gordon and Coach Rick Debonta to be the advisors. They attended the MTHS club fair at the beginning of the ’16-’17 school year, which is a showcase to inform students about clubs that can be joined.
“We got about 30 members,” Lieber said.
The trio set a goal of raising $1,000 for the charity.
Fundraisers included selling warm-up shirts for the MTHS lacrosse game vs. Glen Rock.
“Families of the players also made donations,” Lieber said.
They also held a separate WWP t-shirt sale as a fundraiser, and at a November football game they accepted donations.
At that game, they recognized MTHS alumnus and Army Second Lieutenant Andrew Danilack by calling him to the field. They also recognized his sister First Lieutenant Lindsey, who is currently learning to fly Black Hawks, Zurawlow said.
They accepted donations at the MTHS Student-Teacher Basketball game in March and held a “knock-out” contest during half-time for $5.
Kim said the club held meetings once every month or two to prepare for the events, but the club was run informally with no outside funding.
“We started it from scratch,” he said, “and this was our first year. Everyone who advised us said the club is on the right track to becoming a formal club.”
As far as next year, the club will go on.
“We’re very lucky,” Lieber said. “A large amount of the members are very passionate about WWP and a couple approached us about taking over the club next year. We just have to finalize an advisor. We’re definitely happy with the progress we were able to make in one year. Hopefully we changed at least a little bit of the culture at the high school. I think we definitely did. We see people walking around with the shirts – just that helps build awareness.”
The club has raised more than their goal of $1,000, which will be donated as a single check to the WWP site, thus updating the amount shown on their page: MTHS Wounded Warrior Page. They are still accepting donations.
The trio just finished their senior year, and Lieber said he will be attending Penn State in the fall. Lieber is not sure if there is a WWP chapter there but will definitely support veterans in some way, he said.
Zurawlow and Kim will be attending University of Michigan. Kim said he might start a chapter of WWP there; Zurawlow said he knows the university has conducted some fundraisers for the charity.
Zurawlow said, “We knew going in to this year that this was going to be hard, being a smaller club. The WWP has a large goal of helping all those who have served but we wanted to achieve a smaller piece of the puzzle, recognizing people within our community and reaching out from there. There’s a mural at the high school with people who have served but there’s names missing. It’s kind of discouraging to me knowing that there’s people who have put their lives on the line every day to serve our country and aren’t getting recognized for it, so that was kind of our inspiration.”