Giving Back

Montville Youth "Plays" it Forward

Ryan Abfier with the equipment donations he has collected for Let's Play if Forward Credits: Melissa Benno
Ryan Abfier with the equipment donations he has collected for Let's Play if Forward Credits: Melissa Benno
Ryan's donation bin at the Montville Township Municipal Building Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ – When Ryan Abfier wanted a mitzvah project, or good deed, for his Bar Mitzvah, he turned to something he loves.

In the beginning of June, he will become a Bar Mitzvah, which is a rite of passage in the Jewish religion. It means he will become an adult in his synagogue, the Pine Brook Jewish Center, and involves a ceremony in which Abfier will be called before the congregation to read from the holy book, called the Torah.

As part of the preparation for the ceremony, boys and girls typically perform a good deed.

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Abfier, who will be 13 at the end of May, plays basketball in the fall and winter, and at camp in the summer. He plays lacrosse in the spring.

“I’m always busy,” he said with a laugh.

“He’s so ‘in’ to sports, and he’s so fortunate that every time he needs equipment, he says, ‘Mom!’,” said his mother, Jen. “We knew there were a lot of people who are less fortunate who needed equipment.”

“We have a lot of old sports equipment in the garage,” said Ryan. “We thought we should get rid of it, and my mom found ‘Let’s Play it Forward.’”

Let’s Play It Forward is a non-profit organization which collects and donates gently used sports equipment to children and organizations in need.

 “I wanted Ryan to do something that was meaningful for him,” Jen said. “This way he could ask his friends personally to help out.”

The Lazar Middle School seventh grader asked friends and family for donations of used sports equipment starting in late February. He also created a flyer which his parents shared on social media, such as the Montville Moms community page on Facebook.

“It started out pretty slow, but then every day, the bins just kept getting filled,” Ryan said.

“Montville Baseball & Softball Association had an equipment swap day, and they asked if they could bring some of the equipment over too,” said Jen. “We’ve also had donations from the Montville Lacrosse Club and the Lake Valhalla Association. Every day I arrive home and the box is so full. It’s so nice to see the community coming out to donate.”

Donation boxes are located in front of their home, in the Montville Township Municipal Building, and at Pine Brook Jewish Center. Ryan figures they will be there until the end of the month.

This has been a family project, as Ryan says his dad and he are going to rent a van at the end of May to bring the equipment to the Westchester County, NY location of the organization.

“I wish I had a list of everybody who has donated, so I knew whom to thank,” said Jen. “This has just exceeded our expectations. It’s so nice that people cared so much to bring their items.”

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