LAVALLETTE, NJ — A New Jersey State Police helicopter flew overhead and members of the United States Coast Guard floated nearby as hundreds celebrated the grand opening of a playground recently built in Lavallette Beach in memory of Livingston resident Brendan Tevlin a little more than four years after he was fatally shot in West Orange.
Firefighters and other volunteers from across the state helped build Tevlin’s playground, which is now located only a short walk away from his grandparents’ Lavallette vacation home, as part of the Where Angels Play Foundation’s ongoing mission to build playgrounds in the wake of tragedies.
Tevlin’s cousin, Michael Condon, a West Caldwell resident and a fellow Seton Hall Prep alumnus, was among the bagpipers who paid tribute to Tevlin at what Condon said was an extremely emotional unveiling ceremony. In addition to hearing from some of Tevlin’s immediate family members and grandparents, Condon said that a speech from a local priest was particularly inspiring.
According to Condon, the Lavallette resident was initially concerned to find that Jacobsen Park, a playground near his home that he frequented with his nieces and nephews, was torn down. It wasn’t until he discovered that the equipment from Jacobsen was being repurposed for an impoverished community, and that an even more beautiful playground would be built in its place to honor an inspiring young man whose life was taken so cruelly, that the man was thrilled.
“He compared it to Brendan’s story, saying that even though Brendan got killed, so many beautiful things have come out of it,” said Condon. “That just stuck with me after because that’s our whole reason for the Good Vibes Foundation—we want to continue to spread Brendan’s message and continue doing good deeds and helping other people in his name so that not only evil things come out of his death.”
Condon, an active board member of the Good Vibes & Easy Living Foundation, further explained that the organization’s mission is to “support charities in the spirit and name of Brendan Patrick Tevlin, while spreading his mantra and values of ‘Good Vibes & Easy Living.’”
Friends and family joined the Where Angels Play Foundation and firefighters from West Orange, Maplewood, South Orange, Orange, Irvington, Kearny, Elizabeth and beyond in Lavallette on a late-September morning to begin the construction of Tevlin's playground. Inspired by Tevlin's favorite colors, his love of surfing and more, the park was built with his personality in mind.
Condon, who picked up the instrument only after his bagpiping cousin was killed in July 2014, played at the event with the Essex Shillelagh Pipes and Drums band alongside members of South Park & District Pipes and Drums and Union County Fire Police Pipes and Drums. The Essex County Police & Fire Emerald Society was also on hand at the ceremony with food enough to feed more than 100 people.
Click HERE to read more about the story behind the Brendan Tevlin memorial playground.
All photos from the unveiling ceremony were provided by Michael Condon.