MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Thousands of locals and out-of-towners turned out for the fifth annual Robert J. Miller Oysterfest for Melanoma Awareness event in September. The donations and sponsorships have all been added up, and the final tally is a $20,000 check to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
This Township of Maplewood-designated health event has become a favorite early fall “town party” at the Woodland. The clever slogan “Get Naked in the ‘Wood” promoted complementary and convenient skin screenings by a team of on-site dermatologists for early detection of melanoma skin cancer. While this is a fatal and aggressive disease, it is also remarkably preventable if caught early.
The event is named for Bob Miller, a long time Maplewood resident who lived in the heart of town with his wife, Grace, and their four daughters. At age 45, he was diagnosed with melanoma, and despite a courageous two-year battle, Bob passed away in March 2014. Later that year Grace, along with devoted friends and township leaders, organized the inaugural charity event. “This event is therapy for me and the girls because it honors Bob while also raising awareness about melanoma,” said Grace.
The event was designed to raise funds for cancer research, education and awareness, but more importantly to fulfill the commitment to “give back” by providing financial support to families facing an unexpected medical crisis. The Robert J. Miller Foundation, via the Oysterfest for Melanoma awareness event, has raised funds towards Melanoma Research Foundation. As a 501(c)(3) organization, they reserve a set of donations for local families. Over the last five years, Oysterfest donations have been presented to 12 families who have either had a sudden loss in family member or are facing financial stress due to medical bills, and can use the financial aid to get through times of crisis.
This year a local family, the Westdyks, have partnered with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Their son, Chris Westdyk, was diagnosed at the age of 16 and battled with cancer until he passed away earlier this year...a reminder that it is never too early to screen for melanoma. As a way to honor and remember this special family member, donations towards MRF will be in the name of Chris Westdyk.
The committee was proud to present $20,000 to MRF. Appropriately they gathered with Chris’ father Tom Westdyk at St. James Gate recently to present the generous check. “We are grateful to all of this year’s Oysterfest volunteers and participants for their generous support of the Melanoma Research Foundation in memory of our son. The research, patient advocacy and educational support provided by the MRF made an incredible difference during Chris’ six-year battle with melanoma. This organization continues to support so many patients and their families, while it helps to drive science toward more effective treatments and one day a cure for this terrible disease.”
The Oysterfest committee has already set the date for next year's event, Sept. 12, 2020. To learn more, make a donation, or purchase a holiday hoodie, visit www.bobmilleroysterfest.com. Supporters are using the hashtags #shuckcancer and #getnakedinthewood on social media.
The volunteers wish to thank local restaurant food donors Town Hall Deli, Millburn Deli, Sprout, Miti Miti, Jackie & Son, Cornbread, Village Trattoria, The Able Baker, Gigi's Cupcakes, and Starbucks. The event was made possible by these generous sponsors:
Township of Maplewood
Keller Williams Midtown Direct Realtors*
St. James Gate
The Lions Club
Maplewood Rotary Club
The Able Baker
Maplewood Lacrosse Girls + Boys
Far Brook School
Schwartz Design Showroom
Baker Street Yoga
Tom Conway Architect
Sheridan Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
Jerry Rose Floral
Village Green NJ
The Robert J. Miller Oysterfest is also made possible through the hard work of the following committee members:
Ellen & Donald Davenport
Amy Jo & Pat Curran
Carol V. Fardin
The *KWMTD realtors who donated as sponsors are: Anne Servitto, Carol Fardin, Eric J. Dilone, Jill Sockwell, Justin Kiliszek, Luis & Camille Estrella, Mark Mattheis, Mark Slade, Octavio Mendes, PJ DeCicco, Reed Kean, Rebecca Wedmid, Robert Northfield, Terry Orr, Phyliss Taylor
PHOTO NOTE: The volunteers pictured above are, from left, Ellen Davenport, Karen Semian, Donald Davenport, Danielle Medeiros, Lily B. Miller, Poppy Miller, Tom Varbero, Grace Miller, John Meade, Tom Westdyk, Margot Miller, Eve Miller, Carol V. Fardin, and Amy Jo and Patrick Curran.