Other NJ News

'Where Angels Play' Presents Concept to Clark Council to Honor James and Caitlin Nelson

41ecbff89cac2ace1b81_DSCN0888.JPG
Bill Lavin from Where Angels Play Credits: Kristen Busch
6824d3bb06c15280746a_Tinton_Falls_playground.jpg
Playground in Tinton Falls, NJ in memory of Hannah Duffy. Anne Nelson saw this playground and reached out to Where Angels Play. Credits: Where Angels Play
41ecbff89cac2ace1b81_DSCN0888.JPG

CLARK, NJ - Bill Lavin of the Where Angels Play Foundation appeared in front of the Clark Council on November 20 to propose the construction of a playground in Clark.  Not just any park, and not just to give kids a place to play, but to honor the memory of James A. Nelson and his daughter Caitlin Nelson.

The story of the Where Angels Play Foundation began on September 11, 2001. During the tragic attacks that day, 2,975 lives were lost, including hundreds of first responders who selflessly rushed to help.  One of those first responders was Clark’s own James A. Nelson, a Port Authority Police Officer.  

Bill Lavin, was president of the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association at the time or the attacks.  He struggled personally as he and his community of fire responders dealt with the aftershocks of loss. 

Sign Up for E-News

A firefighter’s niece in Mississippi had her third-grade students reach out with cards and letters in hopes of lifting their spirits.  “We hung those up on our wall to cheer us up and get us through the worst tragedy of our lifetime,” said Lavin. 

Four and a half years later that same school was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  “When I visited them six months after the storm, it looked like it had happened yesterday,” said Lavin.   He felt drawn to do something for these children and so he rallied himself and many others and built those children a new area to play.  “We raised about $400K with our group from the FMBLA … that was our first playground.”  Where Angels Play hadn’t been given it’s name formally yet, but their work had begun.

Then in late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the coasts of New Jersey, New York, and Conneticut destroying towns along the way.  Again, Lavin and his team began to “feel a bit sorry for ourselves.”  Less than 2 months later, 20 children and 6 educators of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT were killed in a mass shooting.

“As we were trying to figure out what we could possibly do to make a difference in the lives of these families, I received, from Mississippi once again, a video,” said Lavin.  The kids who they had built a playground for after Hurricane Katrina wanted to pay it forward for New Jersey firefighters. 

“I got this crazy, beautiful idea to build a playground for each one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School children and their teachers.  And we would build them in areas along the coasts that were hard hit by the storm,” said Lavin.  “The spirit of their child would live through community.  They would celebrate their lives not how they left us but rather how they lived.”

Where Angels Play raised almost $3 million and built 26 playgrounds in 19 months along the coast of all three of these states hardest hit by Sandy.  Each playground was personalized to the individual, taking into consideration their favorite color, food, animal and more. 

“Those families healed significantly.  And they would tell you that they love the playground for their angel but love even more how it pays it forward to other families.  They didn’t want us to stop,” said Lavin.  “Today I am happy to tell you that we’ve completed 46 playgrounds all across the country.” 

Lavin came to Clark’s council meeting on Monday because Where Angels Play wants to pay it forward  in memory of not only James Nelson, but his daughter Caitlin Nelson who died earlier this year.  The Port Authority reached out with the idea after Caitlin’s passing. 

“We thought we’d reach out to the family and give it some time,” said Lavin.  “Ironically, we have a playground in Tinton Falls and Anne, Caitlin’s sister, happened to be walking past the playground.  Before we even reached out [to the Nelson family] they reached out to us.”

“There is an incredible connection between the Nelson family and Where Angels Play,” said Lavin.  Caitlin was active with America’s Camp, a retreat for children who lost a parent in the attacks, as well as Camp Sea Stars North and the Resiliency Center of Newtown, CT.  “The families of the angels from Sandy Hook actually have a strong connection to her and are excited about coming here and helping us build a playground.”

“This is not my project.  It’s really Caitlin and Jim’s gift.  And it’s the Nelson family project.  The family will design it… we simply provide the manpower.  We take it upon ourselves to raise the money,” said Lavin. 

The Nelson family was in the audience at the Clark Council meeting and Lavin thanked them for entrusting him with presenting this idea to township officials. 

“Our goal is to keep both Jim and Caitlin’s legacy alive … with her work and advocacy for children, what better way than to build a playground in her name so that for generations she will be remembered here.”

Lavin said the playground construction would likely begin in the spring of 2019 if approved giving time to raise funds and design the playground with the family.

The council passed a resolution at the meeting for a grant submission for the Union County Level the Playing Field.  Business Administrator John Laezza said this resolution would begin raising funds for Where Angels Play.  “We think the project is going to cost about $300,000.  We think we have a location.  We have to make sure that the Nelson family is comfortable with that location.”

“The people on this council want to see this happen and will assist you along the way along with myself,” said Mayor Sal Bonaccorso.  “This is a great community.  You will see the love pour out in this project, especially for Caitlin and Jim because they were great citizens of this community.”

--------------

Sign up for our free daily enews.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

A Tale of Two Very Different Town Administrator Searches

Both Maplewood and South Orange are looking for new town administrators at the same time, a rare occurrence.

And their approaches couldn’t be any more different.

Maplewood, whose long-time administrator Joseph Manning is retiring May 31, launched its search last month the old-fashioned way: hiring a recruiting firm and letting them do the heavy lifting (or more appropriately the ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!

 

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Teens Arrested for Theft from Auto

February 20, 2018

February 12 - Theft; A resident from Burroughs Way reported that sometime over the past day, a snow blower was stolen from an open garage.

February 17- Theft from Auto; At approximately 5:15 p.m., two males were observed going through vehicles on Hillcrest Rd.  Officers responded to the area and were able to locate two males fitting the description. The males, 18 year ...

South Orange Police Blotter - Two Arrested for Robbery in South Orange

Adult Arrest - Robbery - Shawn Ray Newsome, a 20 year old Newark resident and a 17 year old juvenile were arrested on Saturday, Feb. 3, at approximately 10:45 p.m. for robbery. Two male victims reported that as they were walking on South Orange Ave near the Newark border, they were approached by three actors (described as black males wearing dark clothing and black masks) who ...

Blood Drives in SOMA: Maplewood on Feb. 22 and South Orange on Feb. 26

February 19, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Due to winter storms and flu disrupting blood donations, the Red Cross is urging donors to donate and help maintain blood supply, according to a press release from the organization.

In January, severe winter weather forced about 600 blood drives to cancel, resulting in more than 17,500 uncollected blood and platelet donations. And, ...

Maplewood Seniors Enjoy a Visit from Alfalfa the Alpaca on Valentine's Day

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - If you were at the Maplewood Senior Center on Wednesday - which happened to be Valentine's Day - you would have seen the somewhat unusual sight of an alpaca. Alfalfa the Alpaca to be precise.

 

The visit from Alfalfa was the first in the "creature comfort" series from the Maplewood Recreation Department.

 

Maplewood Recreation Director Melissa ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 21, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality

Carousel_image_982bc8344531b1a37c85_par_440

Wed, February 21, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

St. Andrew & Holy Communion Parish Hall, South Orange

Lenten Friday Fish Fry Dinners

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_982bc8344531b1a37c85_par_440

Fri, February 23, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Illegal South Ward Rooming House Closed for Life-Threatening Conditions, 12 Relocated

February 18, 2018

Newark, NJ—An illegal rooming house in Newark's South Ward has been shuttered and 12 people relocated after Newark fire inspectors discovered life-threatening conditions inside the property on Friday.

Newark Fire Inspectors responded after citizen complaints to a one-family house at 46-48 Van Ness Place and found “deplorable conditions” inside the ...

PARCC Debate in Newark Continues Amid Calls from Murphy for its Dismantling

NEWARK, NJ - Ever since New Jersey began using the PARCC exam in the 2014-15 school year, the state teacher's union and other groups have criticized the the standardized test and called for the state to stop using it to assess student performance.

During the campaign for governor last year, Phil Murphy, who was endorsed by the New Jersey Education Association, promised to ditch ...

Chatham Superintendent: Inappropriate Remarks on Social Media by Chatham Student About School Shooting Investigated; No Active Threat

February 20, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Superintendent of Schools Michael LaSusa sent out an email Monday night explaining that a Chatham Middle School student made "inappropriate posts to social media" and "referenced a school shooting."

Chatham Police investigated the situation and had determined there was "no active threat to the school." In an act of ...

Following Florida Massacre, East Brunswick Schools Add Armed Officers to Security

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - At a meeting Thursday night, the East Brunswick board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to engage the East Brunswick Police department to place armed police officers at each school building in the district throughout the entire school day.  In a report released by superintendent Victor Valeski, township officials asserted that the move would ...

Atlantic Health System Earns Spot for 10th Year on Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ List

February 18, 2018

Atlantic Health System, a leading provider of health care in New Jersey, today celebrated a decade of excellence after it was recognized among Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” ranking number 74 in its 10th consecutive year on the prestigious annual list.

It is the only health care delivery system from New Jersey, and the top-ranked New Jersey based company on the ...

Man Charged with Crashing Truck into East Orange Planned Parenthood Clinic

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino and East Orange Public Safety Director Sheliah Coley announced on Friday that Marckles Alcius, 31, with a last known address in Lowell, Massachusetts, has been charged with carrying out a truck attack on the Planned Parenthood East Orange Health Clinic on February 14, 2018, using a stolen bakery delivery truck.

Alcius has been charged with ...

Paper Mill Playhouse Announces the World Premiere of 'Unmasked'

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director), recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, announced today the world premiere of UNMASKED, which will feature some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most iconic work and the stories behind its creation, along with new music and memories from his extraordinary life and career, will open its ...