SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - With an entire hometown behind them, the family of 6-year-old disabled girl Brianna Feeney is getting even closer to reaching the goal of purchasing a handicap accessible van.
Saturday’s “Wheeling for Bri” event held in the South Plainfield High School Gymnasium from was a tremendous success. he Wheelchair Basketball Fundraiser was sponsored by non-profit South Plainfield organization COACHes Care, “Coaches Offering Assistance for Children’s Health,” which was established to help sick children throughout Middlesex County.
Each wheelchair basketball team played their opponents in specially designed sports wheelchairs for half hour games. The daylong event drew more then a dozen teams from the local community. Even some South Plainfield Alumni returned to their old stomping groups like Rutgers University Sophomore Anthony Ashnault, the undefeated, four-time New Jersey State Wrestling Champion and current Division 1 All-American.
Director of South Plainfield Recreation and COACHes Care organizer Kevin Hughes said, “Tom McCreesh and I became aware of Brianna’s need for a handicapped vehicle while the Wheels for Bri fundraiser was being planned. When we met Patti and Bri and we knew we had to do our part to get this van. It really took off from there.” His wife Cheryl Hughes, who is a teacher at South Plainfield Middle School added, “People in South Plainfield really rally around those that need our help. Even the school kids have been amazing!”
The Lions Club donated $1,000 on Saturday and spent the day cooking home-style breakfast sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs. Twenty-four tricky tray baskets were donated and former Middle School Teacher of nearly 35 years John Limyansky returned to DJ.
As Brianna laughed ecstatically in her wheelchair, enjoying the music, her mother Patricia Feeney said, “Brianna can sense all of the excitement around her! She just loves this!”
One of the many anticipated games of the day was Anthony Ashnault and the Rutgers Wrestling team versus the South Plainfield High School Wrestlers. In a heated game of newly acquired skills, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights lost to the high school wrestling squad, which included upcoming seniors Daniel Hedden and CJ Maszczak.
As they left the court, Ashnault commented, “We came out a little slow, it was fun though. Got to let them win sometimes!”
Another incredible display of precision on the court was the South Plainfield Police Department against the South Plainfield Firemen. In a heated game between old rivals, the policemen came out the victors. Others who took to the courts with valiant efforts were; Boy Scout Troop 309, the South Plainfield High School Field Hockey Team, COACHes Care, South Plainfield High School Basketball Players, The McCreesh Family, The Hughes Family, Justin Marks and friends, Roseanne Phillips and friends, South Plainfield Boys Basketball Team, South Plainfield Girls Alumni and the Franklin Elementary School Teachers.
Mayor Anesh and his team of Borough Councilmen played the Board of Education for a grand finale full of hysterical laughs, wheelchair spills and fun. Mayor Anesh’s team included Council President Derryck White and Councilmen Robert Bengivenga, Robert Richkus and Raymond Rusnak. The Board of Education President Debbie Boyle played with her team, which included Vice President Kimberly Anesh, Library Board of Trustees members Christine Faustini and Stephanie Wolak as well as Planning Board Joseph Wolak. Despite the impressive efforts of MVP Stephanie Wolak, The Board of Education lost to South Plainfield’s governing body.
Mayor Anesh said, “We like to be involved in the community. We love coming out to raise money for a good cause. We want to thank COACHes Care for putting this incredible event together. We come out and do our small part, but they put this together and it was so much fun!”
Brianna was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder that only 250 people have been diagnosed with in the world called Pallister Killian Syndrome, or PKS. Because of the disorder, Brianna is blind, unable to talk or walk. Despite Brianna’s profound disabilities, she is a happy child who senses the enthusiasm of those around her.
Wheels for Bri, organized by Park Community Church took place on May 16th and raised nearly half of the $65,000 needed for the purchase of the handicap van. Since then, the community has continued to fundraise in astounding ways. Kennedy, Riley and Franklin Elementary Schools all raised about $1000 each. Roosevelt raised $2,000 and South Plainfield High School raised $1000. Donations are still coming to the church and to the family’s GoFundMe account.
Council President White said, “COACHes Care being involved shows the worthiness of this event. Everyone getting involved from the high school students, civil servants, law enforcement officers, firefighters and Board of Education shows just how much the community is interested in each other. This is a great opportunity to do something for someone who deserves it and a great family.”
“I am so moved by what everyone is doing to help my family.” Feeney added, “The compassion and love of this community is incredible. I am so grateful to be a part of a dedicated town with such a passion for helping their neighbors when they need it most.”