PLAINFIELD, NJ –JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook celebrated the Big Game on Jan. 31 with various football-themed events, tailgating foods, and a return visit from former National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League player Rodney Pete Watson. 

‘Cedar Brook’s Tailgate Party’ kicked off with a morning football toss and sports music and highlight videos followed by a lunch of subs and chips. Many donned football jerseys to show support of their favorite players and teams and, at 2 p.m., residents and staff of the Plainfield-based advanced short-term, long-term and sub-acute care facility gathered to welcome back Watson and his 'Football Show' for the 11th consecutive year. 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the NFL and during his visit, Watson, a Woodbridge resident and former tight end who played with the Cincinnati Bengals, presented a video on the history of the league. He also shared some details about his personal life and professional career, telling the residents that he ‘beat impossible odds.’ 

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“I was a fan one day and on the field the next. It’s like watching a movie one day and being in the movie the next. We’ve all had that happen to us,” said Watson, noting that he was the first of only two people from Tufts University to ever play in the NFL. 

Much of Watson’s visit, however, focused on the residents themselves with the former football player asking them to share their own life experiences and ‘truths.’ One resident talked about growing up in Jersey City and going on to defy odds to become a New York runway model, adorning clothing from Perry Ellis and Versace. Another spoke about her love for cooking Italian dishes, especially lasagna and another shared details about the one and only time she rode a rose. Staff also acknowledged residents who were doctors, singers, and artists and one male resident, a former Marine, shared details about the injuries he endured after falling four and a half floors during the construction of Newark’s Prudential Center. 

“I may have been a professional athlete but I am not famous. These folks here are famous…” Watson told TAPinto South Plainfield following the presentation. “Everybody, and this sounds trite but it is true, everybody has a story; everyone’s life is interesting…and what I am doing here is honoring them.”

Watson played from 1972-1974 and spent several years living in Canada where he often volunteered to speak at hospitals. About a dozen or so years ago, he began speaking at indoor tailgate parties at military hospitals in Basking Ridge, NJ and St. Albans in Queens, NY where he brought veteran NFL players in for a Q&A for the veteran residents. He has also spoken with students as well as residents of the Paramus and Menlo Park veterans facilities and has, for the past 11 years, spent his Friday prior to the Big Game with the residents of Cedar Brook. 

“I feel like I got a lot more out of these than they did,” said Watsonadding, “There are hundreds of other retired players who have bigger names and who played a lot longer than I did. While I like to share the things I know, more importantly, it is about celebrating and getting to know [the residents].”

“Events like this can help bring back memories of how they may have celebrated the Super Bowl as well as help to create new memories here, in their new home,” said Allison Kruk, the facility’s assistant director of recreation. ”We try to bring in and offer things that are different and fun for our residents.”

 “Special events like this help our residents feel like they aren’t in a nursing facility; they make them remember when they had their own Super Bowl or tailgate parties,” added Karen Petrin, director of recreation for JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook. 

About JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook 

JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook in Plainfield offers access to advanced short-term, long-term and sub-acute care in an intimate setting and is one of the few specialized Huntington’s disease unit’s in the nation. 

In addition to focusing on those in need of basic elder care, the Park Avenue facility specializes in physical, speech, occupational, and recreation therapy as well as IV therapy and wound care. JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook also provides care for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as those who have suffered a stroke, brain trauma and psychiatric disorders.

Cedar Brook’s Huntington’s disease Unit is one of just two specialized units in the state and one of the only six centers in the country. Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes uncontrollable movements and slow loss of physical control and thought processing and residents require very specific care and assistance with tasks of daily living. At Cedar Brook, the goal is to bring comfort and peace of mind to both residents and caregivers through care uniquely tailored to the needs of individuals with Huntington’s disease with staff that is trained, equipped, and experienced in the disease process.  

The facility’s specially trained health care team includes a board-certified medical director, consulting neurologists, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, registered nurses, a social worker and a registered dietitian, as well as speech, hearing, physical, occupational, and recreation therapists. The team focuses on rehabilitating the resident’s body, mind and spirit while also assisting the resident’s loved ones. 

JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook’s bright, cheerful, and homey atmosphere sets it apart. There are dining rooms and activity areas throughout the facility, as well as an outdoor patio for socializing with family and friends. Fully furnished bedrooms with complimentary cable television provide a home-like atmosphere and resident’s enjoy views of nearby Cedar Brook Park from the facility’s beautiful and spacious main dining room, complete with ‘waiter style service’ during lunch and dinner.

The facility also offers residents a variety of recreational activities on a daily basis. Between meals, the dining area is transformed into a day room and meeting place for those looking to take part in everything from bingo, movies, and religious services to socials, arts and craft, and Zumba. Additionally, residents enjoy trips and outside entertainment and a variety of health care-related seminars throughout the year.

JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook is a non-profit facility affiliated with Hackensack Meridian Health. The facility, located at 1340 Park Avenue in Plainfield, NJ, accepts most insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid. For more information, visit or call 908-754-3100

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