UNION, NJ – About 75 friends, family, and neighbors attended a dedication ceremony in memory of 12-year old Jeremy Maraj at Irene Hoppe Park Saturday morning.
A bench with a plague that reads, “in loving memory of Jeremy Dylan Maraj, a real life superhero”, with two new trees surrounding it, was installed near the basketball court, now known as the Jeremy Dylan Maraj Basketball Court. Maraj died on July 19 after sustaining severe injuries in a hit-and-run accident that occurred on Galloping Hill Road on July 17.
“Today is a special day,” said Mayor Michele Delisfort. “It is a horrible thing for a parent to lose a child. I thank all of you for coming. Let’s always remember Jeremy.”
“Jerry was an exceptional child who was always full of positivity and kindness toward anyone and everyone he crossed paths with,” said neighbor and event organizer Elizabeth Zembilis. “No matter what he had going on in his own life, he always managed to smile and say hello to people. He had this infectious smile and huge personality that could brighten anyone’s day.”
Zembilis said Maraj loved to play basketball, in his driveway, his backyard, Zembilis’ driveway or at Irene Hoppe Park. “On behalf of the Maraj family and my family,” said Zembilis, “I would like to thank the Township of Union committee members and Mayor Delisfort for agreeing to name this basketball court after Jerry.”
In addition to Mayor Delisfort, Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio, Township Committeemen Clifton People, Jr. and Manuel Figueiredo, Committeewoman Suzette Cavadas and State Senator Joseph Cryan attended the dedication. Zembilis specifically thanked Florio for “helping us out and getting this accomplished. He has gone above and beyond to help us out from the first time I contacted him.”
A “Drinks for Jerry” event, organized by Zembilis, was held in August to raise funds for a tree and plague at Washington Elementary School. Zembilis said the event raised far more funds than the initial goal, so that new bench will also be purchased for Washington School, as well as the bench, trees and plague for the dedication ceremony at Irene Hoppe Park.
Zembilis said excess funds will be donated to the local food bank in Hillside and “Walk in Sunshine”, a charity based in Westfield whose premise is to help parents both financially and spiritually who have lost young children.
“Jerry,” concluded Zembilis, “I like to think you can see and hear this. This is all for you, kid. We miss you so much every single day. We love you.”