WESTFIELD, NJ — For one Westfield family, what started as a backyard family cookout has turned into a $15,000 charitable event.

As Bill Baton (known as “Stad,” short for “Stepdad”) and his family have done for 12 years now, Stad’s Crabfest was held recently, this year at St. Helen’s Church.

With plenty of seafood, fun activities and 120 generous guests, the event was able to reach its goal and raise about as much as last year, with all of the $15,000 in proceeds going to this year’s choice cancer-related charity, Camp Kesem. An additional $5,000 from donations over the past year was also donated to Pathways Cooks, a charity that provides free meals to New Jersey women undergoing chemotherapy.

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From 2006 to 2010, Stad’s Crabfest  was simply an annual family get-together, commemorated with a cool t-shirt. But  after the loss of some close friends and family members to cancer, Baton, alongside his family and close friends, decided to use his cookout for the greater good.

“I thought about how lucky we were to be able to share our little backyard get together, and how others were less fortunate,” Baton said. “So, if we were going to be the lucky ones, at least for now, I wanted to encourage our guests to pay it forward in some way.”

Since then, Baton, his wife Nancy, their daughter-in-law Sydney Dickey, friends Debbi and David Judd and their son-in-law Mark Young and Frank Korn formed a board of advisors and made Stad’s Crabfest a certified nonprofit. At the annual event, which is currently invitation-only for family and friends, all guests are asked to make a donation of their choosing to the cancer-related charity chosen.

Past charities included Emanuel Cancer Foundation, Sister Pat’s Kid’s Camp, Liam’s Room, Center for Hope and Mary's Place by the Sea.

Baton and his board meet to choose a new recipient every year. This year’s charity Camp Kesem, is a week-long New Jersey summer camp that supports children who have a parent with cancer.

“We chose Camp Kesem because their activities fit our mission statement, which is to enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer,” Baton said. “Our board felt that providing a week-long camp experience for children who have a parent with cancer meets that need.”

With great food and a greater cause, many throughout Westfield who have spotted a Stad’s t-shirt in town have asked for an invitation. Most then follow up with the burning question:

“‘Why crabs and seafood?’ When I thought about asking guests to start making a contribution, and mused about what types of organizations we might support, it sort of hit me —the zodiac sign for cancer is a crab,” Baton said. “I’m not into astrology, but I’d like to think in some small way the universe was nudging me when I had that little epiphany.”

To donate or learn more about Stad’s Crabfest, click here.