PLAINFIELD, NJ – Howard Cross, a sports broadcaster and former tight end for the New York Giants, paid a special visit to the Huntington’s Disease Unit at JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook in Plainfield last week. During his July 16 visit to the Park Avenue facility, Cross chatted with residents about his football career, offered predictions, talked injuries and trades and answered questions as well as signed autographs and posed for photos.
“I came out to say hi, tell some stories and to try to make people laugh,” said Cross, who came to Cedar Brook through a mutual friend with a connection to the Park Avenue facility.
A resident of Northern New Jersey, Cross was drafted out of the University of Alabama in the 1989 NFL Draft by the New York Giants in the sixth round. Over his career, Cross. In 2001, Cross retired from the game and moved into broadcasting. He is currently a co-host of the YES Network's This Week in Football and a color commentator alongside John Sterling on the network's Ivy League football telecasts. Additionally, he is a sideline reporter for the New York Giants Radio Network.
During his visit, Cross spent close to an hour speaking to residents, sharing how much he enjoyed playing with Lawrence Taylor and Phil Sims, explaining how the National Football Conference has changed over the years and answering questions about today’s players and teams. Additionally, Cross, who lightheartedly joked with Jets, Steelers and Eagles fans, offered his predictions for the Giants’ 2015 season.
“The problem [with the Giants] is always injuries, but at least this year everyone is hurt already so when they come back they will be healthy,” he said. “That means the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl this year.”
Cross’ visit also provided David Sharp, a resident of Cedar Brook and huge Giants fan "forever," the opportunity to meet the former football player. Sharp, who is 45 years old and was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2009, lives for the Giants. His collection of Giants hats adorn the walls of his room, team shirts are a big part of his wardrobe and his room is official "Giants territory" right down to the Giants comforter on the bed.
“When I first heard Howard Cross was coming here it brought tears to my eyes,” said Sharp’s mom Pat Holzman of Rockaway, noting that having the chance to shake a Giants hand – either former or current – was a dream come true for her son. “This is so special for David and so important, especially at this point in his life.”
Even though he bleeds green and white, Cedar Brook resident Patrick Lawlor, the New York Jets’ self-proclaimed number one fan, said having the opportunity to meet Cross and hear him speak was great.
“He is such a nice guy and I enjoyed this very much,” said Lawlor, who was sporting a Jets jersey and rides around with a Jets flag and Jets license plate on his wheelchair. “Even though he wasn't a Jet, he’s still a pretty cool guy.”
A fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, Huntington’s disease deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years. Currently, there is no cure and Huntington’s disease is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with the disease has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.
JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook, a non-profit facility affiliated with JFK Health System, offers access to advanced short-term, long-term and sub-acute care in an intimate setting and is also home to New Jersey’s only specialized Huntington’s disease Unit. Cedar Brook provides care uniquely tailored to the needs of individuals with Huntington’s disease with staff that is trained, equipped and experienced in the disease process.
According to Karin Petrin, director of the Huntington’s Disease Unit/Recreation Services at JFK Hartwyck at Cedar Brook, special events like Cross’ visit are very important to all residents. “Activities are a very important part of our facility each day,” said Petrin. “We plan our calendar focusing on improving their cognition, physical and emotional well-being.”
The facility, which is located at 1340 Park Avenue in Plainfield, New Jersey, accepts most insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid. For more information, visit http://www.jfkhartwyck.org or call 908-754-3100.