WESTFIELD, NJ — Liam’s Room, a non-profit New Jersey-based organization founded by Lisa and Peter McNamara of Westfield, will get a boost next week thanks to local teenagers who formed their own charitable group. Teens for Teens is a teen-run organization that meets weekly in Westfield throughout the school year to help teenagers in New Jersey by volunteering and fundraising through existing organizations.
The organization, which has been in existence for three years, organizes a gala for a different charity each year. The third annual Teens for Teens Gala, benefitting Liam’s Room, will be held on Wednesday, April 6 at Stonehouse at Stirling Ridge in Warren.
“Liam’s Room is an organization that does two things,” said Bryn Wegryn, a senior at Mount Saint Mary Academy, who lives in Westfield and is the group’s public relations liaison. “They pay hospitals to inform doctors on pediatric palliative care and work to build one room in hospitals throughout New Jersey that simulate a home-like setting to make families and their children more comfortable.”
The organization was created by Lisa and Peter McNamara in loving memory of their son Liam. Liam was born in 2005 and was ultimately diagnosed with lissencephaly, a rare brain formation disorder that causes motor issues, impairments to vision and hearing and seizures.
“After spending what seemed like a long time, although it was 16 months, caring for a terminally ill child and trying to juggle the intense demands of that with raising two other children-one being Liam’s twin- Peter and I became determined to try to make the road a little easier for other families facing similar circumstances,” Lisa McNamara said in 2013.
Teens for Teens’ main focus during the year is organizing its annual gala. The young volunteers do all of the planning themselves, including creating a silent auction and raffle with prizes such as a week vacation home rental, a jersey signed by the entire Devils team and a voucher for a Michelin Star Restaurant in New York. All of the money is raised through donations, tickets to the gala and the auction items. The group expects to host more than 250 guests and raise an estimated $30,000.
“All of the money goes to Liam’s Room,” said, Wegryn, who is also an avid golfer and plays on her school’s team. “It all comes together at the Teens for Teens Gala to form a beautiful evening filled with fun and emotion.”
The event also features entertainment by top teenage performers from New Jersey. The acts range from a renowned violinist to a rising guitarist and singer. In addition, there will be speeches to connect the audience with the inside workings of Liam’s Room as a charity and the specific ways that children benefit from the money raised.
“There are speeches given by a board member of Liam’s Room,” said Wegryn. “Also a family member who went through the process. This is always very touching to the audience and then we [the teens] give speeches to tell the people how and why they are involved.”
Because Liam’s Room helps children who are terminally ill, there is level of sensitivity surrounding the entire evening.
“Palliative care focuses on providing the children with relief from whatever symptoms they are facing, no matter the diagnosis,” said Wegryn. “Palliative care offers an extra layer of support that is appropriate at any stage of illness.”
In addition to frequently contributing to TAP into Westfield, Mike Cohen is the founder/director of Throwback Sports and the sports editor of Education Update. He can be reached at email@example.com.