Donation to injured SJV player made Point Pleasant Boro a winner before kickoff
The New Jersey high school football community has been painfully reminded of the bad things that can happen to those who participate in the sport they play, coach and watch.
In less than two months, two players died and two others suffered catastrophic spinal injuries.
Whether they’re wearing shoulder pads and a helmet, helmet, or just sitting in the stands, the possibility of an instantaneous, life-altering injury is a chilling tie that connects football programs from the youth levels to the NFL.
On Friday night in Holmdel, New Jersey, football was reminded how powerful that bond is and the good that can come from it.
Before Friday night’s Point Pleasant Boro-St. John Vianney’s football game – a game that was played hard and eventually resulted in overtime – the Black & Gold Football Parents Club of Point Boro presented the Van Trease family with a check for $31,000.
Aaron Van Trease, a Manasquan resident and senior football player at St. John Vianney, suffered a spinal injury Sept. 23 while defending a passing play. He was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick where he underwent lengthy surgery. There have been no updates on his condition.
At Seniors Night in St. John Vianney, Parents Club and Point Pleasant Boro Athletic Director Chris Ferone surprised and presented the check to Deborah Van Trease, Aaron’s mother.
“Point Pleasant should be open-chested,” said Mike Stencel, president of the Black & Gold Club. “We asked our community to do something and they answered the bell. I am so proud to be part of this community.
“Both my sons played and I never cared about wins and losses,” Stencel added. “When everyone was able to get off the pitch, it was a good game. Allowing Deborah to smile, even for a moment, was worth every effort.
“As coaches, we talk all the time about being great on and off the court,” said Point Boro head coach Brian Staub. “It was an opportunity for us to practice what we preach. I have never been so proud of our program.
In fact, it was the Point Boro players who approached Staub to do something for Van Trease. Staub, in turn, reached out to Stencel.
The Black & Gold Club raised $5,000 through a car wash. ME Sabosik Associates, a Point Pleasant hardwood flooring company, donated the parking lot and all the water used for the car wash. The company also donated $500.
“All the players, from freshmen to seniors, were there for four hours,” Staub said.
“We started at 10 a.m. (am) and there were cars lined up at 9:30 a.m., and they kept coming until 1:15 a.m.,” Stencel said.
The Black & Gold Club used member contacts and reached out to foundations and charities. Jack and Sheryl Morris of Edgewood Properties and Joe and Cheryl Marino of the Marino Foundation donated $10,000 each. Art Mechanical and AJ & Sons Mechanical of Paterson donated $4,000. When all the money was counted, it came to $31,000.
“Gina Mazzaro (the Black & Gold VP) saw her son injure his knee last season,” Stencel said. “He’s back now. My son, Jack, a senior, tore his ACL in the first game against Neptune (September 1). As devastating as Jack’s injury is, he will be fine. Considering everything that’s going on, he’s lucky. What we went through was not at all on the level of what they (the Van Trease family) went through and are still going through today. It made it very easy for us to get involved when the coach (Staub) asked.
“One of the things that has helped my son is that all the people stop at home to check on him. They (the Van Trease family) don’t have that. The only way we could show our support was the way we did it.
The final fundraising total was kept secret until Thursday.
“I suspected it would be a pretty good number, but it was never about the amount, it was about showing Aaron our support,” Staub said. “Football is a unique sport. Your program and the entire Shore Conference are part of an extended family.
The statewide football community has been generous. A Gofundme page for Van Trease raised almost $160,000. Teams across the Shore held fundraisers for Van Trease and a Monmouth County business launched a clothing sale.
On Friday night, when Deborah Van Trease reached midfield escorted by two St. John Vianney players, the announcement was made. Stencel, like many others, became glassy, just as he did on Saturday morning when talking about the fundraising effort.
“She was just grateful that we even thought of doing something for her son and his family,” Stencel said. “She had no idea what was going to happen.”
Point Pleasant Boro won the game, 19-13, on a 7-yard run from Jake Croce and went undefeated and appears to have locked in the No. 1 seed in the South 2 playoffs, which are scheduled to begin next week. Although there was a winner and a loser, everyone should have left the stadium knowing that the badness of football was completely overshadowed by the goodness of football.
“We at St. John Vianney thank Coach Staub, the Point Boro Football Parents Club and the entire borough community,” St. John Vianney head coach Jeff Papcun said in a text. Saturday morning. “Even though Friday night we were enemies for 48 minutes of what was a high intensity football game, we put our differences aside to become FAMILY to support our brother AVT18. We cannot thank them enough for their support throughout this process.
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