BERKELEY – It was the 21st Annual Berkeley Community Pride Day, which means two things: the community came out to a fun day, and neighbors learned about each other.
The annual festival takes place in Veterans Park. Every year, officials hold a remembrance ceremony for those lost on September 11, 2001 during this event, and this year it fell on the 20th anniversary.
Entertainment is held throughout the day, from the Central Regional Marching Band in the afternoon to fireworks at night. It also serves as the capstone to the free summer concert series. Some people brought their own folding chairs.
A circle of vendors surrounded the field and bandstand. Some of them are local civic organizations (such as the Boy Scouts or Knights of Columbus) selling food as a fundraiser. Other vendors are local businesses like real estate agents or utilities.
It was perfect weather for these groups to get a chance to meet the public face-to-face. That’s why social clubs like the Pine Barren Modelers RC Club had their remote controlled planes on display.
Berkeley Fire Prevention and the local EMS and fire volunteer groups were on hand to spread safety information and recruit folks.
Others took the opportunity to share with residents the causes that they feel strongly about.
Carly Ruhnke of Bayville was educating people about the Little Carly Foundation which raises funds and awareness about dwarfism and the Little People of America association.
“I’m raising money to help members to go events,” she said. There have been social and informative meetings in years past, where members can network and help each other, but that’s been difficult in the current pandemic climate.
She was selling tee shirts and other material to help out. The Little Carly Foundation can be followed on Instagram and Facebook.
Another local group was the Alyssa’s Avengers Foundation whose mission is to bring normalcy to children and families battling cystic fibrosis.
Cheryl Lugo, of Toms River, and Patty Castillo, of Lanoka Harbor, were raising money to pay medical and other expenses. They also deliver food to those in need. They’ve delivered food baskets during holidays.
In the past, they’ve handled six or seven families. This past November, they were up to 37. The demand is increasing.
And the needs are changing as well. Due to COVID, people can’t always visit family members in hospitals. Also, the volunteers aren’t allowed to go to the hospitals to deliver relief.
They can be found at AlyssasAvengers.com.