POINT PLEASANT BEACH – An unusual fundraising event took place as teams from Point Pleasant Beach and Manasquan had a series of tugs-of-war across the 450-feet-wide inlet.
The event was a benefit for Make-A-Wish NJ and for the two respective township Recreation Departments. Sponsored by Jersey Mikes, this was the third such event, although it wasn’t held last year due to COVID-19.
Coast Guard boats struggled to connect a pair of 600-foot ropes in the middle of the inlet during rough seas, while being mindful of incoming and outgoing boats. But in the end, nine heats were completed by teams on each side of the inlet (Manasquan won, 5-4).
Make-A-Wish NJ grants life-changing wishes to children who are diagnosed with critical diseases, which provides a break from their normal routine of hospitals, doctors and treatment.
There is virtually no limit as to what a child may wish for, from trips with their family, meeting a celebrity, getting a new computer or a puppy, seeing a sporting event or concert, having a bedroom or backyard makeover, and much more.
On the Point Pleasant Beach side of the inlet, Make-A-Wish recipient and VIP Samaree Johnson, 6, of Camden had his wish granted in August, along with Make-A-Wish recipient and VIP Dalton Swain, 6 of Florence, who was with his family on the Manasquan side.
Samaree has from a blood disorder while Dalton has a neurological disorder. Both boys wanted to be a police officer for a day, and this past summer, State and local police went all-out to make their wish come true.
The boys were given custom-made police uniforms, complete with patches from each department, and they were “sworn in” as police officers at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey’s headquarters, the “Wishing Place,” a 20,000-foot castle in Monroe Township.
Samaree and Dalton got to ride a horse with the mounted police, had the opportunity to ride in a police boat and police car, and chase down a “criminal” who was hiding out in a building. There was even a flyover by a State Police helicopter.
“There were over 100 police officers in attendance from all over the state,” said Rose Farr from Make-A-Wish. “The boys, who started out individually at their local police stations in Camden and Florence, were brought together in Monroe, and they were told that they were the newest State Police recruits.”
Samaree, who was wearing his police uniform during the Intracoastal Tug, said his favorite part of his Make-A-Wish day was going into a building to chase the “criminal” who had “stolen” a crystal.
“We got to shoot nerf guns and go after the bad guy, and then we got the crystal back,” he said.
His mother, Dejanae Tart-Davis, said that the day had been a great gift and a blessing to the family.
Samaree was diagnosed with the blood disorder at birth, and has had one health crisis after the other, she said. He’s had his gall bladder and spleen removed and suffers from avascular necrosis.
“This was a good year – he’s only had two minor crises – but last year his health was bad, we didn’t think he would live this year,” she said. Samaree is being treated with a chemo compound and takes pain medication every day.
Point Pleasant Beach resident Denise McFadden said she comes to the tug-of-war event every year it’s held.
“It’s a very community-minded event, everybody is so friendly and outgoing,” she said. “It gets better every year and better organized every year. The volunteers are having a tough time with the rope,” she noted.
Registration fees supported the two Recreation Departments, and each team, which represented local businesses and/or organizations, did individual fundraising for Make-A-Wish, which raised over $5,000 for the foundation.