Weeks after superstorm Sandy destroyed much of the Jersey Shore, many people have returned to living their normal lives without realizing that there are still so many people who have nothing.
Mike McDonagh, head coach of the Hackettstown boys basketball team, isn’t one of those people.
A few weeks ago McDonagh reached out to Michelle Ramsay, assistant principal at Central Regional High School in Bayville, and asked how could he help. The high school had turned its history wing into an elementary school after superstorm Sandy to help students from Seaside Heights Elementary School, which was destroyed in the storm and won’t be back up and running until June.
According to Ramsay, the Central Regional girls volleyball team traveled to Hackettstown during the state tournament and shared what happened to their community.
“Someone there spoke to someone and they heard our story,” Ramsey said. “Coach McDonagh called me about a week later and said ‘Is there anything we can do to help out?’ ” Ramsay said.
Ramsay told McDonagh that she was planning on having a Breakfast with Santa, which would host needy and displaced families from the school district which comprised Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Island Heights, Ocean Gate and Bayville.
From there McDonagh reached out to teacher and senior class advisor Scout Bargiel and the two joined forces, resulting in a massive outpouring of donations from the Hackettstown community. The school collected everything from school supplies, art supplies, hygiene products, toys, baby products and even pet supplies.
“The students came to me and really wanted to do something as far as giving back because of the hurricane and everything that happened,” Bargiel said. “A lot of them have family houses down the shore, myself included, and so we came up with the idea to try and donate to a school in need and we knew that the Seaside Heights Elementary School kids were here so we just put it all together.”
McDonagh said that he reached out to a family friend, Nancy Shevell (wife of Paul McCartney), whose father owns a trucking company that McDonagh’s father had worked for for 28 years. McDonagh asked if there was any way she could help and she came through with helping to donate a truck to drive the donations down to Bayville. On Thursday, the Hackettstown boys basketball team and members of the senior class were bused down to Central Regional where they helped unload all the supplies.
“We do a lot of this stuff, we got to senior citizen homes, we do soup kitchens, and it’s just a great experience,” Hackettstown sophomore guard Logan Allen said. “It feels great because it’s helping out people which is a great thing to do because we got hit not as hard as this area and just seeing it is terrible but helping them out feels great.”
Sophomore forward Jeremy Del Valle agreed.
“When we saw what happened down the shore we just wanted to give back because we go there every summer, after our prom we come down to Seaside, it’s a big part of what we do every summer so we just wanted to give back to a place that we always go to,” he said. “We realized that when people lose things, and you have things that you don’t really need, you feel the need to help people that are close to you… You feel the need to help them even if you don’t know them.”
McDonagh said that after Hurricane Sandy, Hopatcong High School was being used as a shelter, so he got the boys basketball team to run a food drive in order to help the families living at the school. The team donated six cartloads of food, and McDonagh said he used that experience as a jumping off point to keep helping people who had been affected.