MOUNTAINSIDE – When players and cheerleaders from Middlesex and Union counties participate in the MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl, they’re not just signing up to play in another high school all-star football game.
The Snapple Bowl, which was created in 1994, is New Jersey’s most successful charity all-star football game, and all proceeds are donated to the Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities. In the 22 years of its existence, the Snapple Bowl has raised over $485,000.
“It seemed to good to be true,” Phil Salerno, president and chief development officer for the Children’s Specialized Hospital, said when Snapple Bowl founder Marcus Borden first reached out to him. “I remember I was sitting at my desk and Marcus called and I didn’t know who he was, and he talked about a gentleman who owned the Snapple distribution and through his research found both organizations. I said what would your expectations be of us, and he said nothing, we want to raise money for you and he’s been doing a great job of it ever since.”
On Monday the players and cheerleaders for the Union County All-Stars spent time at Children’s Specialized Hospital, visiting children in their Pediatric Long Term Care Center. The center is for patients who range from infants to 21 years of age and are “medically fragile children whose family’s circumstances no longer allow them to be cared for in the home and/or other community settings.”
The Middlesex County All-Stars and cheerleaders visited the Lakeview School in Edison.
“It’s really rewarding because our patients are younger than the players and cheerleaders and they literally and figuratively look up to them for what they do,” Salerno said. “Historically it’s brought an added perspective to the game and participants. It’s not just about one last high school football game, it brings an added perspective to it of just how emotionally moving it is for all the participants to have the chance to interact with our patients.”
During the visit, the players and cheerleaders helped the patients with a variety of different activities, from making visors and pennants supporting the Union County team, to playing catch and administering temporary tattoos.
“I think it’s a really nice thing to come, these kids haven’t had the greatest situations and circumstances for themselves and it’s nice to see what it’s like,” said Andrew Lameira, an offensive lineman from A.L. Johnson. “There are people struggling with more complicated situations so it really humbles you. It makes you feel good that you can come out and help, even if it’s just one day, it’s very nice.”
Maria Gerckens, a cheerleader from Westfield, echoed the sentiment.
“It’s amazing to be able to work with these kids and do arts and crafts with them, it made me so happy that they’re having such a good time here and I really love it,” she said. “I feel like this makes them so happy and it makes their stay here so much better, to be able to work with these all-stars and it makes them enjoy life.”
The Union County All-Stars are on the hunt to win this year’s game, as Middlesex has won the last three years and eight out of the last nine to take a 13-8 lead in the series. Scott Miller, the athletic director at David Brearley, believes that Monday’s activities were also a way for the Union County All-Stars to bond off the field.
“You have a lot of kids from different schools who really don’t know each other, and getting off the practice field this gives them an opportunity to interact in a different capacity,” Miller said. “You can see some of the kids start to form some bonds between themselves.”
Snapple Bowl XXII kicks off 7 p.m. Thursday at Kean University, but no matter what the outcome, the players and cheerleaders who are taking part will most likely always remember this all-star game as one that taught them more about just winning and losing.
“It’s really fun, I like being here helping out the kids,” said David Tobe, a defensive lineman from Elizabeth. “When I found out that these kids aren’t allowed to go home, it made me kind of sad but it’s a good thing to be doing, coming here and making their day. In their eyes we’re pros, even though we’re still in high school so it’s really nice.”
Staff Writer Lauren Knego: email@example.com
What: MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII, New Jersey’s most successful charity all-star football game
Where: Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, Union
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16
Participants: Recently graduated high school senior players and cheerleaders from Middlesex and Union counties.
About the event
Beneficiaries: All proceeds from the game, which has raised more than $485,000 since its inception, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
Practice venues: Colonia High School (Middlesex County All-Stars) and Union High School (Union County All-Stars).
Key dates: Snapple Bowl banquet at Pines Manor restaurant in Edison July 15.
Tickets: Can be purchased at the gate for $10.
Previewing the game: Leading up to Snapple Bowl XXII, the Home News Tribune, Courier News and MyCentralJersey.com will feature at least one story daily, as well as videos.
Game coverage: Look for a game story, a notebook, a Middlesex County sidebar, a Union County sidebar, an A1 story, a photo gallery and video highlights from Snapple Bowl XXII in the Home News Tribune, Courier News and at MyCentralJersey.com.
Social media: Follow us via Twitter @MyCJ_Sports and @SnappleBowl for updates and to interact with reporters and Snapple Bowl XXII game director Marcus Borden.
MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII official web site: Can be found at https://worknotes.com/NJ/SouthRiver/SnappleBowl/