Mayor welcomes Australian teens at Gilford Park Yacht Club
Toms River was one of many stops that eight teenagers from Australia made during a five-week visit to the United States. The Teamsters Joint Council No. 73, along with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Local Union 817, helped sponsor children from Australia through a cause known as Challenge. These children all have cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders.
Cliff Nolan, the Event Coordinator for Joint Council No. 73 is also on the Executive Board of the Gilford Park Yacht Club, which was the setting for a luncheon to meet the teens and learn about the cause. While there, Toms River Township Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher met with the eight ailing teenagers, just as they were getting off a boat and ending their day of crabbing. “To me, they seemed like normal, happy kids, enjoying a day on the water. It was great to see them smiling,” Kelaher said.
The mayor congratulated the teens in his welcoming address. He took the opportunity to thank the Teamsters for their generosity in arranging the trip for the Australians, and also thanked the Gilford Park Yacht Club for making the club available to them. “The spirit manifested by members of the Yacht Club is one more reason why Toms River is a great place to live and I’m thankful that so many volunteers stepped up to show our guests such a wonderful time,” Kelaher said.
Midway into their five-week visit, the Australians have already been to California, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and New York City. They have been bestowed with tickets to Broadway shows, helicopter rides around Manhattan, a trip to Citi Field to meet the Mets, and of course, a visit to Disneyland.
Jordy Curtis, 17, who suffers from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, said she liked looking at the Las Vegas strip and all of the lights. “We’ve done so much in such a short time period that it’s hard to remember everything we’ve seen. We didn’t even know our entire itinerary before we left Australia, but we knew that it included New York City. New Jersey was sort of a surprise for us. Everyone in America is so supportive.”
Asked about her health and stamina, Curtis says, “At the moment, I’m still in treatment and on medication. Once my Lymphoma goes into remission, I’ll get a bone marrow transplant. I get sick sometimes, but I look healthy on the outside and I feel good right now. Someday I hope to be cured.”
While in NJ, the teenagers are staying at the Hershey Motel, free of charge, thanks to the owners, the McGrath family. Toms River Councilwoman Maria Maruca, who is also the Executive Director for the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District, arranged for free rides and arcade games.
Hailing from Grovedale, Australia, Josh Edwards, 16, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 2009. After several weeks in the U.S., he said the best part of the trip so far was coming to New Jersey. “We finally get a chance to just chill and be teenagers. I liked looking at the other teenagers on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. We even saw ‘Jersey Shore’ being filmed while we were there.”
Accompanying the teens are two nurses and a counselor.