NEWARK — Football fever swept through New Jersey’s largest city today as the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee made its latest stop on a goodwill tour that’s building anticipation for Game Day on Feb. 2 while giving back to local residents.
Roughly 800 students from schools across the state — from Waldwick to Brick — converged in Newark and filled the gymnasium floor of Essex County College with donated books, school supplies and sports equipment to give to needy children — and to score autographs with New York Giants safety Stevie Brown and New York Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson.
As fans flock to the Garden State in roughly three weeks and millions of viewers flip to the most watched event on television — held this year at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford — 15-year-old Emily Wells says she can’t help but get caught up in the Super Bowl frenzy.
“I’m just excited that it’s so close to home. I almost feel like I’m part of it,” said Wells, a freshman at Cresskill High, as she sorted through a box of supplies donated by middle and high school students.
Bins emblazoned with the “Super Bowl XLVIII” logo brimmed with goods like soccer balls and hockey sticks to binders and crayons. The pregame event, dubbed Super Kids-Super Sharing, takes place in each Super Bowl host community and started in 2000 in Atlanta. The collected items will be given to needy students in nearly 50 schools across North Jersey, according to Jack Groh, head of the NFL’s Environmental Program.
On Tuesday, the NFL held a recycling event aimed at reducing "e-waste" for electronics including old cell phones, computers and other devices in Fair Lawn.
Today donations poured in from more than 75 public and private schools and youth organizations.
Veterans Memorial Middle School in Brick donated 1,200 pieces of sports equipment and books, said Sharon Bauer, a sixth grade teacher. Kennedy Park Elementary School in Iselin collected 860 items, fourth grade teacher Nina Jacob said. Belleville Public Schools literally brought a truckload of 3,500 books, according to high school teacher Gary Klotzkin. They unloaded the books from the bed of a pickup backed into the gym.
“We’re very fortunate. We want to share what we have,” said Sion Aronoff, 16, a junior at Golda Och Academy, a private school in West Orange.
College president Gale Gibson credits county executive Joseph DiVincenzo with bringing the pre-game event to ECC. In May, the NFL had a ceremonial tree planting in Weequahic Park in the city’s South Ward. It was there that DiVincenzo struck up a conversation with Groh that led to Super Kids-Super Sharing being hosted at ECC, Groh said.
The NFL partnered with the Giants, Jets, Verizon and the Super Bowl Host Committee to organize the event at the college. Verizon presented a $10,000 check to Babyland’s Family Violence Program in Newark as part of the company’s HopeLine grant, which recycles cell phones and gives the proceeds to charities.
As volunteers sorted items, students flocked to activity stations where they practiced touchdowns and field goal kicks. Sebastian Maldonado, 18, and his classmates from Science Park High in Newark crowded into the Huddle Shuttle, a tour bus parked outside the gym and decked out with football memorabilia. A proud Jets fan, Maldonado snapped a cell phone picture of himself wearing Mark Sanchez’s No. 6 jersey next to the jersey of Curtis Martin, No. 28, which was encased in glass.
The goodwill tour, which includes events in New York, promotes green-friendly practices by recycling Super Bowl banners and giving them to local groups or businesses, donating unserved prepared food from game events to shelters and planting some 27,000 trees in New Jersey and New York.
“We don’t leave it the same way we found it,” Groh said of the host communities.
New York will host its own Super Kids-Super Sharing event in Harlem Jan. 16.
In : #EssexCounty
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