VENTNOR — Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski stood before a group of Ventnor Pirates junior football players and began giving them the “there’s no ‘I’ in team” talk.
But it wasn’t the game of football Jaworski was talking about Monday. It was a multi-organization, community-led effort to restore their football field and the recreation complex it is in, Titus Field Complex, by the bay in Ventnor Heights.
Titus Field Complex, which is named for former Ventnor Mayor Henry Titus, received about $30,000 in damage during Hurricane Sandy, said Pirates varsity football coach and Ventnor Pirates Association President A.J. Russo.
To repair the complex and the replace the damaged items, Jaworski’s nonprofit organization, Jaws Youth Playbook, donated $30,000 to Ventnor. Several community organizations and individuals also donated money, time and labor to the effort, resulting in an additional $7,000 in donations.
As the renovated Titus Field Complex was unveiled Monday, Jaworski came to take a tour of the facility and talk to the children and the others involved. The effort to repair the complex began June 28 and continued throughout the summer.
During the unveiling, Mayor Mike Bagnell presented Jaworski with a key to Ventnor as a thank you for his organization’s donation.
“One thing I noticed about all of these volunteers is they couldn’t wait to say ‘thank you’ to me for allowing them to help you,” Bagnell said to the children.
Right after the storm, Russo said, the football field was “under three feet of water.”
The complex’s concession stand was severely damaged, needing a new roof, siding, interior appliances and wiring. A great deal of the Pirates’ football and cheerleader uniforms and team equipment was ruined, including more than 60 sets of shoulder pads, 40 helmets and many uniforms that were a “soggy mess” he said.
The donations were used to purchase the materials to make the repairs to the field and concession stand as well as to buy new uniforms and equipment for the kids and replace an outdated, non-functional scoreboard, which according to 10-year-old Pirate junior football player C.J. Egrie, of Ventnor, was very much needed.
“The past years I played we couldn’t even see the scoreboard,” C.J. said. “We had to ask the coaches to tell us the score. We’re finally getting a new scoreboard. Finally.”
The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and Atlantic County Revive, the county’s long-term recovery group, acted as the liaisons between Jaws Youth Playbook and Ventnor, connecting the two and helping to rally volunteers to complete the work.
Sara McCullough, senior director of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, said Jaws, which has a partnership with United Way, asked for help in finding a project that would help Hurricane Sandy victims.
“Jaworski has built a close relationship with the area since he hosts his annual Ron Jaworski Celebrity Golf Challenge fundraiser here (in Atlantic County) each year, and he wanted to find a project that would specifically help children who were affected by Superstorm Sandy,” McCullough said.
Jess Myers, the executive director of Jaws, said its mission is to support projects that enhance the health and well being of children in need.
“We have a belief that things like fields, playgrounds and ballparks are so important to the heartbeat of a community,” she said.
Jaworski said the completed complex looks spectacular and he commended the many volunteers and organization that helped make it possible.
He said the project was about more than repairing a recreational complex; it was about helping rebuild a community that was affected by the storm.
“It’s about the 120 young men who will be playing football this year. It’s about the 100 young ladies who will be cheerleaders for these teams. It’s about 220 young people whose lives you have made a profound impact on,” he said to the volunteers, coaches and elected officials seated in stands before him. “That’s what it’s all about — the community getting together to keep these young men and women off the streets. This effort is about them.”
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