MAYS LANDING — Before a cascade of bubbles floated skyward Thursday evening, Mark Clopp expressed his gratitude to the neighbors who came out to support his late son.
“This community coming to rally around, that’s what makes this a wonderful place to live,” said Clopp, his wife, Joan, standing beside him. “So I just wanted to thank everyone.”
On Sunday, two men were charged after a video posted to Snapchat showed one of them urinating on a memorial to the Clopps’ late son, Christian, who died in 2012 of an inoperable brain tumor at 9.
Bryan Bellace, 23, of Egg Harbor City, was charged with lewdness, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and having an open alcoholic beverage in a park. Bellace also lost his job at his father’s plumbing business. He apologized to Mark Clopp this week. The videographer, Daniel Flippen, was charged with having an open container of alcohol in a park.
Following remarks at Thursday’s event, whistles and claps came from the crowd of children dressed in their baseball uniforms, firefighters, police officers and families, all taking part in a “Bubble Brigade” at Underhill Park.
Parents and children aimed their wands up, and soapy bubbles floated above the place that caused so much heartache for the Clopps over the past week.
Neighbors that night turned out to clean the memorial and over the past few days have written to the Clopps on social media with well-wishes and support. A fundraiser to beautify Christian’s corner of the park has raised more than $5,000, Clopp said.
Amy Gatto, chairwoman of the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, helped organize the event Thursday evening. Gatto, 37, was on Hamilton Township Committee in 2014 when the park was dedicated to Christian and has gotten to know the family since then.
Joan Clopp texted her this week, Gatto said, and “she was just concerned about how we would make it right for Christian, and bring his spirit back to the park.”
After kicking around some ideas, they landed on bubbles, Gatto said, because they’re light, silly and fun.
“Just everything that Christian brought to the world,” she said.
Hamilton Township police Sgt. Chris Robell, 41, held his 2-year-old daughter Ella in his arms as bubbles danced around her. He is a former coworker of Mark Clopp, and seeing the video over the weekend made him angry, he said, especially as a father.
Seeing the turnout Thursday, however, put him in better spirits.
“It’s great, you know, to see that people are still into their community and they support each other in a time of need,” Robell said. “It’s a chance to make the park a little bit better, too. It’s just a good time.”