MOUNT ARLINGTON - For the fourth consecutive year volunteers from the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club hosted a group of campers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark for a day of swimming and boating at the club.
The event is the brainchild of club member Dr. Mike Gruber who is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark.
Gruber, a dentist whose practice is in Parsippany, got involved with the Boys & Girls Club with the encouragement of one of his patients. After joining the board he was thinking of ways to directly affect the lives of the kids who use the club. He could think of nothing better than to invite the children to spend the day at the yacht club. With the help of Cynthia Banks, vice president of operations for the Boys & Girls Club, Gruber and his wife, Laryssa, plan a full day for the kids.
Gruber recruits a variety of volunteers to help, including junior club members, antique boat owners and others to help throughout the day. The juniors employ the buddy system throughout the day, pairing themselves with the boys and girls from Newark and sticking with their buddies throughout the day.
“I really like the councilors,” said Marques S., 12.
The event has seen a steady growth in participation since the first group of campers came to the yacht club in 2010. This year, however, only 14 campers made the trip from Newark to Bertrand Island.
“Its just circumstances,” said Banks of the low number. “Some children had doctor’s appointments that couldn’t be changed, others were not feeling well, and others decided it was too cold to go swimming,” she said.
The Boys & Girls club has more than 500 members, said Banks, and “everyone wants to come here.”
“The kids go back and talk about what a great time they had, all the fun things they do and the nice people they meet,” she said.
To give each child a chance to experience the lake and since space is limited Banks said she tries bring new children each year.
“This is awesome! Its amazing to see everything around here,” said Taraji B., 11. A first-time visitor to the yacht club, Taraji paired up with junior club member Shea Schindelar, 10, from Hopatcong. The two became fast friends, spending their morning jumping off the large floating water trampoline moored just off the docks of the yacht club and getting bounced around on an inflatable tube being pulled by a speed boat.
Taraji said she was picked for the trip because she displayed “good behavior” at the Boys & Girls Club throughout the year.
Connor Orr, 23, from Hopatcong, has been a volunteer each year. His specialty is throwing his body onto the launch pad of the water trampoline. His bulk then launches the kids into the air and into the water. The kids and the adults watching on the dock enjoy it immensely.
“It doesn’t matter how battered my body gets,” said Orr, an Internet Security major at County College of Morris. “We have a blast doing this, we all do. It’s great to get kids out of their element and see something new and have a good time.”
“Sometimes I think our kids get more out of this than the kids from Newark,” said Gruber. “It helps our kids realize what they have and what they can give. This is something we can do to give back.”
Gruber is doing much more for the Boys & Girls Club than just sponsoring a day at the yacht club. Sometime in September, under the direction and tireless effort by Gruber, the doors will open to a brand new dental center at the club, free of charge to all members.
“Everyone is volunteer and everything is donated,” said Gruber. “UMDNJ will be sending students on an intern program once it gets going.”
Gruber said the center has received $140,000 in grants to help sustain it for the first two years. At present, he said, there are 20 volunteer dentists and 15 hygienists and assistants signed on to help.
“It’s the first of its kind in the nation,” said Gruber. “We are hoping it will be a model for the rest of the country.”
“If kids eat well, feel well, they will do well in school,” said Banks.
Niyah S., Dominnique S. and Caryean K. enjoying a boat ride on Lake Hopatcong.