Snapple Bowl XXII: Lakeview Visit A Life-Changing Experience

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EDISON — Putting together the Snapple Bowl is a year-long project for Marcus Borden.

The former long-time head football coach at East Brunswick put together the game 22 years ago and he’s watched it grow from an all-star football showcase to a community event, which continues to grow with each passing year.

So in the week leading up to the actual game, which will take place Thursday at Kean University at 7 p.m., the 60-year-old South River resident doesn’t get much sleep.

Marcus Borden

Marcus Borden

From designing the game uniforms for both teams to organizing a social media campaign, putting up banners at the game, getting insurance quotes, organizing a mascot challenge, searching for sponsors, selling advertising for the 192-page program booklet to even help coordinate which Snapple products will be sold at the game are just a few of the 100-plus things the 60-year-old South River resident does to make the game a success.

But earlier this week, Borden summed it all up in an instagram post with a few simple words – ‘This is why we do it.”

The message led into a video of the Middlesex All-Stars making their annual visit to the Lakeview School in Edison, which, along with the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, have been the beneficiaries of $485,000 raised since Borden hatched the idea in 1994.

“The kids will come out of their visit changed today, I know that,” said Borden. “There was a message left on my instagram account this morning from a participant in 2006 who said ”My life has been forever changed by that visit.”

“There will be some who may change their careers and want to be a teacher because of this,” Borden added. “Maybe a special education teacher. So, this is way we do it.”

At the Lakeview visit, the players and cheerleaders are briefed by Venus Majeski. The Director of Development & Community Relations for New Jersey Institute for Disabilities tells them what to expect and how to act just prior to meeting the children.

When the players and cheerleaders were broken into groups and assigned to specific children, I visited each room with a video recorder. At first, seeing all the children with the different disabilities seemed overwhelming to the Snapple Bowl participants and it was awkward for some at first.

By the time I made it around to each room a second time, the players and cheerleaders were singing, laughing, drawing, giving high-fives, even bowling and playing baseball with the children.

“These football players and cheerleaders are our heroes here at the Lakeview School,” said Majeski. “These kids will never be able to throw a football or cheer out on the field, so we have all these wonderful people from all different municipalities in Middlesex County and their heart is in it. But when they come here though they think that this is all about the game. But when they come here and meet the students they understand the enormity of what they are participating in.”

“This day has meant a lot to me, I realized how privileged I am and I thank God,” said Piscataway’s Jamil Gilmore. “I realized what this game is really about. It’s not about us, it’s about these kids in this school. We’re playing for them. This day has had a big impact on me. I came in here a little nervous and not really sure what to do, but I found out they have personalities just like me, happy, sad, playful … I know a lot of them left with smiles.”

“This has been a life-changing experience for me,” said Colonia’s Raul Cardona. “I had high hopes coming here and to see the children smile and to interact with them and to get to know them was a great experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

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