Lyndhurst track team: Helping Eli’s cause

For years, the Lyndhurst High School track and field team has been raising money for an assortment of causes. Usually, the money raised _ through annual events like a car wash _ goes to purchase better equipment, uniform sweats and championship jackets.

But this year, veteran head coach Tom Shoebridge thought it would be a good idea for his team to raise money for a worthy cause.

“I thought it would be a good thing for our kids to do something for younger kids who don’t have the same opportunities that they do,” Shoebridge said.
So Shoebridge talked over the idea with girls’ track and girls’ soccer coach Kim Hykey.

“We wanted to find a local charity,” Shoebridge said.

Shoebridge said he was perusing the Internet and came across Eli Manning’s charitable works.

The Giants quarterback, who was just named the Walter Payton Man of the Year by the NFL in February for his incredible philanthropic contributions, has a program called “Tackle Kids Cancer.”

The program raises money for research at the Children Cancer Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Shoebridge thought it would be a good idea to take the proceeds from the annual car wash that the track team sponsors and donate it to Eli’s charity. Manning has already pledged to match the first $100,000 raised by local teams and groups raising money.

“I called over to the charity to see what had to be done,” Shoebridge said.

So the track team held a car wash on April 9 to help raise money to help kids with cancer.

“We had a pre-sale for about a week or so,” Shoebridge said. “The kids sold tickets for $5 and the people brought their cars in to get them washed.”
The team broke it down into shifts. The freshmen and sophomore boys and girls were there getting all soaped up from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The juniors and seniors then took over from 11-1:30 p.m.

“Every kid on the team was 100 percent for it,” Shoebridge said.

The Lyndhurst community got behind the track team, once the cause became evident.

There was a tip jar nearby that was present in case someone wanted to donate a little more to the cause. One man put a $50 bill into the tip jar. Another parent supplied all the soap, the sponges and towels for the event and bought water and Gatorade to refresh the car washers.

When the day was over and all the suds washed away, the Lyndhurst track team raised $3,000 for the Tackle Kids Cancer program.

That’s a lot of money for one small school’s track team to raise in five hours. We knew the Golden Bears were speedy, but this is ridiculous.

“Our kids were ecstatic to do it,” Shoebridge said. “They worked their tails off. They understood the meaning of it, giving back to kids.”
Shoebridge then got a little emotional when thinking of what his team did together.

“We’ve won a lot of championships and done a lot of great things,” Shoebridge said. “But I’m more proud of these kids for what they’ve done than any championship we’ve ever won. People keep talking about how kids today are so bad. Well, we have great kids and I’m so proud of them.”

Distance runner Nick Pacheco was pleased to be able to help the cause.

“Of all the fundraising we’ve done, this was the best,” Pacheco said. “We were all behind it 100 percent. We can always buy a new pole or new spikes for our cleats. This was more meaningful. In the long run, this was a no-brainer.”

Pacheco was asked if he was surprised with the total they raised.

“Not necessarily,” Pacheco said. “I knew we’d have success, because basically, one-third of the entire school is involved in track. We knew we would collect a decent amount of money. Everyone did their share.”

Pacheco is going to attend American University in Washington, D.C. in the fall on an ROTC scholarship. He wants to pursue a life in the military toward a career in national security.

Kevin Santos was all in from the outset.

“I was extremely excited about it,” Santos said. “These kids are the real athletes in my eyes. We play as a team for them. They are the warriors.”

Santos was shocked with the amount raised.
“I was extremely surprised,” Santos said. “I knew we would sell a lot of car wash tickets, but not that many. People were coming by and putting money into our jars. Every little
bit helps.”

Santos was also happy to help for another reason.

“I’m a big-time Giants fan,” Santos said. “Eli takes the time out of his busy schedule and helps the kids. I think that motivated us even more. We all chipped in as a team. We did it as one. We did it as the Lyndhurst track team.”

Pacheco doesn’t have the same gridiron affections.

“I’m a Jets fan,” Pacheco said. “But if this was the Tom Brady Challenge, I’d still be for it, because of the kids. I’d put the same effort out there. We got outstanding contributions from everyone.”

Several members of the track team went to the Joseph Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center last week to present the check for $3,000 to the Tackling Children’s Cancer Program.

By the way, the Golden Bears did well on the track as well last weekend.

At the Bergen County Meet of Champions in Old Tappan, two big school records fell.

Teslim Olunlade reached 44 feet, eight and a half inches in the triple jump, which broke the school record held by last year’s Observer Male Athlete of the Year Petey Guerriero. Olunlade was third overall in the meet. Guerriero was there to see his record of 43-10 ¼ fall.

And with the girls, super sophomore Giulia Pezzolla ran 2:18.28 in the 800 meters to finish third and breaking the school record held by the immortal Robin Heim in the process.

CAPTION

Members of the Lyndhurst track and field team present a check for $3,000 raised at their annual car wash recently to doctors as the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at the Hackensack University Medical Center. From left are athletes Keira Adams, Lindsey Cirne, Kevin Santos, the doctors on staff at the hospital, Matt Schnoll, Caitlyn Blake and Nick Pacheco. Photo courtesy of Lyndhurst athletics

“It is truly inspiring to see how many community groups held bake sales, car washes and other fundraisers for this cause, and I want to challenge more of them to join our team,” said Manning, who pledged to match the first $100,000 in fundraising from local community groups – which they exceeded in just a few short months.

Five of the most innovative, creative and successful fundraising campaigns created by kids and community groups were honored, resulting in a check for $250,000 from “Eli’s Challenge” to the Tackle Kids Cancer program, which benefitted from the New York Giants support.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer