The weather was perfect Saturday.

And Kearny was ablaze with activity.

First it was a special Town Hall Ceremony to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness, where Emma Quintana, foundress of Mujeres Valientes, or Brave Women, had a ribbon cutting. Then, afterward, she and some of her volunteers, walked around town tying pink ribbons on trees to spread awareness.

Amazingly, in the short amount of time at Town Hall, $125.76 was raised to help support the group that so often supports the women and their families who have suffered through breast cancer. (In fact, a lot of that money was raised by The Observer’s co-owner Lisa Feorenzo, who was able to get passers- and drivers-by to stop to donate.)

A few hours later, round noon, Midland Avenue between Beech Street and Argyle Place was packed with kids having a blast. Firefighters, firetrucks and even a fireboat were all on hand. In all, it was a great day for everyone gathered for the annual Kearny Fire Department Open House Saturday, Oct. 12.

The day, planned and executed by Chief Fire Inspector Juan Barroso Jr. and Deputy Chief Joseph Mastandrea, appeared to draw the largest crowd in its history. There was plenty to eat — from hotdogs and Brazilian chicken. Kids walked away with a Kearny FD replica helmet.

They all got to use a fire hose. There was the mock smoke house which taught kids how to escape a smoke-filled room (conditions were replicated — there wasn’t real smoke.) The department put on a mock extraction from a vehicle that was donated by Moran Towing.

And, perhaps the most moving part of the day included a donation, by the Kearny FMBA, to the local support group EPIC (Extraordinary Parents of Incredible Children) for parents of children with Down syndrome.

Over the last few weeks, Barroso, who designed T-shirts for sale with his wife, Jody, sold them to the public — and profited $2,000, which was given to EPIC’s founder, Nell Santos, whose daughter, Nicolle, has Down syndrome.

“This is such an amazing turnout and an amazing day,” Santos told The Observer before the check presentation. “Juan is an incredible person. What he does for people is great.”

That’s an understatement.

Barroso, originally from Harrison, has a special place in his heart for children with Down syndrome, which dates back to 1997 when he first volunteered at Camp Fatima, an annual gathering of kids with special needs.

That year, he met a young boy who has Down — the kid was 5 then.

“I still keep in touch with him today,” Barroso said. “They have this saying which we used for the shirts — ‘Homies with an extra chromie.’ I love that saying.”

Meanwhile, the open house bought together an entire community, which isn’t always easy.

On hand were Fire Chief Steven Dyl, the aforementioned Mastandrea and Barroso, scores of firefighters of all ranks and Mayor Alberto G. Santos and Councilmembers Albino Cardoso, Marytrine DeCastro, Peter Santana, Carol Jean Doyle, Susan McCurrie and Jerry Ficeto.

People were speaking English, Portuguese, Spanish and other languages — a hallmark of Kearny — its diversity. Everyone had a great time, as they learned about some of the important things the Kearny FD — and fire departments everywhere — do on a daily basis.

“I liked getting to sit in the fire truck,” 6-year-old Joey said.

“The boat, the boat was big. I liked that,” 8-year-old William said.

“I got a helmet,” 8-year-old Katrina said.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone — child or adult — who didn’t have a great experience. And best of all, it’ll all happen again next fall.

Harrison hosting similar event

The Harrison Fire Department FMBA Local 22 hosts its 4th annual Junior Firefighter Day on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hotdogs, water and candy will be served. There will be a smoke house for the kids to climb through, face painting, a bounce house, a hose station and fire gear to try on. Donated prizes will be raffled off. All children and their families are welcome.


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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.