Belleville Sons’ annual picnic was a blast, raises lots of money, organizers say

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Post 105 of the American Legion of Belleville hosted its annual fundraising picnic, this year with record attendance of 300+ — including the national Sons commander — on American Legion Day, a day first recognized by both chambers of Congress in 2009.

“This fundraiser supports the veterans throughout the whole year … all of the money from this goes to our vets, every single dime”, SAL Commander Steve Sangemino said while serving as master of ceremonies.

Though the doors officially open at 1 o’clock, planning for the event starts as soon as the previous year’s picnic ends. Since 2019, the picnic has grown steadily to become an event which is the social event of the season for Legion members, friends and family.

“It’s a day to celebrate being together … and a day where we raise money to support the Four Pillars of the American Legion,” SAL Adjutant Rusty Myers said.

The picnic takes place the third Saturday each September.

Attendees come for the clams, the refreshments, oldies music by “The Jersey Tones,” and of course the BBQ. Legionnaires Walter LaBar and Jack Robuck always man the grills, cooking sausage, chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers – but other posts pitch in as well to help, including Post 299 Commander Mike Serchio, who runs the team that shucked 1,500 little-neck Cap May clams this year.

Members from across the post family volunteer their time the day-of to serve food, to empty garbage, sell shirts and tickets and to do anything that needs to be done to smoothly run such a large event.

Near the end of the day, Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone even dropped by with his vintage Good Humor bike to hand out frozen treats to everyone, all decked out in his vintage uniform.

The picnic, though, is more than food and good company — it’s a day to celebrate why the Sons exist, which includes veterans, Sons and Auxiliary members … to focus on carrying on our missions of supporting Americanism, Veterans Affairs, Children and Youth and National Defense.

SAL 105 Commander Steve Sangemino took the mic to welcome everyone to the event. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, he introduced the New Jersey SAL National Executive Committeeman (NEC) Bob Phillips Jr., who then introduced the National Commander of the Sons of the American Legion Donald “JR” Hall Jr, of Maryland.

“I have to say just one thing … thank God for our veterans,” Hall said. “My slogan this year is ‘Representing More Than Me’ … we should all be representing more than ourselves. Sons, Auxiliary, the Legion and the Riders — all out there doing what we do to take of our veterans, our children and our communities.”

Hall dropped by Belleville while on his official visit to Jersey over the weekend, visiting Posts and going to events throughout the state. Stops throughout his weekend Jersey included posts in Camden County, the NJ Vietnam Memorial in Holmdel, the POW MIA Watchfire in Seaside Heights and the Battleship New Jersey.

Post 105 “was also lucky enough to be selected as one of the locations to visit, representing the Legion Family in action in northern New Jersey,” Myers said.

Hall was elected national commander only three weeks ago at the national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is charged with leading an organization of sons and grandsons of veterans which has reached this year a record 376,000 members nationwide.

“I like a party, and this folks, this looks like a party … continue all the great work you do here!” Hall said.

This was all followed by a benediction written for the occasion by SAL Chaplain Carl Slaughter

Everyone enjoyed the remainder of the day, until it all ended, as the sun went down around 7 p.m. The event was filled with laughing, singing, dancing and fun. The Auxiliary had everyone playing some sort of hoop-jumping game, while cornhole was set up on the other side of the parking lot. A birthday was even celebrated … as a testament to the commitment to our veterans that the Post 105 Family has, 14-year old American Legion Auxiliary member Abigail Myers asked to spend her birthday selling tickets, helping to raise money for those who served. All of the attendees surprised her by singing “Happy Birthday” to her and giving her a cake and card, in which was a very sizeable gift that many beforehand donated to.

Members of the SAL also conducted a separate fundraiser to benefit a local cancer foundation, Belleville-based Gail’s Angels, which serves to help breast cancer moms with special needs children. This was the third year it was at the picnic and it raised an additional $2,000.

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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.