A procession of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances loudly blared down Arnold Avenue this afternoon, though the authorities were not on their way to the scene of a local emergency. Their involvement today was as part of a team of volunteers, helping to coordinate the annual picnic for special needs children, held by the Point Pleasant Elks Lodge No. 1698.
“This is my 13th year helping to oversee the picnic, but this has probably been going over 20 years now,” said Elks member Tom Watters, who serves as Chairman of the lodge’s Special Needs Children’s Committee. “This is absolutely our main event of the year.”
Watters explained how each Elks Lodge statewide sponsors children to be sent to Camp Moore, located in Haskell, New Jersey. Camp Moore is a summer camp designed for activities with special needs children.
“At the end of the camp, all the kids then come down here for our annual picnic,” Watters said. This year, 75 special needs children accompanied by their counselors came down to the Point Pleasant Elks Lodge for this event. Though, what awaits the children upon their arrival is more than just a cookout at the lodge.
“First, the children get to visit Comstock Marina in Brick, and go out for a boat ride,” Watters explained. 20 separate captains donated their time and the use of their boats to guide the special needs children for the boat ride.
“We can’t do it without Comstock, and the kids love it,” said Watters.
After that, the children are treated to a ride around local communities such as Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head and others, while riding on a procession of fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles.
“Fire trucks from Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head and Laurelton volunteered their time for us today,” Watters noted.
After the fire truck ride, the cookout continues and ice cream is served for all the children in attendance. Watters explained that a total of about 80 volunteers helped to ensure the day’s events ran smoothly.
Pointing out the bevy of activity around him, Watters said, “This is pure volunteer effort.”
Todd Garmer, the Director of Camp Moore, was also proud to take part in the day’s activities.
“The Elks organization really takes care of the kids that they sponsor. They are truly dedicated to special needs children,” said Garmer.
Garmer described that he has been a part of Camp Moore since 2005, and the annual event is one that is eagerly anticipated by the children.
“When they go out on the boat ride, and are waving to everyone from the fire trucks as they’re going down the street, the campers feel like celebrities,” he said.