Fun, fellowship and fitness were found in abundance during our visit to Woodbridge, home of the New Jersey Senior Olympics. Everyone we met, from our Personal Best recipient Irma DeMarzo to the volunteers that greeted us everywhere, were "all in" and excited about the games. DeMarzo, who has been the tennis coordinator for the state games for 15 years, was recognized for being a longtime fitness role model and for organizing youth, senior and super senior tennis leagues and competitions that continue to serve hundreds of people in the state.
Mayor John McCormac is NJSO's biggest champion. Besides sponsoring the games in his township for the past eight years, he also competes in as many sports as he can find time to do. Here he congratulates 101 year old bocce ball wizard Toby "The Terror" Santoro for beating him in a demonstration match. "You beat me fair and square, but even if I did win people would say I just took advantage of an old man!" Santoro laid down the smack and told Hizzoner he would take him down again next year.
Supporting the games is one aspect of Woodbridge's "Mayor's Wellness Campaign" and it is having a ripple effect around the Garden State. The campaign underwrites a discounted entry fee for the city's senior citizens to participate in the games, and McCormac has challenged other New Jersey mayors to do the same. At least seven have done so, and one, Mayor Myra Campbell of Asbury Park, enjoys swimming in NJSO as well.
When Marc Riker found out Mayor McCormac loved puzzles, he made a midnight run to Wal-Mart and presented McCormac with a real toughie - a 24 piece "color me" Spiderman puzzle. And after the Mayor thanked Post Shredded Wheat for setting up their display and prize wheel, he jokingly told the crowd he had bad memories of being forced to eat the cereal as a kid. Taking the cue, Riker also presented him with a fresh box to help him get in shape to tackle his new puzzle.
For Riker, this was a homecoming of sorts as he is a New Jersey native and actually met people he knew from his early days. At the women's volleyball competition he was reunited with Kathy Stanton, who was on the same YMCA summer swim team with Riker for several years.
While making our rounds we paid our respects to 91 year old Hazel Hassenbey of Montclair, NJ, who is one of only 12 athletes who have competed in every National Senior Games since they began in 1987. Hazel captured two silver medals and seemed shocked that we would ask if she plans to go to the 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana in Minnesota next July. "You better believe I'll be there!"
We extend our deep appreciation to the New Jersey Senior Olympic Committee, especially to Mike Garamella, his longtime Woodbridge organizers Pat Trombetta and Frank St. Marie, and all of the other dedicated volunteers who stage such excellent games for New Jersey.