A group of runners and walkers raised over $30,000 at the Spring Lake Five event for the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van for the Disabled American Veterans of Asbury Park and Neptune.
Called Team Freedom, the group was started in 1997 by five West Point graduates, including James MacInerny of Spring Lake.
The group participates every year in the Spring Lake Five, always held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
Over the past 20 years Team Freedom has grown to almost 300 members and raised over $130,000, donating to veteran’s causes such as American Widow Project, Salute American Heroes and the Sea Girl Militia Museum.
The group has, in fact, become a Premier Charity Partner of the annual race.
According to Matt Shafer of Wall Township, “The reason we have always done this the past 20 years is to commemorate the true meaning of Memorial Day, to remember those who sacrificed and gave their lives so we can have our freedom.”
He further said, “We chose to donate to DAV this year to ensure that its nearly 225 veteran members are able to receive critical medical care in northern New Jersey and New York City.”
In January, Robert Warren, Vice Commander of DAV, Asbury Park, and John Morris, Commander of DAV, Neptune were approached by Shafer to learn more about what Team Freedom can do for DAV.
“I was elated when Matt Shafer asked what our top needs are and that his group wanted to help us. I said to him that our top priority is to have the ability to transport our veteran members to and from medical treatments,” Warren said.
He added that Shafer told him Team Freedom would help out.
“When Matt Shafer said ‘we will help you out’, I had no idea what this actually meant,” he said.
The keys to the van were handed over to the DAV at Team Freedom’s annual pasta dinner.
Ten members from the DAV were there including: Warren and Morris; Shafer; Joan Bassi of Shark River Hills; Mark Regan of Eatontown; MacInerny of Spring Lake; Steven Luzzi of Spring Lake Heights; Chip Craig of Spring Lake and representatives of other large donors such as JP Morgan.
Each year, Team Freedom provides members with race shirts, which were donated by All Shore Screen Printing of Avon.
Joseph Renzella of Neptune City, a decorated veteran who served in Vietnam became a member of the team in 2004.
“I look forward to this event every year, the pre-race pasta dinner on Friday, the race itself, and all the post-race Team Freedom festivities. I was overjoyed when Matt asked me to join. I believe it is one of the best ways to give back to our troops,” he said.
To learn more about Team Freedom visit www.runteamfreedom.org.