Former Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno, who has been dealing with his multiple sclerosis since 1990, was still able to drive his daughters to activities when they were younger and to family functions in his specially equipped van.
But no more.
The van broke down this year and now is inoperable.
To help the family come up with $12,000 to buy a new handicapped equipped van a GoFundMe page has been established. In addition, the Stone Pony offered to host a fundraising benefit there to raise money for the van. The Stone Pony is donating the use of the building and the bands for the occasion.
The fundraiser is scheduled for Fri., Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Stone Pony. All ages are welcome and tickets are $25.
Performing will be Eddie Testa and Friends, Bob Polding Band and special guests.
Christy Bruno, James’s daughter, said a new handicapped equipped van would cost $60,000 but she has found one that costs $12,000. It will still need $4000 worth of adaptations including a hand control on the steering wheel and a swivel seat.
She said they were told three years ago that the van should not be driving but Bruno persisted until his van became completely inoperable.
Christy said the Go Fund Me page has raised $5000 so far.
“It’s going to be a big party and it’s for all ages,” Christy said. “My dad driving is his independence due to his inability to walk. Also, he needs to go to doctor’s appointments at least two times a month,” Christy said.
Bruno’s other daughter is Gia Holly-Hill, who has two children, Julia and Carson.
“(They) are his absolute pride and joy and the source of his strength,” Christy said.
Bruno has never lost his faith in the city. When his daughters were young he promised them that the boardwalk would flourish one day, and that the streets would again be packed with people from near and far enjoying the Jewel of the Jersey Shore.
Fire Official Garrett Giberson has known Bruno since he was a child will be at the fundraiser.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s people, friends, family going. When someone is in need, you have to help,” he said.
Giberson spoke about Bruno and his dedication to the city.
“He’s a good guy, he puts Asbury Park first,” he said.
Speaking of the van Giberson said, “It’s a huge necessity for him. Without that he’s homebound. His scooter and his van are his legs,” Giberson said.
“However I can help out in any way, I will…he’s been very good to my family,” he added.
Bruno was born and raised in Asbury Park. After graduating Asbury Park High School in 1978, he quickly put his devotion to the city to work. Bruno became a Little League coach, and president of the association in 1979. There he formed life-long relationships with the children he coached.
Beginning in 1984 Bruno worked as a firefighter for the Asbury Park Fire Department, later becoming a fire official and inspector.
In 1987 Bruno ran for the Board of Education, where he served through 1996, many of those years as president or vice president.
In 1990 a life altering diagnosis, progressive multiple sclerosis altered his quality of life. He retired as a fire official in 2000 due to an injury sustained on the job. His multiple sclerosis rapidly progressed. But his devotion to the city did not stop there.
After just months months of retirement, Bruno began campaigning to bring the city back to the one he promised his daughters. In 2001 he started “The Future Starts Here” campaign, bringing together a team of people who wanted to return the city to its Glory Days.
In 2001 Bruno ran successfully for City Council. He was re-elected in 2005 and 2009, serving through July of 2013. From 2001 to 2009 he was deputy mayor.
On March 8, 2004 as deputy mayor, Bruno became an historic champion of gay rights by performing the first gay marriage in the state.
He also founded the Fourth of July parade and was its chairperson for six years.