WANAQUE -- A decade ago, about 25 friends gathered in a Wanaque backyard for a good cause.
They were there to play a game of Wiffle Ball in memory of their late friend Nick Gretina, and to raise a couple hundred dollars for an organization he believed in – Hope with Heart, a non-profit camp for children with heart problems.
Since then, the Nick Gretina Fall Classic has blossomed into a day-long tournament, with 16 teams and about 80 players. Last year it raised over $10,000 for the camp Nick cared so much about, said Matthew Jordan, who organizes the event every year with Luke Costagliola.
“Nick was one of my best friends. He was like no one else. He would be there for you whenever you needed him,” Jordan said of his friend, who died in 2005 at just 24 due to a congenital heart defect.
Nick was the first child to sign up for Hope with Heart, and at 18, he became a counselor, said his sister Alissa Gretina, now director of the camp. Held for a week each summer in Warwick, N.Y., the camp draws many kids from Bergen and Passaic Counties, and some from as far away as Vermont and North Carolina.
“Everything is designed for them to be included,” she said, adding that cardiac nurses volunteer their time.
Fundraising ensures that families do not have to pay for their children to attend. All proceeds from the Nick Gretina Fall Classic are passed on to the camp to help accommodate the growing number of campers who wish to attend.
For Gretina, it means so much that the community continues to gather in memory of her brother. “It is amazing to see people, still, after all this time, coming out for him. I can’t even put into words what this means for myself and my family.”
The event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24, starting at 9 a.m., at Addice Park. It will include food, a bounce house, and a raffle table, featuring prizes such as memorabilia signed by Derek Jeter and Eli Manning.