Daily Voice this week is running down some of the top stories of 2016.
These are the stories that made us smile, made us cry or in some way left an impression on us.
WANAQUE, N.J. – Back in September, a group of friends from Wanaque got together to do what they have done every year for a decade: play ball.
But it wasn’t just any backyard game. This was the Nick Gretina Fall Classic , a day-long Wiffle ball tournament with 16 teams and about 80 players.
When the plastic bats and balls were put away for the day, $5,000 had been raised for Hope with Heart, a non-profit camp for kids with heart conditions.
“They just funded two-and-a-half campers basically to come to camp for a whole week,” Camp Director Alissa Gretina told Daily Voice.
The Nick Gretina Fall Classic began as a way to honor Alissa’s brother, Nick, and raise money for a cause he cared so much about. The popular Wanaque man died in 2005 at just 24 due to a congenital heart condition.
Nick was the first child to sign up for Hope with Heart, and at 18, he became a counselor.
In all, the tournament has raised over $40,000. Alissa Gretina said that means they have sent about 23 sick kids to camp in the decade it's been running.
What amazes Gretina most is how her brother’s high school friends continue to put in the effort to carry on his legacy year after year.
“When these guys started it, they were all in college or right out of college — you know, you have a lot of free time,” Gretina said. “And now they all have families and full time jobs … and they are still willing to put this time in that nobody has when you’re an adult … which is amazing. “
Held for a week each summer in Warwick, N.Y., the camp has volunteer cardiac nurses and draws many children from Bergen and Passaic Counties. It is a place where they can go to have fun and feel included. Fundraising ensures that families do not have to pay.
“These kids are some of the best humans I have ever met, and they deserve every opportunity they can have,” Gretina said.
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