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HollyDell, ‘RodFather’ help adults with disabilities fish

With the fishing excursion, adults and employees at HollyDell hope it helps the community better understand those who are living with disabilities.

Volunteers with The RodFather and HollyDell program participants and workers are fishing for small bass at Stewart Lake Park in Woodbury (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

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Adults from HollyDell’s Growing Opportunities Program ventured to Stewart Lake Park in Woodbury on Oct. 20 during the state’s free fishing day. Employees and participants in the program said it’s all done to let the community know what adults in their program can do.

According to its website, the nonprofit utilizes its G.O. Program out of Sewell, Washington Township, to provide 60 to 80 adults over the age of 21 the opportunity to “experience life to the fullest” through inclusive activities such as physical fitness or recreational sports, job training, and community service and volunteer work, among others.

“The people in the G.O. Program are adults with developmental disabilities who are able to get out and into the community,” said Donna Dzinksi, HollyDell program manager.

The fishing excursion is in its 11th year, and with donations from Vince “RodFather” Santroni, of Mantua, Jr., this year’s event went by seamlessly and allowed participants to enjoy time outside and in clear sight of the community. It, however, would not have been made possible without Christopher “CJ” D’Ambrosio, who is enrolled in HollyDell’s adult program.

“Dawn designed this program for Chris because volunteering wasn’t enough for him,” said Dzinksi. “CJ was the first, and things we used to do was bowling and movies. We did long trips and had overnight outings.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our guys to have this kind of experience because, as you can imagine, they don’t get to have it very often,” said Dawn Gardner, HollyDell program director.

HollyDell G.O. Program participants Jessica Jester (glasses) and Christopher “CJ” D’Ambrosio (grey jacket) are being helped by The RodFather volunteers and HollyDell workers on Oct. 20 in Woodbury. (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

The program, Gardner adds, allows for a rest period to provide parents and caretakers time to themselves usually on a Saturday, once a month, and employees and volunteers take the adults out to various events. On average, eight to 10 adults are able to join.

Brian Moore, 38, who has Cerebral Palsy, said he personally loves fishing and is happy to be out with others in the program fishing with Santroni.

“It’s wonderful because I think that the more people that are exposed to people with special needs, the better off the whole world will be,” said Moore.

Dzinski added the program deliberately chose Oct. 20 to fish due to the costs of receiving a fishing license per person in the state.

Santroni said that while this is the first time he’s partnered with HollyDell, he supports the program and its mission for adults who have special needs.

“I’m a believer in people making the right choices and no matter what happens in life, whether it’s a death or disability, there’s always a choice to be made,” said Santroni. “These people are shining proof of that and you have all of the volunteers that help out with them.”

His donation of fishing rods, reels, hooks and bobbers helped the nonprofit provide materials for the 10 adults who normally join the excursions. For the free event, only Jessica Jester, D’Ambrosio and Moore were able to attend due to others having weak immune systems and the temperature that day was forecast to be in the low 40s.

“It was absolutely awesome to get any kind of donation,” said Gardner. “We deeply appreciate it. We’re a nonprofit so we appreciate any and all donations. His energy and enthusiasm for the sport is admirable.”

With the fishing excursion, HollyDell workers hope the community will have a better understanding of the people they provide assistance and care for.

“We all have our differences and hopefully they won’t hold us down from doing things and participating as a full member of the community,” said Gardner.

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