Like many Jersey girls, a lot of Pat Reilly’s memories are deeply rooted in the sands of the Jersey Shore.
“In 1987 I lost my retainer on the Seaside Heights rollercoaster. And, miraculously, I got off the rollercoaster and found my retainer sitting there on the boardwalk,” Reilly recalled recently.
So Reilly, now a resident of the California Bay Area, was understandably distraught when she saw the impact Hurricane Sandy had on places like Atlantic City and the Shore communities.
“It was really hard seeing that on television. Just like millions of Jersey girls before me, so many of my memories were shaped by those places,” said Reilly, who was raised in Bloomfield. “I waitressed down in Seaside Heights between high school and college and barhopped my way through Belmar. So much of the Jersey experience was shaped by those places.”
Nearly 72,000 New Jersey residents lost power in their homes or places of work during the storm and the estimated damage to property, roads, transportation, and other infrastructure is at least $29.4 billion, a total that is expected to rise.
‘I thought the least we can do as Jersey ex-pats is raise money to get Jersey back on her feet.’ – Pat Reilly
“Many of us felt very powerless being way out here on the West Coast and seeing Hurricane Sandy bear down on our home state and our friends and families,” Reilly said. “To see the Seaside Heights rollercoaster in the Atlantic [Ocean] was like seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in the Pacific [Ocean]. Those places will never be the same. But I thought the least we can do as Jersey ex-pats is raise money to get Jersey back on her feet.”
A Snooki, a Queen, and a Boss
Thus, given the time of the year, “A Very Jersey Xmas” was born.
Reilly and other Garden State natives who now live elsewhere are busy planning holiday-themed parties that will raise money for the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
The concept allows guests to attend a fundraising party and donate money to the relief fund at seven giving levels, each of which corresponds to a well-known New Jersey celebrity or character. Ten bucks gets a guest in the door as a Snooki; Queen Latifa donors give at the $25 level; the Tony Soprano level will cost a guest $50; and the classier Jon Stewart giving level will set a guest back $100. Naturally, there is a Jon Bon Jovi giving level at $250, and The Boss is an impressive $500 donation. In a controversial move that’s sure to raise arched eyebrows everywhere, the top giving level, $1,000, is known as the New Jersey Housewives.
Each giving level offers donors enhanced benefits above less expensive giving levels. (Bon Jovis, for instance, receive three complimentary drinks. Springsteens get free drinks all night, a Very Jersey Xmas beer stein, and a complimentary copy of “Wrecking Ball,” the Boss’ latest album.)
Reilly has already helped organize one Very Jersey Xmas celebration scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the Temple Nightclub in San Francisco. At press time last week, five other similar parties were also planned to take place in various other cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
For added fun, guests at these Very Jersey Xmas celebrations can also dress up as their favorite Jersey celebrity or character.
“We want America to Jersey up the holidays this year,” said Reilly, who moved to California in 1995 and who still has family is Clinton and Montclair. While the focus of the campaign is “ex-pats” from New Jersey, who may have sentimental reasons to help the state rebuild from Sandy, Reilly emphasized that the fundraising effort is open to anyone who loves the kitschy culture for which the state is famous.
“New Jersey – and New Jersey natives and residents – like to have fun and can take a joke,” said Reilly. “We are asking people to dedicate their holiday giving this year to Jersey by, first contributing to our campaign or launching their own campaign, and then by asking their friends and family online to give back to Jersey this year. And we’re doing this in a fun way.”
All things Jersey
And lest you think this Very Jersey Xmas concept is only for WASP’s, think again. Reilly said she encourages hosts to have fun with the idea and to be creative. For the upcoming fundraiser in San Francisco, donors who give at the Queen Latifa level ($25), for example, earn the right to do a rap onstage at the Very Jersey Xmas party, while those who give a Jon Stewart ($100) receive a free dreidel at the door.
There’s nothing to stop supporters from tying the event into other faiths or cultural traditions. The only requirement, apparently, is a deep love of all things Jersey.
“Once you’re from Jersey, you’re always from Jersey,” Reilly said.
To find out more about A Very Jersey Xmas, or to organize a Jersey-themed holiday fundraiser of your own, visit http://veryjerseyxmas.fundly.com. People who can’t stand to be in the same room with big hair and fake animal print pants can feel free to avoid these intentionally tacky parties and simply give to the cause online.
All proceeds benefit the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund (https://sandynjrelieffund.org).
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.