On June 10, 180 golfers pledged from $175 to over $2,500 before beginning their game at the Great Gorge Country Club at McAfee, N.J.
Last year the event raised more than $60,000 for the Christmas party that is organized each December by the North Bergen Recreation Department. Last year, over 900 children received gifts ranging from iPods to bicycles.
Larry Gold, owner and operator of Gold Coast Cleaners on Kennedy Boulevard, along with his business partner, Mario Marghella, began the outing 13 years ago.
While Gold only raised $4,000 during the fundraiser's inaugural season, the event has grown leaps and bounds over the last decade.
Gold was not sure yet how much money they raised this year and admitted that attendance was down due to the economy, but he said that the event was still very successful. He was still waiting for around six more donations.
After golfing in the heat, the players returned to the North Bergen Nutrition Center for a beefsteak dinner, sportsmanship awards, and raffle prizes. The $10,000 worth of prizes ranged from golf shirts to an eight-day all-inclusive catamaran trip.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who briefly spoke at the dinner, praised the commitment and hard work of Gold and Marghella.
"Without what you're doing, our Christmas party wouldn't be the same," said Sacco. "The children would never receive the gifts they do."
Many of the prizes in the tournament came from the event's sponsors, which this year included Keller Williams Inc., K Hovnanian, Vitamin Shoppe, Victor's Auto Body, and Hudson Honda.
Frank Dipaolo, an employee of the North Bergen Department of Recreation, helped Gold find sponsors in town.
"Businesses in North Bergen are so generous and get better every year," Dipaolo said.
Victor La Pira, owner of Victor's Auto Body, donated the grand prize of the night. The trip, an eight-day excursion beginning on the island of Saint Martin, includes an island-hopping private catamaran. Drinks, food, and the boat's crew are all included.
Raffle tickets were sold and winners were selected in random drawings.
Jerry Siano, who has sponsored the outing for the last 13 years and has been a personal friend of Gold and Marghella for over two decades, said that he was "really flabbergasted" when he won.
La Pira said that he has been involved with the outing for the last two or three years because it is a wonderful cause. He said the work surrounding the event comes from the heart.
"They come to the last prize and I'm ready to go [home], and all of a sudden Larry calls my name with the big prize," said Siano. "To donate something like that is fantastic."
They became friends while involved in the business of horses. Siano said he was involved with thoroughbreds, while Gold worked with standard horses. When Gold began the charity, combining golf with a good cause, Siano supported him.
This year he brought 16 friends to the golf outing.
Siano said he hopes to take the trip some time at the end of winter with his wife Nina.
Aug. 13 will be their second wedding anniversary.
While Siano was shocked that he had won, his wife was even more disbelieving. He called his wife before arriving home and told her to "buy some beach clothes," he said. Siano said that his wife really didn't believe him until he got home and she researched the trip online.
"[Gold and Marghella] really do a fantastic job," said Siano. "It's for a great charity."
It's for the children
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Allen Pascual was grateful for the funds that help make the Christmas party a reality. Pascual's department organizes the party, and even though shopping for hundreds of children is not an easy task, Gold's fundraising makes the job a lot less difficult.
Each fall, children of all ages who live in North Bergen may register to attend the Christmas party. Funds will also be put toward a Christmas party for children with special needs.
Sean Bannon, who has been attending the golf outing "every year," said he was happy that children would benefit from their day on the course.
"The best thing is when see all the gifts that [the Recreation Department is able to] buy," Bannon said. "The look on those kids' faces is worth a million dollars."
Michael De Orio, the co-excutive director of North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, commended Gold for his steadfastness.
De Orio said that Gold works day and night and may "drive you crazy," until he is able to raise money and fulfill the Christmas wishes of children.
Frank Piazza, who has coached soccer for the North Bergen Bruins for the last 16 years, golfed for the day even though he admitted the sport was not his forte.
Piazza won the events' "I came for the food" trophy for being a good sport.
"For the children of North Bergen I'll do anything," said Piazza. "It was 110 degrees out today, but I thought it was winter for the kids."
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