9th Annual Bridgewalk Links Island to Mainland, Honors Stafford PD Standout

Sep 14, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Everyone is familiar with Old Barney. The structure has been used by mariners since 1835, draws more visitors than any other New Jersey state park and has become the most recognizable icon of the Long Beach Island region.

But another very important piece of infrastructure to our area is used by far more people on a daily basis. In fact, no one could get to “Old Barney” if not for the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge, aka the Manahawkin Bay Bridge, aka “the Causeway.” It’s not only the single route both on and off LBI for vehicles, but quite literally the connector between the Island and the mainland that make up the greater LBI area community. As residents know, one can’t survive without the other.

That is the spirit that will motivate folks to walk from Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House on Bay Avenue over the bridge to Waterfront Park in Ship Bottom on Sept. 23 at the Community Bridgewalk.

This year marks the ninth year of the walk, an idea that event director, community activist and filmmaker Corinne Gray Ruff of Surf City had in 2009 while visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where 40,000 to 60,000 people walk the Mackinak Bridge each Labor Day.

Ruff decided our community needed something like this. The money raised goes to local elementary schools through the Jetty Rock Foundation – the LBI Schools, All Saints, Stafford Schools and Beach Haven Elementary – and Southern Regional in an effort to invest in future leaders of our area. Most of the money goes to the PTAs. Southern Regional’s goes to a scholarship fund.

The Jetty Rock Foundation is the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of Jetty, the local surf and lifestyle apparel company now located on Route 9 in Manahawkin.

“I think the draw is that anyone can take part. You don’t have to have any experience or special skills to be a participant,” said Jeremy DeFilippis, Jetty founding partner and CEO. “All you have to do is buy a tee and/or walk over the bridge. Or you can buy a $200 sponsorship for your business.  It’s that simple, and it’s all for the future leaders of our community.”

Jetty is heavily respected locally for giving back to the community. It is able to market the event and print the T-shirts. DeFilippis pushes the credit back to Melanie Magaziner of the Tide Table Restaurant Group (Mud City, Old Causeway, Ship Bottom Shellfish, Black Whale and Parker’s Garage) as well as the Causeway Family of Dealerships, the Van Dyk Group and Ruff.

Each year, a Bridge Walk Hero is named to lead the walking mass. This year, that honor goes to Stafford Police Department’s Chris Fritz. Fritz grew up in and still resides in Stafford with his wife and two daughters, and joined the police department in 1994. In 1999 he was named the department’s community policing officer.

“The Stafford Police Department’s motto is ‘Supra Ultraque,’ which translates to ‘Above and Beyond.’ Chris is the epitome of this motto. While serving in this capacity, he focused on improving police responsiveness to community needs,” said Stafford’s Capt. Herman Pharo in a statement.

“The Community Policing Officer (position) was his calling. His calm personality, levelheaded thinking, and compassion made him a perfect fit for this assignment, evident by the numerous awards he received while serving in this capacity, including several hundred citizen commendations,” Pharo continued.

Fritz implemented the Citizen Police Academy and the Youth Police Academy, which have both generated ample positive feedback from the community. The Citizen Police Academy was launched in 2009 to allow citizens to gain the ability to make informed decisions regarding issues facing the community, and become aware of problems facing their police department. The Youth Police Academy graduated its eighth class this summer under Fritz’s direct oversight. This program teaches children to be respectful, good leaders, comfortable around law enforcement and physically fit. He routinely attends community meetings to ensure the department is meeting their needs.

Fritz is also supervisor of the Bike Unit, the back-up public information officer, administrator of social media platforms and the lead DARE officer.

“He realized the need to bring additional drug education to high school students and became an instructor in a program titled ‘#NOTEVENONCE’, which he taught to every senior who attended the Southern Regional School District,” stated Pharo.

Fritz is a competitive cycler, cycling trainer, cross-country coach, member of several local bands and often plays benefits and fundraisers for free.

“Chris’ commitment to our community is unmatched. He is a valuable part of our schools, acting as lead DARE officer, as a community liaison, leading the citizen and youth police academies, as a volunteer, always sharing his passion for music at our nonprofit events. I’m thankful we have Chris and his wife, Tammy, in our community. They are a part of what makes it such a special place to live and raise children,” said Melanie Magaziner.

Walkers can pre-register at the Jetty Flagship store from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week or register at the Old Causeway on Sept. 23 at 8:30 a.m. It’s $10 to walk with the group and $25 to walk and get a T-shirt. Participants are asked to park at Value City in Manahawkin, the Ethel Jacobsen School in Surf City, Waterfront Park in Ship Bottom and Surf Unlimited in Ship Bottom. A bus will shuttle them to Old Causeway.

The opening ceremony will take place at 9:30 with the National Anthem and the Starlight Singers. The 3.1-mile walk commences at 10 a.m. There will be refreshments served at the conclusion in Ship Bottom.

Ruff’s vision has always been “bridging the community,” uniting the LBI and mainland, allowing the bridge to be something that brings us together rather than dividing us. Students, parents and teachers walking together to raise money for the schools. We are stronger together.

— Jon Coen

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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