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Knights band together to help with Belmar relief effort

November 8, 2012

WALL TOWNSHIP — “I honestly felt like I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe what I saw.”

Wall High School senior Katlyn Cusack may have been speaking from a personal vantage point on Monday afternoon, but it would be hard to argue that her words did not echo the sentiment of all those who were seeing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy for the first

Wall students help with Belmar relief effort

time.

Cusack got her initial view of the aftermath while in Belmar shortly after the storm. The town seemed like a totally different place from the one she and her family regularly frequents during the summer months.

“We grew up going to Belmar in the summer,” she said. “I felt like my childhood was gone.”

Rather than dwell on their washed away memories for too long, though, the Cusacks decided to use the unique makeup of their family to help begin with the recovery process in the town close to their hearts.

Katlyn Cusack, along with her two brothers, Mike and Bryan, are triplets and all play sports for the Crimson Knights at Wall High School. Katlyn and Mike are both currently in season with the field hockey and football teams, respectively, with Mike also playing lacrosse with his brother Bryan in the spring.

With guidance from their parents, Mike and Barbara, the Cusack children were able to round up friends and teammates from all three sports programs, taking them into Belmar on Saturday to offer assistance to the relief effort.

The experience was an eye-opening one, according to the younger Mike Cusack.

“It was pretty much a huge shock,” he said, prior to taking the field for football practice on Monday. “Belmar got hit real hard. There was no boardwalk, no beach — everything was a mess. There were trees down everywhere and people’s houses were flooded. Things were destroyed.”

Members of the three teams did everything within their power to help members of the Belmar community, ranging anywhere from assisting residents with gutting their basements, to something as simple as offering a few kind words to those in distress. In fact, may of the athletes noticed that just a little bit of conversation went a long way to those in need.

“A lot of people just wanted to talk,” said senior Russell Lorusso, a football player. “It was a humbling experience.”

Katlyn Cusack recalled a specific conversation with the first resident she came across on the relief mission.

“The first house that we went to, [the man] didn’t need anything, but I felt like he just needed someone to talk to,” she said. “I wanted to keep the conversation going as long as I could. I was glad to help him in that way.”

Senior Scott Van Glahn, a defensive back on the football team, felt his experience with the relief effort on Saturday has changed his perspective on life permanently. He felt in some way that he was thrust into adulthood a little bit sooner than expected, but was fine with it as long as he was able to help those in need.

“It really was a wake-up call for me — I feel like I matured greatly from the experience,” Van Glahn said. “It makes me think more about other people now. I feel terrible about what happened and I feel for all the families who lost everything. I was glad I could do something to help.”

Katlyn Cusack, like all those involved, was grateful to offer fellow locals a helping hand.

“We all felt great about helping the people who needed it most,” she said. “We still don’t have power, but that is nothing compared to what happened [near the shore].”

She added that she is hopeful by next summer, locals will be back to enjoying the beautiful beaches that make up Belmar’s shoreline. Katlyn Cusack thinks the spirit of the residents, coupled with help from those from outside the devastated areas, will ultimately be the difference in returning the shore back to form.

“If it keeps going, I think we can get back to having the beaches next summer,” she said.

Her brother Mike is hopeful, too.

“We can come together to overcome this,” he said.

 COACHES LEND THEIR SUPPORT

Along with the players who took part in the relief effort, a couple of Wall High School coaches made the trip into Belmar, as well.

Wall boys lacrosse head coach Chris Knight and Wall field hockey assistant coach Cathy Gallagher were both on hand to lend a helping hand to the cause. Wall football head coach Nick Gregorio could not make the trip due to the tough travel conditions following the storm, but was able to lend his support to his players via text message, according to Barbara Cusack.

Follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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