2011-03-25 / Community

‘Rockaway Jetty’ Serves Peninsula’s Kids

By Howard Schwach


Rockaway Jetty board members at last year’s Operation Santa. They are, from left, Andy McCracken, John Melero, Jonathan O’Leary, Jeremy McMilleon and Louis Vasquez. Rockaway Jetty board members at last year’s Operation Santa. They are, from left, Andy McCracken, John Melero, Jonathan O’Leary, Jeremy McMilleon and Louis Vasquez. The genesis of the newest service organization in Rockaway, the “Rockaway Jetty,” sounds like something out of the script for a television reality show.

It’s August of 2008 and a group of friends are sitting around The Wharf restaurant on Beach 116 Street talking about the problems faced by the peninsula’s kids during tough times.

“We were just having some brews and talking about ways that we could make a difference in Rockaway,” says Jonathan O’Leary, the present president of the group. “We thought that we could form an organization like the Graybeards that could help kids and make a difference.”

What should they call the new organization?

“Matt Harris wanted a Rockaway name, and came up with ‘jetty,’ because it is a structure that protects the beaches on the peninsula,” O’Leary remembers. “The jetty protects the beaches, we protect the kids.”

And so, the Rockaway Jetty organization was born.

O’Leary was asked about the projects the organization would address if they had the wherewithal to do so.

He immediately pointed to prescription drugs and keeping Fort Tilden active for the kids as two areas the organization should be addressing.

“The prescription drug problem is horrific,” he said. “It is frightening and we should be fighting to do something about opiates on the federal level. Kids should be worried about taking the drugs, but they are not, and we should address that.”

As to Fort Tilden, he calls the recent debate over whether it should be for birds or kids ‘disgraceful.’ ”

“Everybody who is involved with the little league or the other organizations [that use the fort] are worried,” O’Leary said. “We are not against birds, but we are for kids.”

He points out that all of the money they get through fundraising is used for the kids. All of the expenses the organization faces are paid out of pocket by the members.

Its next fundraiser will be the Third Annual Meet and Greet, which will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 333 Beach 90 Street on April 2.

“We’re going to have ‘Wine with Sue,’ ‘DJ Teddy’ and food that Russo’s On the Bay and Vetro had donated,” O’Leary said. “It’s going to be a good night, and the suggested donation is whatever a person can afford.”

“We were recently questioning if we were meeting our goals, if we were really needed,” O’Leary said. “Then we held our ‘Operation Santa’ for kids throughout the peninsula and we had more than 100 kids and their families. We know now that we are needed in all parts of the peninsula.”

“All change starts at home, over the dinner table,” O’Leary said, paraphrasing former President Ronald Reagan. We want to make that kind of change.”

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