Sea Bright, NJ – In a combined effort between The Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore (STJS) and the New Jersey Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA), ground will be broken at 6:30am on Friday, March 1st on the site of the first playground being rebuilt following Super Storm Sandy, in memoriam of the victims of the December school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Founded by New Jersey businessman Warren Diamond, former NFL Superbowl Champion Phil Villapiano, and Financial Service Executive Kevin Leahy, STJS is working alongside firefighters, police officers, teachers, and volunteers in an initiative called “The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play,” connecting two tragedies that share the same name. “Our foundation came together because of the devastation that Sandy brought to our communities; but at the core of our mission, we can’t discriminate against human tragedy in whatever form it takes,” explained Phil Villiapiano. “This is why we felt ‘Where Angels Play’ was a fitting cause for the help we have to offer.”

Twenty-six playgrounds will be built throughout New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, each memorializing a life lost in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Brian Boms, chairman of STJS’s Construction Committee, initially brought the project to the attention of the Foundation. “The FMBA had worked alongside STJS gutting over a thousand homes for Sandy victims. When I learned of their playground project, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to bring two organizations together to restore the ravaged Jersey Shore while remembering the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary at the same time,” explained Boms. “This initiative is a sign of rebuilding and revival.”

The playgrounds built in the shore area will provide an outlet for children and families who have endured hardship as a result of Sandy. Sea Bright was chosen for the first playground location because of the level of devastation brought by Sandy and the amount of time spent there by FMBA members cleaning up the aftermath.  “This playground, and the others to follow, will stand as a reminder that violence against children is deplorable,” said Kevin Leahy. “It will serve as a symbol of hope and resilience for the community.” The handicap-accessible playground will be built near the old boardwalk’s location in memory of Sandy Hook Elementary special education teacher, Anne Marie Murphy. STJS volunteers and Mayor Dina Long of Sea Bright enlisted the help of children from the community to design the playground.

The Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore channels its grassroots efforts and resources into building a support function for Sandy-affected communities such as Sea Bright. “Our goal as an organization isn’t only to give help to the individual families that need it most, but it’s also to jump start the hearts of the communities affected, funding projects that will bring people back together and back to normal,” stated co-founder Warren Diamond. “This playground project is just one of the ways we are going to achieve that and bring the Jersey Shore back to life.”


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For more information on The Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore, or to make a donation to help rebuild and renew the communities affected by Sandy, please visit

The Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore is a community based volunteer organization dedicated to raising funds to assist homeowners and businesses within communities adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy. Our volunteer efforts and use of these funds will enable these homeowners and businesses the ability to rebuild, recover and renew their lives and businesses. By doing this, our goal is to help the Jersey Shore maintain its position as a major economic force in the State of New Jersey. Furthermore, the Foundation is committed to seeing that every dollar raised will be used directly or indirectly to achieve this goal.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...