Dave Crenshaw with Service Dog, Doc at Military Appreciation Night - Blueclaws baseball
Dave Crenshaw with Service Dog, Doc at Military Appreciation Night

Lakewood, New Jersey – First Energy Park in Lakewood held its annual BlueClaws Military Appreciation Night. “The event was cancelled last year due to Covid. It was wonderful to finally gather in-person and show our support for our military and their families. The camaraderie truly means so much to our soldiers and their families, and it was exciting for veterans and active duty military to stand up and be recognized by players and those in attendance,” said Marion Zilinski, Co-Founder and Board Member of The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund.

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund hosts this annual outing each year on Military Appreciation Night to honor all service men and women past and present. Soldiers and their families enjoyed a great night of baseball. conversations with other military families and supporters, and a picnic dinner – with hotdogs and hamburgers – in a lively environment. A supply drive for deployed troops and special ceremonies with our military were also held. The Zilinski Memorial Fund also proudly sponsored the tickets for several members of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Chapter 74, in Freehold.

Flag unfurling at Military Appreciation Night at Blueclaws baseball
Flag unfurling at Military Appreciation Night at Blueclaws baseball

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund is a non-profit organization created and founded in 2006 to honor local hero Lt. Zilinski who was killed in action in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Twenty-three-year-old Lt. Zilinski was a Middletown resident, a Christian Brothers Academy alumnus, a distinguished West Point graduate, and a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Since his untimely death, family and friends have united with the Memorial Fund to provide support to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

Family gathered for Military Appreciation Night at Blueclaws baseball
Family gathered for Military Appreciation Night at Blueclaws baseball

Adrian Gennusa throws out first pitch during Military Appreciation Night

The Zilinski Memorial Fund selected Adrian Gennusa, former CAPT US Army and a veteran of Afghanistan, for the first pitch. “I was just trying not to bounce the ball, which I didn’t do, so that’s good! But really, I appreciated Marion asking me to do that for the foundation. It’s good to be recognized during Military Appreciation Night. A lot of people go through a lot of different sacrifices when they serve, and it’s good they get some type of recognition for that. For me here tonight, it’s more importantly about supporting the foundation with Dennis’s parents.” Gennusa was also this year’s t-shirt sponsor for the event.

Adrian XX says his friend Dennis would be incredibly proud of his family and friends for the work they do in his honor. “I think it would mean a lot to him. I think he would appreciate it, and he was somebody who was always very giving of his time and his service, so the fact that his parents and his family have continued his legacy of service and giving back, I think it would mean the world to him.”

Dave Crenshaw, a Combat Veteran from Kearny added, “The Zilinski Memorial Fund means a lot to me both personally and professionally. I didn’t know Dennis personally, but I was friends with Matt (Dennis’ younger brother) through competitive swimming in high school, as police officers, and members of the military in Monmouth County. The Zilinski Memorial Fund has had a personal effect on my family and children. There’s no better way to receive military appreciation than through this family and fund, especially having a service dog. I came home from the military six days before Dennis passed, and it is my connection. It’s wonderful having The Zilinski Memorial Fund help and appreciate military service. I enjoy being able to give back to them by coming to these events and showing the benefits of a service dog.” Crenshaw attended the baseball game with his family and service dog, Doc, a black Labrador/German Short Hair Pointer mix.

More About the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund was created and founded in 2006 to honor Lt. Dennis Zilinski (Matthew’s brother) who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. The twenty-three-year-old was a Middletown, New Jersey resident, a Christian Brothers Academy alumnus, and a distinguished West Point graduate. Dennis was a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Since his untimely death, family and friends have united with the Memorial Fund to provide support to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

One of the main accomplishments of The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund is sponsoring service dogs for disabled American veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI. To date, the Memorial Fund has sponsored more than 100 service dogs.

Additionally, the Memorial Fund provides scholarships to students at Lt. Zilinski’s alma mater, Christian Brothers Academy. By providing these scholarships, the Memorial Fund invests in the future of high school students who embody the leadership qualities and community spirit of Lt. Zilinski.

To help us raise awareness about all the good we do, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Instagram, and YouTube. Donations may be sent to: Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 124, Adelphia, NJ 07710 or made online at runwithdennis.org.


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