By Peter Elacqua
MARLBORO – Colts Neck High School student William Dean, 14, of Marlboro, has raised more than $17,000 to benefit Vietnam War veterans and the Freehold Regional High School District’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) unit.
The NJROTC is based at Colts Neck High School. William, who is a sophomore, is a participant in the program. He is the son of Victoria and Chris Dean.
William and his family hosted a barbecue at their home in August with food provided by Dan Duffy, the owner of the Cracked Olive, Holmdel.
The fundraiser brought in $12,250 for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Holmdel, and $5,400 for the NJROTC unit. About 150 people attended the event, according to the young man. Guests paid $25; military veterans, seniors and NJROTC cadets paid $10 to attend.
Guests had the opportunity to donate $350 for a brick paver that will be placed at the Huey Plaza in front of the Vietnam Era Museum and Educational Center, Holmdel. The plaza is the home of a 1964 UH1-D Huey helicopter that was restored by veterans several years ago.
“It is important to honor all veterans and remember the ones who died for our country,” William said. “Being involved in the NJROTC has really inspired me to do what I can to help support our veterans. It was an honor to be involved in this fundraising opportunity.”
During the fundraiser, members of the Colts Neck NJROTC participated in a flag and drill ceremony.
Marlboro Councilman Jeff Cantor, who is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, and Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso were in attendance.
“It is so great when a teenager is motivated by a cause and jumps in head first to do something about it,” Cantor said. “That trait will make William very successful throughout life. He comes from a family of veterans, his parents are veterans of the U.S. Navy, so that is something that is very important to the entire family.
“I am so proud of William, that he put forth such a diligent effort in both raising awareness and money for two great causes. I love it when I see that level of leadership in a teenager. Through his tenacity, William motivated me to purchase a paver at the memorial for one of my fallen comrades.
“The veteran family is far and wide and transcends race, political affiliation, sexual orientation and ethnicity. I was happy to support William in his cause and plan on bringing him before [the Marlboro Township Council] for recognition of a job well done,” Cantor said.
William’s efforts were commended by Colts Neck High School Principal Daniel Simon and NJROTC Leader Maj. Gregory Penczak.