Metuchen High School’s inaugural Proving Ground Team Building Challenge, of which The Marisa Tufaro Foundation was a beneficiary, was such a resounding success that Board of Education member Justin Manley hopes the event will grow in the future.
“It’s my hope and commitment that we work this next year to make it an even bigger and better event that becomes another great Metuchen community charity tradition,” said Manley, who chairs the board’s technology committee and is also a finance and athletic committee member.
More than 150 student-athletes participated in the Aug. 19 event, during which Metuchen’s campus was transformed into a massive obstacle course with more than 30 mentally and physically challenging stations designed to promote teamwork and leadership.
Money from private donations as well as from the sale of promotional items and food – Mom’s Food and Beverage donated 20 percent of its earnings – benefited The Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
The foundation, established in memory of Marisa Tufaro, the daughter of Home News Tribune sports writer Greg Tufaro and Edison Township Public Schools educator Cyndi Tufaro, assists children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area.
Metuchen student-athletes, who represented the high school in an exemplary fashion, presented Greg and Cyndi with a most generous check for the foundation during a meeting at the high school earlier this month.
Metuchen is conducting a leadership training speaker series, featuring community leaders, throughout the 2017-18 academic year as a complementary component to its Proving Ground Team Building Challenge.
Greg Tufaro was privileged to be the first speaker in the series, addressing more than 100 attentive and respectful Metuchen student-athletes in the high school’s auditorium on the eve of the event.
Metuchen athletics director John Cathcart and Metuchen athletics trainer Michelle McCorkle, who have both participated in mud runs, designed the obstacle course with the intent of promoting cooperation, innovative thinking and prudent risk-taking.
Student-Athletes who participated in the event — either as a competitor or volunteer — received credit toward one team sports practice.
In addition to those who ran the obstacle course or volunteered, other students attended the event as spectators to cheer on their peers, including Manley’s son, Jared, a football and ice hockey player who was sidelined with an injury.
“I was so proud of our student-athletes, coaches and administration for their efforts,” Justin Manley said, while extending his appreciation to Cathcart, McCorkle and principal Bruce Peragallo for organizing the event.
“It was great to see all of our young adults mixed up regardless of age, gender or sport, working closely together to complete all the stations. Whether they were climbing over walls, ducking under ropes, carrying buckets of water or just belly-flopping through the mud, the smiles, laughs and teamwork was awesome to witness.”
Peragallo said the event provided student-athletes an opportunity to learn leadership and team building skills outside of the classroom.
“This is the kind of thing that our kids need to be successful,” he said. “You certainly do a lot better when you work in teams as opposed to individually, and hopefully something like (the event) kind of pounded that point home for our kids. This is real life. There’s obstacles that you’re going to have to overcome in life.”
Businesses inside and outside the borough, including Metuchen Savings Bank, which was the Proving Ground’s primary sponsor, provided financial support for building materials and other expenses.
Others who donated to the project included Metuchen Sports Center, Hailey’s Pub, Electro Watchman Alarm, McCorkle Baseball, Metuchen Senior Center, Bagel Pantry and Gatorade.
Runner’s High, What’s the Scoop, Two Chicks with Chocolate, Torino’s Restaurant, Antonio’s, Fresco’s, Mangia Toscano and Nails for You are among the local business who donated raffle prizes.
“You couldn’t have asked for more cooperation from a town,” Cathcart said. “It was just spectacular.”