HAZLET –On Saturday, the spirit of longtime Hazlet gym teacher Valerie DeNardo was remembered with joy at Field FestiVAL.
It was a day of goofy, wacky games. It was, by all accounts, a big success, drawing 200 competitors to Veterans Park and raising over $10,000. Thanks to the outpouring of generosity by the community, there will now be two scholarships in DeNardo’s name for graduating Raritan High School seniors pursuing careers in physical education, as well as a donation towards multiple myeloma research.
“We never thought, honestly, we’d raise this much money,” said Carolyn Andress, who got to know DeNardo when they were HYAL cheerleading coaches together. They grew to be best friends. “We thought we’d raise a couple thousand dollars But the outpouring of support is testament of who she was. She was a one in a million.”
Shannon Andress, Carolyn’s daughter and the head of the organizing committee, said the event was the perfect way to honor the woman she affectionately called her aunt. Already people are already asking about doing it again next year. “Regardless of it being hot and humid, people are just having a great time,” she said.
Max DeNardo, 26, of Hazlet said he was touched by how many showed up to honor his mother and how much fun it was turning out to be. “Everybody here at some point, mostly, was in her gym class, and did field day. Now to do it as adults –it’s just really special.” Daughter RaeJillian DeNardo, 29, of Hazlet said she was overwhelmed by “the positivity” of the event, and delighted that it was not about her mother’s death, but about her spark. As she was once the recipient of high school scholarship offered by a Hazlet family who lost a loved one, it was especially meaningful to her that a scholarship would be given in her mother’s name. “I’m really excited about that,” she said.