Reaching Great Heights

Hosting Climb with a Cop enables Raritan Township Local 337 and Hunterdon Local 188 to enhance the community

A poster hanging in a Clinton ShopRite window announcing the March 26 Climb with a Cop event caught the attention of a new family that had just moved to Hunterdon County. With a teenage son on the autism spectrum, the family was eager to attend the event to connect their son with the Special Olympics of New Jersey (SONJ).

Raritan Township Local 337 State Delegate Meg Hammond was excited to meet them when they arrived at the Gravity Vault gym in Flemington. And right away, she formed a bond with them, which is what events like this are all about.

“This family comes up and the connection was made,” Hammond said. “They said, ‘Hey, we just moved to the county. We’re looking for [something for] our son. How do we go about doing it?’ And we exchanged cards and said, ‘We’ll get you out there and try to find your son a spot where he feels safe and fits in.’”

For Local 337 members and Hunterdon Local 188 members, Climb with a Cop was the biggest event of the year. In three years, it has grown from a few members and their families participating to a community-wide experience.

“It’s fantastic,” Hammond explained. “A lot of people think that the climbers have to be kids, and they don’t. We really saw all walks of life, all folks wanting to give it a shot.”

More than two dozen PBA members and their families participated in the event. In addition to helping kids climb the rock wall, they provided drinks and subs and chatted with families in the community about SONJ.

“The Hunterdon County athletes come to our event, and the community becomes more engaged,” Hammond said. “People are more visible, and their abilities are more visible. So that’s a wonderful feeling. And that’s the point.”

The event was sponsored by Grape Expectations of Bridgewater, Fred Beans Toyota of Flemington and Jersey Mike’s, which has been a long-time supporter of SONJ. And by the end of the evening, Local 337 and Local 188 members presented a donation of $4,500 to SONJ athletes.

Hammond acknowledged how this donation will undoubtedly make a difference in the lives of many SONJ athletes.

“Even if you can affect one person in a good way, it’s worth doing,” Hammond noted. “So many people are intimidated by volunteering when they think they have to change the world, but you can do it by just one little bit. Like that family who saw a poster in the Clinton ShopRite, and now here they are, engaging their son.”