The Pines Lake Elementary School in Wayne held its seventh annual Turkey Trot on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, with the purpose, once again, to donate food to those less fortunate, who reside in the Pines Lake section of Wayne, as well as raising money during the holiday season.
This year’s Trot was especially heartfelt, as one of the school’s former students, Lou Brandt, recently passed away this Oct. 22, after a battle with cancer. Brandt was just 45 years old. He had played football at Wayne Hills and later at the University of Massachusetts.
Students at the Pines Lake School in Wayne celebrate a successful Turkey Trot. (Click on photo for larger image)
Denise Scalzitti, a teacher at Pines Lake, helped organize the first Turkey Trot, seven years ago.
“At the time, one of our custodians had died suddenly, and we wanted to do something to honor him,” recalled Scalzitti. “That first year, we donated money to St. Jude, because our custodian loved that charity. Since then, we’ve tried to remember different people associated with the school, as well as donating food to families who could use it around the Thanksgiving holiday.
“This year, with Lou’s passing, and he was once a student here, it seemed only appropriate to honor him.”
Brandt was a loyal follower of Wayne Hills football, long after he played for the Patriots and was a regular at the team’s annual father-son beefsteak, held on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Several members of this year’s state sectional champion Wayne Hills football team participated in the Turkey Trot. The team also donated turkeys to the school, to go along with the food collected. The children, teachers and football players walked and ran around a path outside the school.
Wayne Hills football players, along with head coach Wayne Demikoff (standing second from right) donated turkeys to help those less fortunate. Denise Scalzitti, who organizes the Turkey Trot, is standing far left. (Click on photo for larger image)
“It was really something special today,” said Scalzitti. “(Wayne Hills head coach) Wayne (Demikoff) and the players couldn’t have been nicer. They brought turkeys and interacted so well with the kids during the Turkey Trot. Little kids really look up to high school athletes, and the Hills players were incredible. We were all so proud of them in winning a (state sectional) championship last week, and we all wished them luck when they go play at MetLife Stadium (on Nov. 30). Coach Demikoff and those players are always supporting a cause and trying to help others.”
Demikoff found the experience especially fruitful with the holiday approaching.
Wayne Hills won its 10th state sectional football championship on Nov. 16.
“It’s very important that our players understand all the great things they have in life, and that there people struggling, in our own backyard,” said Demikoff. “Winning championships is what we strive for as a program, but that would mean nothing if our kids weren’t giving back to their community and representing themselves in a class manner. A championship character is what will help make these young men successful as fathers and husbands later on.
“It meant a great deal to be here today and I can’t thank Pines Lake School enough for donating money to a fund set up for Lou Brandt. Lou was a special guy.”
Wayne Hills won the North 1, Group 4 state sectional title on Nov. 16, defeating NV/Old Tappan, 20-13. It was the 10th state title for the program since 2002. The Patriots will play a North Group 4 Bowl Game, at MetLife, on Nov. 30, against Phillipsburg, at 8 p.m.
In addition to collecting food, the children raised nearly $400 toward the Lou Brand fund.