Retired Mendham football coach Doug Kirk (left) enjoys spending time with Geoffrey D'Aries, whose annual Geoffrey's MVP 'Walk and Roll' on the Long Branch boardwalk is set for Sunday , Oct. 7th. The non-profit organization raises funds for a scholarship fund. for a player or student in Morris County who exemplifies the 'team' concept. (photos courtesy of geoffreysmvp.org)
Geoffrey is seen with his devoted family, from left, brother Brian, dad Gary and mom Jeanne. Find out more by logging on to www.geoffreysmvp.org
Geoffrey’s MVP ‘Walk & Roll’
Set For Oct. 7th In Long Branch
By Steve Tober
Fall is the favorite season for many of us and looking ahead to Sunday morning, Oct. 7th when the fourth annual Geoffrey’s MVP ‘Walk and Roll’ is held on the Long Branch boardwalk, the hope is that it will be a bright and sunny autumn day.
However, no matter what the weather is on the 7th, one certainty is that smiles will be on the faces of the D’Aries family, including dad Gary, mom Jeanne and their always inspirational son Geoffrey, who continues to provide a reassuring presence for friends and those who just take the time to get to know a little more about one of the unique sports figures in New Jersey.
The Walk and Roll, hosted by Geoffrey and his family, along with retired Mendham football coach Doug Kirk and other committee members, raises money for a special $2,000 scholarship that is presented each year to a Morris County player or student who exemplifies selflessness and sportsmanship while participating in some facet of a high school football team.
“The idea is to select someone who, like Geoffrey, personifies what it means to fully support the team in whatever way he or she can,” said Jeanne D’Aries, who is treasurer for the committee. “It is a wonderful day for everyone who comes out for the Walk and Roll, no matter what the weather is.
“During the first year of event (in 2015) it rained, but everyone had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the walk and friendship. Then, we had beautiful weather the next year. You just never know what Mother Nature will provide, but we do know that we will all be there led by Geoffrey, who wouldn’t miss the Walk and Roll for anything.”
Geoffrey, 34, is a 2004 Mendham graduate, who has Cerebral Palsy but does not let CP define the rich life that he is most obviously leading.
He has attended 200 Mendham football games (as of Saturday’s contest at Sparta) and is devoted Minutemen hoops fan as well. Former Mendham football and hoops star Jeff Schiffner – recognizing appreciation for the strong support from the team’s biggest fan - used to give Geoffrey his home jersey to wear when then coach Jim Baglin’s Minutemen were on the road for hoops contests.
“I know for a fact that Geoffrey has attended Mendham summer league basketball games and scrimmages as well,” said Lee Clowers, a friend of the D’Aries and the longtime girls volleyball coach at nearby Mount Olive. “He has the kindest heart of anyone I know and is extremely genuine.
“I gain a heck of a lot more from being around him than he does being around me, but that’s just the way he leaves you feeling, because he’s just so enjoyable to spend time with.
“He’s very inquisitive and interested in what you may be doing, and it always makes for great conversation and friendship.”
Lee and his wife, Heather Clowers, also a teacher, hope to be there on the 7th for the next ‘Walk and Roll’ in Long Branch.
“Everyone wants the chance to push Geoffrey (in his wheelchair) because not only does he enjoy it, but he has the opportunity to talk to so many different people as well,” said Clowers. “We walk a couple of miles down and then a couple of miles back and it’s a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning at the Shore and -most importantly – helping a great cause which is Geoffrey’s MVP scholarship.”
Geoffrey’s first Mendham football game was Sept. 18, 1999, a game which included two touchdowns by Schiffner – who would go on to star in hoops at the University of Pennsylvania – and a 28-14 Minutemen win over Morris Hills.
Now, it’s 200 games involving Mendham football and mom is extremely proud of the moment.
“It’s a tribute to Geoffrey’s unrelenting spirit and love of sports and people,” she said. “We will take him wherever we can to see his Minutemen; he loves it, and the people there all enjoy spending time with him.”
Jeanne, husband Gary and the couple’s other son, Brian, are steadfast supporters of Geoffrey’s Mendham and sports passions, along with aide William Asirifi, who has made much possible for Geoffrey’s accessibility to numerous events, which simply continue without abeyance.
“Geoffrey is very grateful for all we do with him, but – most of all- he’s a continual joy and inspiration for us,” said Jeanne. “He loves high school sports and Mendham football and basketball, and that passion he has is contagious for everyone around him.”
The games will continue with Geoffrey the biggest Minutemen fan, and the Walk and Roll is another annual staple, thanks to Kirk, the D’Aries family and entire scholarship committee that also includes former area football coach Gerry Gallagher, ex-Mendham player and D’Aries neighbor Pat Valli, athletic administrator Kathi Perri and longtime statewide sportswriter Sean Reilly.
“I urge everyone to try and attend the Walk and Roll,” said Clowers. “Geoffrey represents all that can be very positive about high school sports, and he’s simply a great human being to be around, which is the best part of it all!”
To find out more about Geoffrey, the upcoming Oct. 7th Walk and Roll in Long Branch, or perhaps to make a donation for a great cause, log onto www.geoffreysmvp.org
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
Longtime Mount Olive girls volleyball coach Lee Clowers (left) meets up with friend Geoffrey D'Aries at a Morris County basketball game.
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