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Lyndhurst Police Encourage Youth With Special Needs: 'Shoot For The Stars'

The Lyndhurst Police Department will face local youth with face the Special Angels on the basketball court this weekend. Photo Credit: Contributed
Special Angels players high-five cheerleaders before the game. Photo Credit: Contributed

Youth with special needs will face Lyndhurst police officers as part of the annual "Shoot For The Stars" basketball challenge at the high school gym Saturday night.

The event is being organized by "Special Angels," an organization that provides sport and leisure activities for special needs children in North Jersey.

The organization was started 11 years ago by local grandmother Debbie Wertalik and her daughter, Tara Banuls.

At halftime, there will be a performance by special needs competitive cheerleaders -- with dancing between each quarter encouraged on the gym floor.

In memory of “Coach Jimmy” James Guirland and Frank Benedetto, Special Angels will present a full-year scholarship of sports programs and the two awards at half time.

All proceeds from the event will go toward the organization, which Wertalik says turns no one away.

Lyndhurst police officer Steven Passamano said the event is an opportunity for his department to give back to the community.

"We are the lucky ones being able to participate in this wonderful event and play basketball with the amazing athletes from the Special Angels program," said Passamano, who is assigned to the school district as the resource officer (Badge 100).

"The program is inspiring and watching these kids grow every year is the best part."

Admission is $5 -- kids under 5 years old are free of charge. Doors open at 6 p.m. at the Lyndhurst High School gymnasium.

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