As an 8-year-old, Mike Brown spent four days recovering from open-heart surgery at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. While recovering, he received gifts of toys to alleviate some of the boredom.
Brown, a sports fan, recalls his favorite gift was a Nerf basketball hoop, allowing him to shoot baskets right from his hospital bed.
After returning home, Brown wanted to give back, and with the help of his family and friends began Mike Brown's Make it Better Foundation. For the past four years, Mike, his brother Steve, as well as his parents, Tara and Scott Brown, have collected and distributed toys for the hospital.
Over the years, the donations have become so vast the hospital schedules collection carts to handle the pile of toys given to them by the Browns and their friends.
While the Browns have had fun collecting and delivering the toys, Mike Brown still wanted to do more and began thinking about hosting a fundraiser.
After discussing his ideas with his friend and (JCHS) classmate Jake Zimmerman this past summer, Zimmerman's parents, Carl and Cathy, offered to host the Make it Better Foundation fundraiser and mini-tricky tray at their restaurant, Just Jake's in Montclair.
As Tara Brown explained, by just emailing a group of friends and family, she has already received many donations and offers of help.
"Everyone has been over the top generous. It is fabulous," she said.
In addition to friends, the Caldwell Gridiron Club has donated a deejay for the event, and JCHS Head Football Coach Ken Trimmer will donate a portion of proceeds of the Players Edge cards sold by football players to the Make It Better Foundation.
The Zimmermans will put together an appetizer menu, while West Caldwell resident Marty Powers, president of Wayne Meats, has donated hot dogs.
Vero Amici has also made a donation of $500, and several local businesses have given baskets and gift cards.
Some of the "super prizes" include a flat-screen TV, tickets to a NJ Devils game, and autographed baseballs from Don Larsen, Goose Gossage and Dwight Gooden.
As the Browns explain, with the money raised they would like to purchase more toys for children to be able to use from their hospital bed. While the New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital does have a playroom on every floor, some children are unable to leave their room.
"We would like to buy mobile X-Box units for the children to help them relax as they recuperate," Scott Brown said.
The Browns are also selling bracelets that read "Mike Brown's Make It Better Foundation" and t-shirts at the tricky tray.
The Make It Better Foundation fundraiser and mini-tricky tray will take place at Just Jake's, 30 Park St., in Montclair, on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m. For more information or to make a donation, contact Tara Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.