Edison Police Lieutenant Jason Gerba tells District 18 legislators his department hopes to become a Top 10 fundraiser for a third straight year in the 38th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey

Jason Gerba, an Edison Township police lieutenant and PBA member, is serving as co-coordinator for the department’s entry in the 38th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey.

The veteran officer will join more than 3,000 peers from over 400 police departments statewide on June 11 for a 26-leg marathon spanning 750 miles across 300-plus towns, all to raise funds and awareness for an outstanding cause.

Special Olympics New Jersey provides free year-round sports training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic-style sports for thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Through the joy and power of sports, athletes are afforded opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and build friendships with other Special Olympics athletes.

The Torch Run has raised more than $3.6 million dollars for Special Olympics New Jersey since 1984.

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From left: Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, Lt. Jason Gerba, Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak

The Edison Police Department has been among the state’s Top 10 fundraisers each of the past two years with Gerba and co-coordinator Robert Dudash Jr. leading the effort.

Gerba, who has participated in the annual Torch Run for more than two decades, will be wearing two special wristbands in this year’s event.

One commemorates the passing of his dear friend, Joseph Wenskoski, a beloved officer who served Edison and Metuchen prior to losing a battle with cancer in 2017. Tracey Wenskoski and her twins – Joseph and Isabella – have not missed a Torch Run since the passing of her husband, who previously ran in the annual event.

The other commemorative wristband Gerba will wear is in support of “Mallory’s Army.”

A nationwide movement to save children from the devastating effects of bullying, the organization is named after Mallory Grossman, a student from Rockaway who committed suicide four years ago at the age of 12.

Mallory’s parents, Seth and Dianne, who addressed hundreds of New Jersey officers at a PBA mini convention Gerba attended in Atlantic City,  believe their daughter endured incessant bullying. 

They turned the family’s tragedy into advocacy, which Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) supported as a primary sponsor of “Mallory’s Law,” and which Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex) further supported with the introduction of legislation to establish an anti-bullying task force.

Diegnan’s bill, which unanimously passed the full Senate in June 2019, places more stringent safeguards in New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” and imposes civil liability on a parent or guardian demonstrating willful or wanton disregard in the supervision of a minor adjudicated delinquent of cyber-harassment or harassment.

Over the weekend, Gerba visited Diegnan, Karabinchak and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex), to give each District 18 legislator a commemorative 2021 Torch Run T-shirt, the same style police officers statewide will wear during the June 11 event.

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The 18th Legislative District includes East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Highland Park, Metuchen, South Plainfield and South River. The Torch Run is scheduled to travel through all but one of those towns. 

During his weekend meeting with the legislators, Gerba proudly displayed a commemorative plaque the Edison Police Department received in honor of its charitable efforts, and pointed to the back of the T-shirt, which bears a graphic displaying the Torch Run’s Top 2020 fundraisers.

The Edison Police Department was listed at No. 6, a position upon which Gerba hopes he and his fellow officers can improve upon this year.

More than 30 male and female officers will represent Edison’s police department in the Torch Run. Reflecting the township’s diversity, the department’s runners include Asian, Black and Hispanic officers, Gerba said.

The Edison police will receive the Torch – referred to as the “Flame of Hope” – from Woodbridge officers at around 2:30 p.m. before embarking on a 6.2-mile trek along Route 27. The Edison Police Department will run alongside peers from Metuchen for a stretch and eventually pass the Torch to Highland Park officers, who will continue the journey toward The College of New Jersey.

During Edison’s leg, employees of businesses along Route 27 and members of township organizations will cheer on the runners. Supporters include Command Staff personnel from the Edison Police Department and the Edison Fire Department.

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Prior to receiving the Torch, the Edison Department’s runners will convene at police headquarters, where they will be introduced on a red carpet amid fanfare including a smoke machine and music. Mayor Tom Lankey will be in attendance.

Several special supporters for each Edison officer will be at the starting line, including Wenskoski’s widow and children.

The Torch Run typically precedes Special Olympics New Jersey’s annual Summer Games at The College of New Jersey, but with the coronavirus leading to their cancellation, this year’s event is being conducted as a standalone.

Gerba first participated in the event in 1999 under Edison Torch Run coordinator Robert Dudash Sr. Gerba and Dudash Jr. took over several years ago as the department’s co-coordinators.

“The run is extremely important, but I came to learn that Special Olympics New Jersey’s partnership with law enforcement goes beyond the run,” Gerba said, noting his regular attendance during the Special Olympics Games at The College of New Jersey fuels his desire to fundraise and participate.

“The first Special Olympics Games I ever attended was overwhelming,” Gerba said. “At the start, the officers lined up in two rows in a packed football stadium (at The College of New Jersey) and greeted all the athletes with a high five.

“The energy and enthusiasm by the athletes and spectators was chilling. I took note immediately of how much the athletes loved and appreciated the Law Enforcement community. The opening ceremonies then concluded with a small torch arriving at the arena and a large torch being lit and illuminating the entire area around it.”

Gerba returned the ensuing day to distribute medals to the athletes on the podium. 

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Lt. Jason Gerba high fives a Special Olympics athlete

“It gave me a chance to further interact with the participants and their families and enjoy the results of their hard work,” Gerba said. “It also gave me the opportunity to form friendships with some of the finest members in the law enforcement community. Many, if not all officers, were volunteering their time in order to make a great event.”

“Every year since then, I’ve tried to grow the event and involve more and more people. I started having my amazing family meet me at the finish line every year while other friends stood at various points along Route 27 and cheered the runners on. I began inviting more officers to join me in Trenton to give out medals. Then I started to ramp up my efforts to fundraise. 

“Making the Top 10 fundraising departments listed on the back of the T shirt meant so much to me. Of all my accomplishments as a police officer, I am most proud of my involvement with the Torch Run.”

One thought on “Edison Police Lieutenant Jason Gerba tells District 18 legislators his department hopes to become a Top 10 fundraiser for a third straight year in the 38th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey

  1. Keep up the good work that done, men/ women in Blue. We will also need them. Ok good luck in the run , thanks to who join you in the run. Respectfully Michael Hritz

    Liked by 1 person

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