In a split second retired Col. Arthur Bilenker's life changed forever. On July 3, 2017 while on his way to emcee the Jaycee Firecracker Four Mile race, Bilenker got out of his truck to inspect the generator when suddenly the pickup rolled over on him, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Bilenker, who had always been involved in the community where he lived and worked, had been about to retire from his dental practice, Cranford Smiles, when the accident happened. Afterwards life became hard for the Bilenkers – even with the support of family, friends and neighbors.
And so, on Oct. 11 the community came together to help. Nearly 300 people attended the LOL Comedy night at the Kenilworth Vet Center VFW #2230 where 4 comedians and a mentalist entertained the crowd while they laughed, ate, drank and bid on dozens of silent auction items. They also gave generously.
The Cranford Jaycees doubled the amount taken in for the 50/50 buying over $1,100 worth of tickets vowing not to take their half of the money if they won.
Bilenker and his wife Teri Schick Bilenker said they are grateful for the "outpouring of love."
The event was organized by a joint venture between two 501C3 veteran aid charities, Project Help and VetREST.
The mission of Project Help is to provide all Veterans and their families with the necessary logistics, support and resources to be professionally and personally successful, and to help those who served make successful transitions from military to civilian careers. The original mission of Project Help was to serve the homeless veterans in northern New Jersey. Since then it has been able to expand its services to include such things as financial support and legal assistance.
VetREST is focused on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the suffering it brings into the lives of so many Veterans. According to recent studies over 300,000 veterans experience PTSD and it is estimated that approximately 20% of over two million service members who deployed will develop PTSD.
VetREST launched with the intent of helping Vets address their challenges with a goal of finding peace from their hidden battles.
The event raised more than $20,000 which was split 75/25 between Bilenker/VetREST and Project Help.
“We hope to make this an annual event and we do realize that Art and Teri need so much more than we can raise in one night, but it all helps”, said Sandy Mitchell, Executive Director at Project Help.
Project Help is an all-volunteer 501c3 charity serving the veteran community in NJ, FL and soon NY and PA. They can be reached at www.projecthelp.us or by calling 973-875-2068.