CLIFTON, N.J -- The family of Joann Zakrzewski, a School 16 teacher who suddenly died in July, is planning a fundraiser for what would have been her 32nd birthday on Saturday to buy a swing set at a park next to the school.
The fundraiser will be held at Shots Sports Lounge on Broad Street. The original 6-9 p.m. slot was sold out, so an early-bird event from 2-5 p.m. was added, said Zakrzewski’s sister, Janet, the eldest of six siblings. People can come to the later event, but there may be a wait.
Zakrzewski was a special-needs teacher at School 16, and Janet said the family felt a handicapped-accessible swing set at Holster Park on Grove Street, which is adjacent to the school, would be an excellent way to keep her memory and legacy alive. Zakrzewski died on July 7 from complications of a pulmonary embolism.
"She just had pure heart of gold. It was never about her. It was about others.” Especially when it came to kids.
For her 30th birthday, Zakrzewski celebrated by organizing a tricky tray that raised $14,000 on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The swing set is expected to cost between $8,000 and $10,000.
In addition to the fundraiser, a GoFundMe page been set up, which includes a letter from Clifton Recreation Supervisor Debbie J. Oliver stating the department's support for the project.
A plaque will be placed in Zakrzewski memory at the location.
Janet Zakrzewski said the fact that the swing set will be so close to the school “makes it even more special, so students that she taught prior can go ahead and use it.”
She added that the outpouring of support from the community, from individuals, to groups, to the school system and recreation department, has been “humbling.”
“We can’t even express our gratitude to keep her memory and legacy alive.”