Woody Johnson's ongoing good work with Daytop New Jersey was recognized Wednesday night when the Jets owner received the Spirit of Daytop Award at the substance abuse treatment and education group's annual gala at MetLife Stadium.
"There's nothing better than helping children. They've got their whole lives ahead of them," Johnson told the gathering of more than 500 in the stadium's Lexus Club. "I want to thank you for this great award. What you're doing makes a difference in the lives of these great kids."
Accompanying Johnson at the dinner and ceremony were his wife, Suzanne, and his mother, Betty. Also in attendance were Jets great Wayne Chrebet, now a financial planner for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, who autographed 60 helmets for the gala, and "Fireman" Ed Anzalone.
Daytop, whose slogan is "Changing the world of substance abuse one person at a time," was well represented by program alumni Craig Hanlon, now a New York attorney, Sarah Bergstrom, an 18-year-old who is graduating this year, and David Sebban, a member of the military who served in Iraq and who led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Speakers at the gala included:
■ Jim Curtin, Daytop's senior vice president/executive director
■ Father Joe Hennen, founder of Daytop Village of New Jersey
■ George Palmer, chair of the Daytop New Jersey board
■ Leslie Smith Jr., Daytop New Jersey executive council member
Johnson and other Jets personnel, including special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, have spoken at the organization's North Jersey residential school in Mendham. Johnson said Wednesday that he has been particularly impressed with the program's recovery rate: "Something is working. They have an 80 percent success rate."
The site of this year's dinner was appropriate for a statewide organization that also has facilities in Parsippany, Flemington and Pittsgrove. On one side of the banquet area, guests could view the Jets' MetLife homefield. On the other they could look out from the mezzanine level and survey the surrounding North Jersey landscape and the New York skyline beyond.
Families from all walks of life turn to Daytop because the program is individualized, family-based, cost-effective, peer-oriented and multidisciplinary.