Young people in their 20s from City Island and beyond are remembering their deceased friend while encouraging local youth to excel in school and sports.
For nearly the past five years, Jack Jokinen, 29, and several of the friends he grew up with, have helped organize a memorial fundraiser in honor of their deceased friend John Gilder at the Morris Yacht Club on City Island. Their most recent lawn party took place in August.
The lawn party is just one of several ongoing fundraisers for the John Gilder Memorial Scholarship Fund, which sponsors two City Island Little League teams. The fund also gives partial scholarships to students who attend Fordham University and who graduate high school at John’s second hometown in Greenwich, CT.
The Gilder Fund has raised over $100,000 in its four-and-a-half year existence. It’s generosity honors John Gilder, a City Island native who passed away in August 2009 at the age of 23 from a undiagnosed heart condition.
“I grew up with John on City Island,” said Jokinen. “He was just a regular guy who loved everything about growing up on City Island: fishing, being outdoors, being on boats, and swimming.”
After living in Connecticut from the fifth grade through high school, and visiting City Island frequently to see his grandfather, he moved back to the island after graduating with a business degree from Fordham University. He became a production assistant on several films, including City Island, filmed on the island and staring Andy Garcia.
After going through the grieving process after John Gilder’s passing in August 2009, the scholarship fund was organized to help youth in both City Island and Greenwich, CT succeed, said Jokinen, who runs the scholarship along with John’s father Mark Gilder.
The City Island part of the charity helps sponsor a City Island Little League team, and also a traveling summer team for the best players that takes on teams from other little leagues. “Obviously there are issues on the island in terms of keeping youth active, getting them out of the house, and keeping them away from the streets,” said Jason Briens, another volunteer for the memorial fund who lives on the island. “You figure with both the little league and the summer league, there is an exciting activity and you have good role models with parent coaches. It keeps the youth involved and gets them into the community.”
Briens believes that involvement in associations like the little league gradually leads to involvement in civic life as the young people grow up.
Concurring is John Doyle, a 20-something board member of the City Island Civic Association who attends the annual lawn parties at the Morris Yacht Club and makes donations.
“It shows that young people can accomplish great things in the community,” he said. “Most of the attendees and the coordinators are in their 20s.”