Toms River Police Officer Brett Hansen was seriously injured when involved in an off-duty collision on the Garden State NJ Parkway on 01-04-17. Brett’s injuries are so severe, that he required teams of surgeons to repair him. He is still in a coma and is breathing for brief periods of time on his own but the majority of time by ventilator. His left eye has been removed and his right eye is feared to be only partially useful. Every bone in his face was shattered and his lungs are badly damaged. He is only surviving by a miracle at this point. His family is by his bedside night and day, as are his brothers and sisters in Blue. He may never work as a police officer again. Because Brett had only been a police officer for a short amount of time, and his accident occurred off duty, he will not receive any retirement benefits if he can no longer remain employed.
Along with the GoFundMe page that has been set up for Brett, there have been different organizations and individuals coming up with fundraising events to help the Hansen Family with medical costs during this difficult time. On Saturday, February 18th the PBA, along with Camden Police, hosted an incredible event for Brett.
PBA Representative Jesse Robertazzi organized the event and was asked, why ice hockey? Jesse decided on a hockey game because as a life-long hockey player he and other police officers play on a few men’s league teams, mainly for the Atlantic City team. He has successfully run hockey benefits in the past. “Hockey is a sport that once you’re in it; you’re in it for life. The family feeling involved with hockey is incredible too. The hockey community is very tight; I knew we could do it.” – Jesse. It just seemed to fit when Lucas Murray of Camden Police Department contacted Jesse about a benefit, he runs their hockey team. Lucas and his team were very instrumental in organizing the game.
With event planning, success is all in the details. While Jesse would prefer to stay in the background and give all the credit to everyone else involved, we wanted to thank him for all he did as well. Jesse made sure everything was just right for Brett that night. From the first event meeting, to working directly with Camden Police and all else involved, to running out last minute to purchase extra jerseys for Brett’s parents when he found out they were going to be at the game. Then rushing them to the screen-printers house to get them printed so the Hansen’s could wear them for the puck-drop and keep them as a memento. There are also plans to hang them in Brett’s hospital room. Through every step of the way, Jesse was there. It was an impressive sight to see the Honor Guard from both departments on the ice alongside Police Chief Mitchell Little, Brett’s mother and father, the 17 players from the Toms River team, and the 19 players from the Camden team for the ceremonial puck drop.
Advertising for the event was done through the PBA’s Facebook page, The Toms River Police Department’s Facebook page, The Toms River Patch, Shore News Network and NJ 101.5 radio. Lucas Murray (Camden team captain) made an appearance on NJ 101.5 with Bill Spadea in studio, and word of mouth spread quickly, especially through the hockey community. The biggest publicity we garnered was getting two great spots with EJ Hradic on the NHL Network; which is seen in US, Canada and Europe. EJ was very touched by Brett’s story and was happy to share the air time during their “Checking In” segment. That segment was instrumental in getting The Brett Hansen fund information out to the public. Hopefully we will see some donations come in from overseas. Great effort was made by all to pack the rink. Having initially printed and sold out 500 tickets, they were still collecting donations and welcoming more guests at the door.
Jesse and the PBA would like to extend some special thanks to everyone who helped. Mike Mabie, from Silverton Buy Rite, generously donated a lot of merchandise for the gift auction. Also, the police and fire dispatchers were phenomenal, they ran the 50/50 and tee shirt sales. The Toms River Black Hawks Hockey Club and Ken Yasenchock, who stepped up and volunteered with anything they needed as well as providing lots of gifts for the auction. Lucas Murray, Camden Police Department and their team participation. The Toms River team, you were amazing. Additional thanks go to The Atlantic City officers, Tom McCabe (hero of the day) and Dan Kramer and Officer Josh Vadell for coming up. Josh was recently shot in the head responding to a robbery in progress next to Caesars Hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Officer Tom McCabe, returned fire killing the suspect and then loaded Josh into a police vehicle, drove him to the hospital which saved his life. Josh has made an incredible recovery and was at the game with his family to show support for a fellow injured officer. Josh’s story gives us hope that you can recover from a traumatic brain injury and it was a true honor to have him at our game. Thank you to Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher and our town council who came out for the game and donated the ice time. Chief Mitchell Little and The Toms River Police Foundation for both teams jerseys. TRPD Police officer Gene Bachonski was the emcee for the night and the Berkley Township PBA arrived with a donation of over $3000. Charlie’s Pizza, Manchester, hosted the after party. The band, Fly on the Chicken, provided live music at Charlie’s Pizza after the game. Downs Ford for donating water bottles. The Silverton Fire Company participated by bringing their ladder truck and proudly flew the American Flag. Eddie Casler, from Winding River Ice Rink, was instrumental in getting this game going. We even had a visit from NJ State PBA President, Pat Colligan. Mr. Colligan took the time from his busy schedule to come all the way down from Franklin Township to be at the game and the Ocean County PBA Conference, who sent a lot of people there. Finally, to all of the volunteers and the generosity of our community!
When we asked Jesse, “What was your goal? What did you hope to raise?” Jesse said he would have been happy with $10,000. That was what he was hoping to achieve for the night. At the end of the night he tallied over $22,000, they surpassed it by over double! They even had people running up to them at the end of the night, who weren’t able to be at the game, still offering donations.
Final score –TR officially won the game, however, Jesse says, “In the end, we all won!”