SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS — Officers at the Spring Lake Heights Police Department are teaming up with the Spring Lake Police Department to grow out their beards as part of the annual No Shave November Fundraiser to raise money for male cancer research.
While the police department participates in the fundraiser each year, this year it has a special importance as officers are raising the money in remembrance of former Spring Lake Police Sgt. Steve Blecki, who died of cancer in September.
“We are raising funds and awareness for men’s cancer and this year we’re going to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,” said Capt. Michael Matunas, who organized the fundraiser. “We’ve done this for the last couple of years and it seems this year it has a lot more meaning and it’s a lot more personal due to our friend and retired Sgt. Steve Blecki passing.”
Sgt. Blecki was beloved not only in his own department in Spring Lake, but has clearly had a significant impact on the officers in Spring Lake Heights, many of whom had worked with him in the past, Capt. Matunas said.
“The officers from Spring Lake and Spring Lake Heights, we’re all very close to each other,” he said. “A lot of us have worked together, got our start in Spring Lake so a lot of us had worked with Steve. We’d see him out, at the softball game and other activities. It was always good to see Steve out and we’re all very close with Steve outside of the police department and police work.”
According to a statement from the Spring Lake Police Department in September, Sgt. Blecki retired from the force in 2014 after joining SLPD in 1994 after working in other local departments. He worked as the D.A.R.E. officer at both H.W. Mountz and St. Catharine’s School. Additionally, he was an instructor at the Monmouth County Police Academy. He was promoted to sergeant in 2011. After he retired, he rejoined the force as a Special II Officer in 2019.
“He was a constant presence at many police association events and continued to support Spring Lake even after his retirement,” the department said in the statement. “He was a familiar face you can remember from around town, as a D.A.R.E. Instructor, at either of the schools or down at the beachfront. Sgt. Blecki was always quick with a joke and ready to live life to the fullest.” Capt. Matunas said that during the fundraiser, students and families at Spring Lake Heights Elementary School will be able to donate to the cause through jars that will be placed in classrooms. Whichever class raises the most money will receive a special prize. Last year, the winning class had the chance to dye the officers’ beards.
“The students can donate in their classes; there’s individual glasses in their classrooms. What we’ve done in the past is have a contest or interaction with the kids but due to COVID, the class that raises the most funds, we’ll give each student in the classroom a special prize.”
He joked that some officers “barely look like they can shave rather than grow out a beard. We’re having fun with it; everyone has been supportive of it.”
Those who would like to make individual donations can also give at the police department, he said.
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