SPRING LAKE — The Greater Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce has selected its newest Citizen of the Year: Sea Girt resident Frank Kineavy.
Living with Cerebral Palsy, Mr. Kineavy is nonverbal and requires a wheelchair, and has overcome a number of obstacles throughout his life.
“Being the first person with a disability whom most of my peers, teachers, coaches and bosses have encountered does take a toll on you after a while,” Mr. Kineavy told The Coast Star. “It sometimes feels like I have to start at square one with every new person I meet.”
Despite his condition, Mr. Kineavy has overcome much of this adversity. He has become a coach, a screenwriter, a mentor and a political advocate. He has even started a new employment agency for people with disabilities.
“I have recently formed an employment agency called Let’s Be Frank. We match people with disabilities in meaningful jobs that lead to careers,” he said. “Currently, we are in the process of getting companies on board and simultaneously building our pipeline of qualified candidates.”
In addition to developing his new agency, Mr. Kineavy works as assistant offensive coordinator for Robbinsville High School football team and works as the baseball coach at Bradley Beach Elementary School.
He also has written a sitcom about a young man with Cerebral Palsy trying to make it in New York City. The Spring Lake Community Theatre is developing the script into a play, which is set to debut this fall, Mr. Kineavy said.
“If you look in the dictionary under ‘Inspiration,’ you’ll see a picture of Frank Kineavy,” said chamber president George D’Amico. “He’s just always been a leader in spite of his disability… no matter what he does he excels, whether its grammar school, high school he always has participated and it’s always in a leadership position.
“He’s been a model teacher for everybody in our area,” he continued.
Mr. Kineavy is the 13th ‘Citizen of the Year’ since the chamber started the program in 2005, and the first Sea Girt resident to be honored. The past honorees are; Former Spring Lake Mayor Tom Byrne, Former Spring Lake Heights Mayor Elwood Malick, Mary Reilly, Cosmo and Linda Scardino, Richard Clayton, Bill Wingard, Donald and Margie Brahn, Kathy Cunningham, current Spring Lake Mayor Jennifer Naughton, Monica Vermeulen and Michael Scotto.
The process in which the chamber selects Citizens of the Year is by nomination. According to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Manger, “All members are eligible to submit nominations which are then reviewed by the Board of Directors of the Chamber and an honoree is selected,” she said. “A broad spectrum of winners, who have contributed in many different ways to the betterment of their community, have been recognized. The celebration features a formal dinner with a program directory of ads and personal wishes to the honoree from friends, family, colleagues, businesses, etcetera.”
This year, the celebration of Mr. Kineavy’s honor will be held at Spring Lake Bath and Tennis Club on Thursday, Oct. 27. Tickets to attend the event are $175 per person and will include filet mignon, pistachio covered salmon or chicken francese along with an open bar and appetizers.
“Anytime you are recognized by the only community you have called home your entire life, it is overwhelming to be honored as the Citizen of the Year,” Mr. Kineavy said. “My time at Villanova had been well documented and I loved every second of it. But, if it wasn’t for my parents, siblings, families of Sea Girt and Spring Lake, along with the MHS community, I would not have had the opportunity to attend a school like Villanova, or have the experiences I have had in my lifetime.
“It is rare to have people from all areas of your life be under the same roof,” he continued. “I am looking forward to celebrating them and having the opportunity to tell them how much of an impact they had on me.”
Proceeds from the event will be going towards a charity of Mr. Kineavy’s choosing, and he’s expressed interest in choosing one affiliated with his alma mater, Villanova University.
Mr. Kineavy hopes to inspire others with his message to “just try every door.”
“If one person won’t give you the time of day, forget about them. Try to connect with the next person. If one job doesn’t work out, there will be something else that does,” he said. “If one school community does not accept you for who you are, that just means you are meant to be somewhere else.”