The image above is from the end of Ocean of Love’s most recent Billboard Radiothon, which ran from October 19th until October 22nd , 2020 in Toms River, New Jersey. In case you are unfamiliar, the research project that I am working on for this site is about modern developments in the Toms River cancer cluster case. One of the most significant events in this case was when one of the chief activists and mother of one of the survivors of childhood cancer thought to have been caused by the Toms River cancer cluster, Linda Gillick, founded the charitable organization Ocean of Love in order to help other families in the Ocean Country area who were suffering from childhood cancer. In order to help pay for the services that they provide to families, Ocean of Love regularly holds fundraising events. One of the organization’s largest and most well-known event is the Billboard Radiothon. This event has been held every year, including this year, since the first one was held 13 years ago. Ocean of Love typically ends festivities by taking a picture of many of those who were involved and the total amount raised from the event. The image that I am analyzing here is the most recent example of this photograph. My argument from this photograph, is essentially that this event is an attempt from the citizens of Toms River to seek funding for their battle for justice in the Toms River cancer cluster case, because the government and corporations that caused the pollution have obviously failed them.
One of the most striking aspects of the background of this photograph is the large metal structure with skeleton decorations hanging off of it. That metal structure is the base of the platform that holds the billboard for the Billboard Radiothon. Every year around Halloween time (which presumably accounts for the skeleton decorations), radio host for the Hawk 105.7 Andy Chase camps out at the top at the top of this billboard for a number of days (it was four days this year) in a tent in order to raise money for Ocean of Love. Besides watching a man live atop of billboard, spectators also enjoy a number of other family themed events, typically organized by local businesses. This year, Ocean of Love set the monetary goal of the fundraising event at 105,700 dollars, which was the same goal as last year. Most of the money that Ocean of Love makes off of this event comes from selling local sponsorships and donations from those attending the event. That steel structure is not only the foundation for the billboard itself, but essentially for the entire Billboard Radiothon event.
When looking at the people in the photograph, one will undoubtedly notice that many are wearing facemasks. These people are wearing facemasks because this event took place during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the citizen of Tom River’s quest for justice in the cancer cluster case was severely hampered by this virus. Due to restrictions put in place by the New Jersey state government, large gatherings like fundraisers were not allowed to be held in order to slow the spread of the virus. While this ultimately proved successful in its goal and was probably good for the wellbeing of the state as a whole, it undoubtedly hurt Ocean of Love’s charity efforts. Less fundraisers meant that Ocean of Love had significantly less money to help families suffering from childhood cancer. Andy Chase even wrote in a blog post for the Hawk 105.7’s website that, “Honestly, we didn’t even know if it (the Billboard Radiothon) would happen this year…” (Chase) Luckily for Ocean of Love and the people of Toms River, the event was allowed to be held, largely due to the event being held outdoors and the organizers implementing basic COVID-19 protocols (social distancing, wearing a mask, etc.). Nevertheless, the odds seemed stacked against the Billboard Radiothon being a success in 2020. Ocean of Love’s lack of funds due to cancelling other events earlier in the year meant that they were really counting on this event to generate revenue. But the COVID-19 pandemic caused many business to either shut down or drastically cut down on spending, which meant that they had less money to spend on things like sponsorships. And as a byproduct of these business’ decisions, many people had lost their jobs, which made it unlikely that they would have the money to donate to a charity. And this is not even mentioning the fact that people could have been hesitant to go to a large gathering like this due to fear of catching or spreading the virus. Even though the goal was the same as last year, expectations for this Billboard Radiothon were low.
The aspect of the photo that most people will be inevitably be drawn to is the big banner that many of the people are holding that reads that they have raised 155,625 dollars. This amount exceeded Ocean of Love’s stated goal of 105,700 dollars by nearly 50,000 dollars. Even more surprisingly, Ocean of Love also topped last year’s (2019) total of $148,935 dollars by over 6,500 dollars. It is absolutely clear from these numbers that the Billboard Radiothon was a success beyond all reasonable expectations. I think a quote from Andy Chase best describes the mentality of the people of Toms River, “The reality is that childhood cancer never stops whether we are dealing with a pandemic or not. The families whose children have cancer need Ocean of Love more than ever.” (Chase) The children who are suffering from childhood cancer and their families will have to deal with their cancer whether or not the pandemic is going on. The corporations were certainly not going to help them, as both BASF and DOW Chemical care little about children dying of cancer, especially since many of the people that Ocean of Love are helping now probably did not develop their cancer from their chemical leaks all those years ago. And unfortunately both the federal and state governments are not doing much to help either, as neither has any serious interest in passing a healthcare bill that would guarantee coverage for things like cancer to all Americans or people living in New Jersey. The people of Toms River and Ocean County thus took it upon themselves to help these children. They too were likely suffering, both do to the aforementioned financial difficulties and the virus itself. But the Town of Toms River still remembers the cancer cluster, and decided to help the charitable organization birthed out of it. What happened here cannot be understated, the people of Toms River really came through for these children.
This image and the story surrounding it prove that justice can be had in the Toms River cancer cluster case. Before I discovered Ocean of Love and the subsequent Billboard Radiothon, my research led me to believe that there was little hope of that victims of the Toms River Cancer cluster would ever receive true justice. It seems like it is beyond our current scientific understanding to discover the true cause of the cancer cluster. The federal and state governments have realized this fact and have become increasingly disinterested in the case. The local government is even worse, as local politicians have just used the issue to try to score cheap political points. The corporations who caused the pollution in the first place seem to be recovering nicely with no long term effects from the incident, unlike the victims themselves who will have to suffer from the effects of cancer for the rest of their lives. BASF (the company that bought Ciba-Geigy) just got a huge tax refund for the land that they themselves (or the company that they used to be) polluted. And Dow Chemical, although not yet successful, seems like they will eventually no longer be required to pay for testing the groundwater at the Reich Farms site. All in all, this paints a pretty negative picture. But Ocean of Love and 2020 Billboard Radiothon almost gives meaning to it all. Of course, no one can go back in time and prevent these children from getting cancer. But the survivors founding Ocean of Love and the town’s memory of all that it went through ensured that future families who suffer from childhood cancer’s lives will be just a little bit easier. The Toms River Cancer cluster proves that when all else fails, average everyday people have the possibility of taking justice for themselves.
Chase, Andy. “Activities Happening at the Ocean of Love Billboard Radiothon.” 105.7 The Hawk, 105.7 The Hawk, 19 Oct. 2020, 1057thehawk.com/activities-happening-at-the-ocean-of-love-billboard-radiothon-2/.
Chase, Andy. “The Ocean of Love Billboard Radiothon IS Happening This Year.” 105.7 The Hawk, 105.7 The Hawk, 18 Sept. 2020, 1057thehawk.com/the-ocean-of-love-billboard-radiothon-is-happening-this-year/. Ocean of Love Inc. “Ocean of Love Inc.” We’re Speechless. , 23 Oct. 2020, www.facebook.com/oceanofloveforchildrenwithcancer/photos/a.658799960811746/4881194478572252/?type=3