The Boreks in Avalon
Lydia Borek first came to Avalon with her family in the 1950s, spending many happy summers here until she and husband Ron eventually made Avalon their permanent home.
As parents, they encouraged their children to spend as much time as possible enjoying the seaside town.
Baby on the Beach (1973/1974) by Lydia BorekThe Avalon History Center
Brendan was a beach baby from the start, and he was only too happy to introduce his brother David to the sand and the sea.
Brendan Borek in the Snow (1980/1985) by Lydia BorekThe Avalon History Center
In addition to the beach, Brendan loved snow and skiing.
Brendan Borek Playing Soccer (1980/1985) by Lydia BorekThe Avalon History Center
He was talented young soccer player for the Galactacas indoor soccer team...
Brendan Borek Skateboarding (1983/1987) by Lydia BorekThe Avalon History Center
... and a fearless skateboarder.
Family and friends remember Brendan as a smart, funny, and easygoing boy who loved spending time with his friends. From neighborhood birthday parties to his years at Avalon Elementary School, Brendan could always be found with his tight knit group of friends.
Brendan Borek and childhood friends. On loan from Lydia Borek.
The waves soon caught Brendan’s imagination and after purchasing his first surfboard in 1985 from New Vision Surf Shop, he spent every free moment in the surf off Avalon.
A 1985 receipt from the New Vision Surf Shop. On loan from Lydia Borek.
Throughout high school, Brendan continued to play soccer, set up skateboard ramps on the pavement outside his home, and cultivate his artistic talent - often using images and ideas from the waves and beach, surfing never being far from his thoughts.
Artwork by Brendan Borek. On loan from Lydia Borek.
A Circle of Friends
It was during high school that Brendan was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He faced the diagnosis bravely with a positive outlook and the love and support of family and friends, who kept up a constant stream of visits.
Sadly, by summer of 1991, Brendan was losing his battle with the disease.
Brendan’s friends – the same friends with whom he had grown up, skateboarded, surfed, played soccer, and hung out with - rallied around the Borek family for one last party on the beach to celebrate his 18th birthday.
Brendan Borek and friends. On loan from Lydia Borek.
A beachful of friends and neighbors turned out for the weekend event that included surfing, a soccer tournament, and a beef and beer fundraiser.
The Avalon community had come together in support of Brendan and his family. Mayor Pagliughi declared that day “Brendan Borek Day.”
Three months later, after a long and courageous fight, Brendan passed away on December 2, 1991.
Brendan Borek's surfboard. On loan from Lydia Borek.
In January 1992, still mourning the death of her son, Lydia Borek made the decision to fight back against the Ewing’s Sarcoma which took him - to channel her grief and her anger into positive action for the good of other Cape May County families.
With the support of her family, Lydia founded the High Tides Memorial Fund, which built on the success of Brendan's 18th birthday celebration.
High Tides Memorial Fund Team (2014) by Press of Atlantic CityThe Avalon History Center
With a hardworking and dedicated team of family and friends, the High Tides Memorial Fund slowly grew and expanded its activities to include a wide range of events and sponsors.
Carpenter Local Check Presentation (2013) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center
Over the years, there have been soccer tournaments, art shows, fun runs, beef and beers, and more – all to help families with “access to care” services (food, travel, and other expenses) during a child’s illness.
Brendan B Tees (2014) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center
Lydia even opened a store out of her home to sell merchandise featuring Brendan’s artwork.
Circle of Friends Ceremony (1985/1991) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center
The heart of these fundraising efforts was the annual all-day surf memorial, which included the “Circle of Friends” ceremony. At exactly 12 PM, surfers would paddle out in memory of Brendan and loved ones lost to cancer.
Surf Memorial (2006/2011) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center
These events are responsible for many fond memories within the Avalon community, which has supported the High Tides Memorial Fund and their efforts to provide help to countless families facing impossible situations.
Since 1992, the High Tides Memorial Fund has raised over three million dollars for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Yet, despite their rapid growth, the mission has remained the same: “To honor Brendan’s strength of character, love of life, and to provide emotional and financial assistance to Cape May Co. area pediatric patients & their families.”
Memorabilia from High Tides Memorial Fund events. On loan from Lydia Borek.
In 2014, Lydia and those involved in the Fund were honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and in 2015, awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
President's Lifetime Achievement Award. On loan from Lydia Borek.
In 2015, Lydia also announced the creation of the “Brendan Borek Endowed Fund at CHOP,” a $200,000 endowment for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This fund was set up to maintain the work of the organization, ensuring access to care for present and future generations of pediatric cancer patients.
Since taking a step back from Memorial Fund activities, Lydia sadly lost her husband, Ron, in 2017. He is missed by all - not the least of which are his grandchildren Maggie, Honor, and Travis Brendan.
Today, Lydia remains an active figure in the Avalon community. Alongside her lifelong friend and collaborator, M.J. Soens, she has provided invaluable assistance in the creation of this exhibit, which is dedicated to both the memory of Brendan and the incredible work accomplished by the High Tides Memorial Fund.
Its ongoing success is a tribute to Lydia and the countless supporters who have made it all possible.
The Avalon History Center
Want to see more? Visit the Avalon History Center to explore our full exhibits in person!