For the seventh time, an Ocean County nonprofit is holding a gala event this fall to assist families who are struggling with rising medical costs.

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Friends Helping Friends of NJ seeks to "pay it forward" by fundraising for these families during their times of need.

"Every year we look to help several families, that are nominated by friends, to receive donations or financial assistance from us," said Shawn Vice, one of the organization's co-founders.

This year, both of the chosen families have been affected by cancer. Ernie Andersen was laid off from his job prior to qualifying for health benefits, and just days before he went to the doctor for what eventually became a cancer diagnosis. He has been turned down by the government for disability insurance. And Alan Weinstein, whose wife had previously undergone successful cancer treatment, developed a rare form of the disease himself and passed away this past February.

Both the Andersen and Weinstein families will be honored at this year's Golf Outing & Gift Auction Gala, on Friday, Oct. 23, at Woodlake Country Club in Lakewood. Registration must be completed by Oct. 19 for headcount purposes.

Vice hopes to continue the monetary success of previous events.

"In the six years (that the gala has previously been held), we have raised over $400,000 for local families," he said, adding that all proceeds go directly to the designated beneficiaries.

Cost is $150 per participant for golf and dinner, or $50 for dinner only. You can also register as a sponsor of the event. The golf outing tees off with a shotgun start at 10 a.m. on Oct. 23. An auction featuring more than 100 gift baskets opens at 3:30 p.m., with dinner getting underway at 5 p.m.

Find out more about the gala, and Friends Helping Friends, at

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.