This week marked the 18th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

I felt it almost ironic that Hurricane Idalia hit Florida 18 years later the same day.

New Jersey stepped up big 18 years ago for Katrina and they will now for Idalia.

New Orleans School bus

It reminded me of what this great state did for the Hurricane Katrina victims, particularly the children who lost so much.

When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast 18 years ago, New Jersey 101.5, myself, and my friends at a charity organization that I was a part of, The Rock and Roll Music Fund, held many toy drives to collect toys for the children of the Gulf Coast who we knew were going to have a very rough Christmas holiday. I did my show from five New Jersey malls on five Saturdays with our goal to collect over 10,000 toys.

Katrina Toys 2

Well, the people of New Jersey came out in droves, and we collected an overwhelming 80,000 donated toys. In addition, we had simple collection buckets with us at the remotes for people who didn’t have time to grab a day that wanted to donate cash or a check. Thousands of dollars were raised from those buckets.

We grabbed the Big Yellow NJ 101.5 van, had a donated tractor-trailer absolutely filled to the max with the toys, got in a donated tour bus thanks to my friends Doug and Denis Gallagher, grabbed some awesome volunteers, who traveled to the coast on donated tickets thanks to an airline, my tailor Michael Duru made me and donated a world-class Santa suit and we hit the road.

112 Big Joe at Air Force base

We had a Santaland that would rival any North Pole display that you have seen, and New Jersey volunteers worked tirelessly in distributing toys and kindness to those ravaged by Katrina.

Big Joe Santa with child

Our purpose of concern was the welfare of the children of the area having a “normal” Christmas holiday with gifts and hope of a better time ahead. Every one of my friends and coworkers on that trip stepped up to a level unheard of. Over 3,500 kids paid a visit to me as Santa, and we dropped hundreds of other toys to those kids who couldn’t make our Santa appearances.

Big Joe and Volunteers after a Katrina show

Through the generosity of the people of New Jersey, thousands of children had a moment of happiness in what would become a tragic moment in their lives. I’ve never been prouder of where I live.

On October 22, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey with a ferociousness never seen in modern times. It wreaked havoc up and down the Jersey Shore causing billions of dollars in damage.

After the storm the outpouring of help and assistance from all the people of New Jersey was unprecedented and heartwarming. The New Jersey music community stepped up with benefits on a weekly basis. From Bruce Springsteen to Bon Jovi and Southside Johnny and so many more they all stepped up. I hosted dozens of shows with those New Jersey musicians who lost their income as many of the shore music spots were either gone or closed.

Everyone collectively coming together turned a tragedy into a wonderful display of humanity and kindness it was New Jersey at its strongest and best!

Now the residents of Florida and Georgia along with the Carolinas have felt the wrath and damage of Idalia. Hurricane Idalia has caused over a billion dollars in damage and the number is still climbing.

There is no doubt in my mind that the people of New Jersey, while already strapped, will step up to help those in need.

Utility companies, New Jersey State Police and other Emergency Management personnel are on their way to Florida to land a hand. When legitimate charitable organizations appear, I will suggest and back any donation you can give to the victims of Hurricane Idalia. There’s no doubt in my mind that, once again New Jersey will respond.

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Fuhgeddaboudit! Great Jersey names for a hurricane

No question New Jersey has been hit hard by hurricanes and tropical storms the last few years. From Ida, to Henri, to Isaias, to Fay and to Sally. But where on earth are they getting these names? Steve Trevelise thinks if they had "Jersey" names, they would be more intimidating. He asked his Facebook following for some suggestions, here's some of what they came up with.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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