It was Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra's trip to the Ukraine-Polish border that inspired the Concert for Ukraine, which raised over $200,000 for Ukrainian refugees.

Photos Taken by Lisa Lewisikigai
Photos Taken by Lisa Lewisikigai
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Mayor Kanitra was a guest on my New Jersey 101.5 radio show and talked about how the concert came about.

You can listen On-Demand starting at 1:29:00

"It was like a Who's Who of all the best Jersey Shore bands," says Kanitra. "And that was Bobby (Bandiera).I was driving to the Krakow airport leaving the border and Tom Paar who's a mutual friend of both Bobby's and mine reached out to me and said he'd been talking to Bobby and Bobby said if the mayor wanted to keep this going and was interested in a concert, we could put something together.

"So from there, we wound up all going out and grabbing a beer at Amendment 21 in Point Beach and we talked to Jenkinson's, we secured the venue and it just started rolling from then on."

What inspired Mayor Kanitra to go to the border?

"When the crisis started, and the refugees started flowing over, I decided to just buy a ticket and see what I could do to help. I convinced one of my buddies from Dallas to go with me. We rented a van, we brought over five suitcases of supplies. We volunteered with some other groups. We did pretty much everything and anything from preparing food to handing out meals on the border to shuttling refugees to pretty much just buying supplies and handing them out at the refugee center."

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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Why was it important for Mayor Kanitra to be there?

"Half of my ancestry is Polish and Slovakian and Point Pleasant Beach has really benefitted from Eastern Europeans for a lot of years. They come over, they enjoy themselves for the summer, they operate the rides and attractions and they really forge great relationships with our residents and their kids and a lot of them endured for years and years and years if not life time, so it was our way to give back in going over there and we really made a big difference last night(at the Concert For Ukraine)."

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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What were some of the things Mayor Kanitra saw at the border?

"It was surreal. Your emotions kind of ran the whole gamut. The kids stick with you. There are no men of fighting age there at all. Basically from 16-65 we didn't see any men. There were a lot of women and small children. A lot of elderly people, the buses were coming across with orphans which was really really tough. There were 20-30 kids on a bus and just 2-4 adults and that hits home."

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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"It was surreal all over the place. It was frigid cold. There were trash can fires burning everywhere" says Kanitra "kind of the smell of ash burning everywhere, the ash is falling the snow is falling."

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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But through it all, he shared the one thing that stuck with him.

"The something that stuck with me throughout the really difficult stories and all the sadness was the resolve of the Ukrainian people. The entire time we were there for a week straight, I didn't see anybody fight, I didn't see anybody argue, steal, yell, push in line, do anything like that, and these people lost everything. Most of them only have a carry-on suitcase size bag with all their worldly possessions in it and the class and dignity that they handled themselves with through what any of us would have a difficult time emulating it was something that will stick with me forever."

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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Mayor Kanitras shared his best memory from the Concert For Ukraine.

"I actually met a ton of Ukrainian individuals. There were some Ukrainians there that didn't speak any English, and had just come after already having fled to the United States to be with family. There was a Ukrainian woman who had just come over a couple of weeks previously, she brought a cake that she made in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. There were some people who had worked at Jenkinson's and in Point Pleasant Beach previously."

Photo Taken By Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Taken By Mayor Paul Kanitra
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"There was all this great music going on the stage and everybody just jamming out and everybody having a good time but there were these connections to what it was all about scattered throughout the crowd."

If you would like to donate to help

"If people want their totals added into ours they can send a check to the Point Pleasant Beach Community Endowment Fund and put Ukraine in the subject line. 416 New Jersey Ave., Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742. Or they can donate directly to the two charities at Help for Ukraine or World Central Kitchen. "

Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
Photo Provided by Mayor Paul Kanitra
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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