Nicholas Gasorek, 13, of Weehawken was the only representative of Hudson County at the annual Mid-Atlantic Tournament of Champions (MATOC) public speaking competition sponsored by the national organization of DeMolay Leaders.
Nicholas represented the Ethan Allen Chapter of DeMolay Leaders of New Jersey at the annual regional competition, which took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this year during the weekend of Sept. 5th to the 7th.
Nicholas competed against about 200 other participants from DeMolay chapters across the Mid-Atlantic region, some as far away as Illinois, and won three events for his age group including Ceremony of Light, Orator, and Preceptor Trio.
“I have competed multiple times and in multiple competitions in the state and nationally,” said Nicholas. “It’s been fun.”
The Order of DeMolay
Community-based international organizations for young men, DeMolay Leaders have numerous chapters throughout the United States. Founded in 1919, DeMolay members learn life-skills, responsibility, and the cooperation by working together. The groups are active in numerous social, sports, and community service projects throughout the year.
“It was started right after World War I,” said Dory Gasorek, Nicholas’ mother and volunteer advisor for the Ethan Allen Chapter of DeMolay. “It created groups where boys who lost their fathers in World War I could go to have male role models and teach them to be upstanding young men.”
Over the years, the organization expanded and became an overall leadership development group for young men. According to Gasorek, during the 1920s to the ’30s, the organization rapidly grew across the country. Nicholas joined the chapter when he was 12 years old.
“I really just wanted to hang out with them and in joining I met a lot of different people, and have made a lot of friends,” said Nicholas. “I also joined because it sounded like fun and I wanted to annoy my brother some more.”
In addition friendly brother banter, Nicholas also became an active member in the group. He has even served as an appointed state official for his chapter.
“Mainly I wanted to be active and meet new people when I joined DeMolay,” said Nicholas. “I had moved from one school to another and I wanted to make new friends outside of school. Now I have friends from Illinois.”
Nicholas has competed in several state, regional and national competitions over the years, including three national tournaments, and consistently attends the bimonthly meetings in Ridgewood.
“They learn Robert’s Rules of Order, which is how you run a meeting,” said Gasorek.
“We go over new and old business, we go over what’s happened between last meeting and the next meeting – If I passed my Spanish test,” said Nicholas. “We go over rituals, membership, fundraisers or the website, and upcoming events.”
There are about five active members in the Ethan Allen Chapter, and a total of 30 members between the ages of 12 and 21. Once you are in you are a member for life.
Other local chapters include Bayonne, Rutherford, Bergen and Clifton.
The Ethan Allen Chapter will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, at which Nicholas will receive the highest honor in the organization, the Chevalier Award, which is given to members for outstanding DeMolay service.
Ethan Allen is the fifth oldest chapter in the state.
The DeMolay leaders host a large state tournament in the spring, in addition to the annual regional tournaments and national tournaments. Nicholas has competed and placed in several categories over his time with the DeMolay Leaders.
About 20 chapters from around the country get together regularly for these activities and hosts various events throughout the year on the state and national level.
For the Mid-Atlantic Tournament of Champions the boys tend to compete in 4 to 5 events out of about 20 different competitions, whether in groups or solo before a panel of judges.
For one competition, they do a play about Jacque DeMolay, who the organization is named after. Jacque DeMolay was the last Grandmaster of the Knights of Templar and was burned at the stake by King Philip IV of France. The Knights of Templar were a famed western Christian military order during the Middle Ages, which was endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, and were charged with ensuring the safety of many Christians who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Crusades.
The person introducing the play is the orator, which was one of the categories that Nicholas won first place.
“You are graded on your performance and memorization of the material,” said Nicholas.
Nicholas’ second event was Candle of Light. There are seven values the organization follows, and for each value a candle is lit.
“You go around and talk about each candle and talk about what it represents,” said Nicholas.
The competitors talk about the virtues the candles represent on how they need to be applied in daily life. As they finish with one they blowout the candle until they get to the center candle, which continues to burn as the lights in the room are dimmed.
“[It represents] DeMolay leaders creating a light to shine to others,” said Nicholas.
His third event was Preceptor Trio, which is another candle ceremony but focusing on the values of Affiliate Law, Patriotism and Courtesy. The competitors explain what these values mean to a person and why you should implement them in your lives.
Chaplain was Nicholas fourth event, where he placed second. The competition requires the participants recite three different prayers of the organization including an opening and closing prayer and a prayer to their mother.
DeMolay leaders are a non-denominational organizations, but its members must believe in some type of high power and supreme being. The chapter is made up of members of varying faiths including, Muslims, Jewish and Christians.
However, for Nicholas these competitions are not about winning or losing.
“Its just seeing old friends,” said Nicholas. “I have friends from Illinois and Michigan that I only get to see three times a year for these competitions.”
“I have made so many new friends it’s hard to keep track of everyone, and that was the main thing I was looking for in DeMolay,” he added.
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