Recent news about rich parents gaming the system to get their offspring into the “right” colleges has spawned conversations about the state of things in America.
I, of course, have my two cents to add to the discussion, especially where sports are concerned.
Sports were one of the avenues to acceptance that the offenders employed to get their over-privileged darlings into elite schools- doctoring photos , generating fictitious resumes and bribing coaches. As if collegiate sports were not tainted enough already.
Which led me to ponder, is there any purity left in sports at all?
Money and politics run college sports- that we know. And even at the secondary level, for every high school athlete who shows even a modicum of promise, there is a parent- advocate pushing to position their child for a college scholarship.
And, sadly, even youngsters can’t play a stress free game without “encouragement” from the stands. At my home town Little League field, years ago officials moved the bleachers from behind home plate out to center field where shouted criticisms from parents were less disruptive.
So, is there any place where a game can be played simply for the joy of it?
I suggest that there is.
Special Olympics creates opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities. There are 12,000 in Connecticut alone competing year round in 28 different sports. They train to win, of course, but their focus is to do the best they can and enjoy the process. And part of Special Olympics is Unified Sports which partners Special Olympians with elementary, middle and high school students to train and play together in friendly competition.
And here’s another area where sports are played for the best of reasons. When and wherever everyday folks gather to play for someone else’s benefit. To me that is sport at its most noble, and the pages of sportingAcause.com are full of them.
They abandoned all of their comfort and a bit of their dignity last Saturday when they jumped into cold water for a great cause. They were the intrepid souls who raised money for Special Olympics Connecticut at the Winsted Penguin Plunge at Highland Lake.
The event is billed as the largest grass roots fundraiser in the state for Special Olympics CT, and they proved it Saturday. The group raised nearly $80,000 for the charity which provides year round training and competitions for 12,000 Connecticut athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as Unified Sports which partners SO athletes with teammates without intellectual disabilities.
Now the real story at the Winsted Penguin Plunge was the number of young people involved. Groups from Torrington and Pomperaug High Schools as well as the elementary schools of Region 7, and the Boy Scouts from Troop 23 in Torrington plunged in full uniform.
All in all, kids made up over 25% of the total participants at the Plunge. And that’s not counting the hundreds, if not thousands of high schoolers who serve as partners in the Unified Sports program
I’ve written before about the significant role that our young people play in local charities , and I’ll surely be reporting about it again. Our young people don’t get enough credit for all they do.
Til next time
Bob Frink passed way in the middle of February. I had only met him once, and from that moment wished that I had known him longer. I met him at the Canaan Country Club last August where he was hosting the 3rd Annual Ice Bucket Open Golf Tournament to raise money for the ALS Association, Connecticut Chapter which provides equipment, transportation, and general support to ALS patients and their families.
Bob sat in a motorized wheelchair. He could no longer speak, but he could smile, and I think smiling is about the bravest thing you can do when you have ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or, more commonly, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which means it robs the sufferer of muscular control starting with mobility and manual dexterity and eventually speech and the ability to breath. There is no cure, and it is always fatal. It stole those things from Bob, but it couldn’t rob his spirit, or the spirit of his wife Jeanine and their family. Much is asked of a family when a member has ALS.
Bob had served as greenskeeper at CCC for 27 years, so a golf tournament at the Club was a natural for a fundraiser. Well known and well loved, Bob’s friends organized the Open to raise money to help him out, but Bob decided the proceeds would go to ALS Association CT, the organization that has helped him and his family.
The tournament has raised over $70,000 for ALS research over its three year run. This year the Ice Bucket Open will be held August 10th in Bob’s honor.
When was the last time you attended a high school sports game at your alma mater? If it has been a while, you may be pleasantly surprised to see folks you know in the stands and names you recognize on the court or field.
Those athletes with familiar names are likely the children or grand children of the people you went to high school with, and your bleacher mates are likely either your classmates or their offspring.
If you live in Region One here in Northwestern Connecticut, you have another good reason to catch a game. Tonight at Housatonic Valley Regional High School (Housy) the girls varsity basketball team begins its class S state tournament run against Ellis Tech.
The girls have had a season for the ages- they won the Berkshire League title as well as the BL tournament, ending their season 22-1, undefeated in league play. The last time that happened, the seniors on this team weren’t even born yet. Housy is among the smallest of the small schools in the BL yet they knocked off Northwestern and Lewis Mills- both Class M schools.
Cheering crowds mean a lot to these kids, so why not take a ride over to HVRHS this evening and support them on their quest for a state title. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
Game time is 6:00 pm.
Til next time
It’s “Freezin for a Reason” Season.
As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen, so goes the old timers’ adage. We know that winter has a ways to go- it is still skiing, skating, basketball and now…cold water diving season.
Crazy folks throughout the world jump into frigid waters for all sorts of reasons- traditions, celebrations, rites of passage, supposed health benefits, but it is a particularly American trait to endure this kind of discomfort for charity.
But be careful what you call it. Both “Polar Plunge” and Polar Bear Plunge” have been trademarked by Special Olympics.
Three such events are coming up soon to a body of water near you in the sportingAcause Tri-state area.
The format is pretty much the same for all of them- entrants fundraise in the days and weeks before the event and bring a certain minimum amount to the event to qualify to plunge. Both teams and individuals are encouraged to participate.
On March 2nd, the Winsted Penguin Plunge, billed as the largest grass roots fundraiser for Special Olympics Connecticut, will be held at the Highland Lake Boat Launch in Winsted.
Then on March 30th and 31st, the Pittsfield 2019 Super Plunge and Polar Plunge will be held on Onota Lake at Burbank Park in Pittsfield. Now this event takes winter discomfort to a whole new level. In addition to the conventional plunge on March 31st, especially masochistic enthusiasts, who have raised a minimum of $1,000, have earned the right to plunge once an hour starting on March 30th for 24 consecutive hours. Their 24th and final plunge coincides with the one-timers. Now that’s dedication! This event supports Special Olympics Massachusetts.
On April 7th, the Spring Splash will be held at The Grove on Lakeville Lake in Lakeville, CT. This event supports two popular local causes- the Jane Lloyd Fund and the John Rice Scholarship Fund. I must note that 50% of the entrants for Spring Splash are high school students from area public and private schools. Way to go Kids!
By the way, you don’t have to submerge yourself in frigid waters to participate- go to one or more of these events and watch the fun from high ground. Donations are always appreciated.
By the time the Spring Splash wraps up, who knows, maybe we’ll be golfin!
Til next time.
This Just In: Friday night of Jumpfest has been cancelled. Saturday and Sunday events will run as scheduled
If you live within sportingAcause’s territory – Pittsfield, MA down to Harwinton, CT and over to Poughkeepsie, NY, then you are pretty much a hour away from two amazing winter sports events within a 10 day span.
Beginning Thursday, Jan. 31st through Sunday, Feb. 3rd you can witness an honest-to-God curling Bonspiel at the Norfolk Curling Club in Norfolk, CT.
Then, four days later, Friday evening of Feb 8th through Sunday the 10th, you can see the equally amazing and exciting ski jumping during Jumpfest in downtown Salisbury, CT.
Curling first caught American attention several Winter Olympics ago when the sport inexplicably enjoyed a lopsided dose of TV coverage- what is this thing, curling?
Well you’ll have a chance to find out up close next weekend. You will be able to view the action in the comfort of the Norfolk Curling Club’s new state-of-the-art facility, as you snack and perhaps partake of a cocktail. And there will be many curlers nearby happy to answer any questions you have about the sport.
And it is free!
Now the following weekend you’ll get to see a different kind of winter sport- ski jumping at Jumpfest 2019 at the Satre Hill 65 meter tower in Salisbury sponsored by the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA).
Now you may be saying “Yeah, yeah, I’ve watched ski jumping on TV – Olympics, Wide World of Sports…”
But listen closely – If you have not witnessed ski jumping live, you have not seen the sport.
These young athletes, some as young as 12, exit the tower’s take off at 50 miles an hour, travel upwards of 200 feet through the air and land, skis slapping on the landing hill right before your eyes. The crowds register their enthusiasm by cheering and ringing cowbells, and you will be one of them.
And another thing- jumpers you see up-close-and-personal in Salisbury will be in future Olympics- they are that good. Sunday will feature the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships. There will be plenty to eat, beverages from hot chocolate to hot toddies, with bonfires and lots of camaraderie.
Adult admission is $15 but children 12 and under get in free.
Get all of the details for both events here at sportingAcause.com.
So there you have it- two cures for the mid-winter blues.
Til next week, Willie
As we wind down the last few days of 2018 there is a temptation to wax nostalgic about events of the past year as well as voice our predictions for the next.
Instead, I’ll simply offer my hopes that you’ve enjoyed a healthy and happy 2018, and I wish you and your loved ones more of the same in the coming year.
I end this final blog of 2018 with a list of the charities that have benefited from all of the sports-related fundraisers covered in sportingAcause this year. I think you will agree that many deserving causes benefited from the efforts of many giving hearts.
Happy New Year!
Police Activities League (Torrington)
Regional Food Bank of NENY
Youth Mission Outreach (Poughkeepsie)
Brain Injury Association of MA
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (MA, NY CT)
Angels of Light (Hudson valley)
Morris Elementary School PTO (MA)
Barkhamsted Elementary School
Arts Education at Olana Partnership
Bantam Lake Protective Association
Great Barrington Rotary Club
Berkshire Community College Nursing Program
Berkshire South Teen Outreach Nutrition Program
Alzheimer’s Association (MA, NY CT)
Litchfield Community Center
Bethlehem Fuel Bank
Berkshire County ARC
Camp Jewell YMCA
Burlington Community Fund
New Marlborough Cultural Council
Action For Alex
Nick Biancucci Memorial Basketball Courts
Water or People
Cornwall Consolidated School
Berkshire County Kids Place
Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development
Lee High School Scholarship Fund
Dover Plains High School Scholarship Fund
United Way of Dutchess-Orange Counties
Upton Lake Christian School
Falls Village Volunteer Fire Dept.
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
People’s Pantry (Great Barrington)
Indian Mountain School
Housatonic Youth Service Bureau
Michael J. Fox Foundation
Northern Dutchess Hospital Foundation
Ferncliff Forest Preserve
Free To Run
Make a Friend Be a Friend
Gilbert School Athletics
Junior Women’s Club of Litchfield Hills
Goshen CT charities
Panichi Family Center for Communications and Learning
Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association
American Legion Post 178
Millerton Fire/Rescue Squad
Salisbury Central School 8th Grade
Right to Dream
Amenia Fire/Rescue Squad
Wassaic Fire Dept
High Watch Recovery Center Scholarship Fund
Litchfield Area Veterans
Running for Rescues
Volunteers in Medicine, Berkshires
Upper Housatonic Heritage Area
Relay for Life- American Cancer Society (MA, NY, CT)
Harwinton Handicap-Accessible Trail Fund
Eagle Santa Toy Fund
Litchfield Parks and Recreation
Berkshire United Way
Kent Food Bank
Special Olympics, MA
Lee, MA High School Cross Country Program
Lenox, MA High School Cross Country Booster Club
Lenox Dale Fire Co.
Litchfield Youth Athletics
Scholarships for Litchfield, Wamogo and Forman Schools
Hartford Marathon Foundation
CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (Trail Maintenance)
Making Strides, Litchfield County
Brain Injury Association, NY
Dana Faber Cancer Institute
Miles For Hope Breast Cancer Foundation
Camp Moe Scholarships
Millbrook Early Childhood Education Center
MTM Scholarship Fund
Norfolk Land Trust
Norfolk Volunteer Fire Dept.
Norfolk Rails to Trails
Great Mountain Forest
Matt Herring Foundation
Peach Hill Park
Berkshire Medical Center Programs
Morriss Recreation Dept.
The Little Guild of St Francis
Juvenile Diabetes research Foundation
United Nations Association Adopt-A- Future
Great Barrington Land Conservancy
Culinary Institute of America Scholarship Fund
Northwestern Regional School District 7
Sandy Beach Restoration Fund
Bethlehem Food Pantry
CJ First Candle
Sharon Daycare Center
Sharon Recreation Center
St Mary’s School
Pine Plains recreation
Torrington Trails Network
Cancer Care Fund of Litchfield Hills
United Way of Dutchess County
Boy Scout Troop 114, Valatie, NY
Ichabod Crane Central School BackPack Program
Family Services Domestic Violence (Poughkeepsie)
Camp Wa Wa Segowea Scholarships
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Berkshire and Litchfield Counties
Prime Time House
Torrington Area Parkinson’s Support Group
National MS Society, MA, NY and CT
Parks and Recreation Wamogo Scholarship Fund
Sandisfield Library and Community Center
Adopt- A – Family
Amenia Fire Co.
Amenia Lion’s Club Scholarship Fund
Ancrum Fire Co.
Susan B. Anthony Project
FISH of NWCT
Community Kitchen of Torrington
Open Door of Winsted
Canaan VFW Scholarship Fund
Taconic Scholarship Fund
Charlie Ormsby Children’s Golf Clinic
Columbia-Greene Community Foundation
Sheffield Kiwanis Club
Fairview Hospital Med-Surg Unit
Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Berkshires
Millbrook Community Pre-School
EPIC Youth Empowerment Program
Grace Latino Outreach Program
Food For Life Pantry
Church Alliance Senior Housing
Harwinton Youth Sports Association
Hearts of the Father Outreach
Immaculate Conception Church of St. Martin of Tours Parish
Isaiah Lamb Fund
Canaan Exchange Club Scholarship Fund
Kara Zinke Emergency Fund
Kent Volunteer Fire Dept.
Knights of Columbus Scholarship Fund
Food Pantries of Woodbury, Watertown and Salisbury
Litchfield Sports Booster Club
Canaan Fire Co.
Maplebrook School Scholarship Fund
Oliver Wolcott Technical High School Scholarship Fund
Help Hope Live Northeast Transplant Fund
Possum Queen Foundation
Salisbury Central School
Salisbury Winter Sports Association
Salisbury Youth Hockey
Sharon Fire Dept.
Region One Athletic Fund
Stockbridge and Lenox Libraries
Torrington Area Families for Autism
St. Anthony of Padau and Our Lady of Grace Churches Scholarship Fund
Litchfield Sports Booster Club
Great Barrington Rotary Club Scholarship Fund
Monument Mountain High School Spartan Football Team
Roeliff Jensen Community Library
Thomas J. Berlinghoff Memorial Fund
Torrington Lion’s Club Scholarship Fund
All Hands Volunteers
Pearson School Playground
Torrington Youth Service Bureau
Hurricane Relief, Virgin Islands
Tanzanian Children’s Fund
Mekele School for the Blind
Northwest United Way
Jane Lloyd Fund
Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service
American Cancer Society
Bantam Lake Projects
Helping Hands FILAM Fund
Norfolk Curling Club
Sunday in the County Food Drive
CT Children’s Medical Center
Habitat For Humanity, Dutchess County
NWCT Rod and Gun Club
St. Peter/St. Francis School
Accelerate Brain Cancer Research
CT Brain Cancer Alliance
Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research
Special Olympics, CT
Housatonic Valley Regional High School Basketball Programs
Kenneth Krom Scholarship Fund
Mt. Everett High School Booster Club
Sharon Parks and recreation
Litchfield High School Senior Class
New Hartford Land Trust
Sharon Fire Dept.
John Rice Scholarship Fund
Keri Perotti Scholarship Fund
Hudson River Housing
Giving Tuesday, 2018 is now in the books, and it promises to be the most successful one yet.
The idea was born in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Fund, to create a counter measure to the ultra consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And it has worked. In 2017 thousands of businesses and non-profits as well as millions of people joined forces to donate $274 million to worthy causes in one day! This is the giving time of year after all, and we responded.
But what about the rest of the season, and year for that matter? Need persists throughout the year, not just around the holidays. Well, as impressive as the $274 mil is for that one- day effort, we Americans combined to give over $400 billion (yes, billion) over the past year to our favorite causes. And, after we had donated as much as our budgets allowed, we each volunteered four to six hours a week to those causes.
Yes, Americans are the most philanthropic citizens on earth. I think it safe to say that we would all give more if we could. Well here are a couple things you can do this holiday season to help worthy causes while doing what you’d be doing anyway:
Buying holiday cards to send to friends and family? Consider UNICEF cards. All of the profits from your purchase will help fund UNICEF programs for children in need around the world.
You’ll need stamps for those cards, right? Consider buying Breast Cancer, Vanishing Species or the recently- released Alzheimer’s stamps instead of the usual Christmas-themed ones. They will cost you 15 cents more per stamp ($3 more per sheet of 20) to support research and work for those non-profits. But don’t think those extra pennies won’t make a difference. The Breast cancer stamps have raised $88.9 million for research so far!
Another idea- a kind of “pure play” gift for the friend who has everything. Make a donation to a charity that is dear to your friend’s heart in his/her name. It may well be the most touching gift they receive this year.
And here is just one more idea for holiday shopping that perhaps tops them all. Do as much of your holiday shopping as possible in-town, locally. These business owners in turn , support local charities, including the sports-related fundraisers found in sportingAcause.
NASCAR Dave has left the building.
The final broadcast of NASCAR Dave MacMillan’s Hometown Sunday Morning Show on WHDD Radio this past week ended a career that spanned 25 years.
But what he managed to accomplish over that distance is the real story here.
If you follow the arc of Dave’s life, you’ll find a blueprint of what the average working man can achieve in his lifetime.
Starting 25 years ago with a 15 minute radio show to talk about NASCAR racing, Dave, along with his wife Chris and a couple radio cohorts, scraped together two Thanksgiving dinners for local families in need. Dave understood hunger- he’d experienced it himself as a young man.
” When you go to sleep hungry, you wake up hungry,” Dave said, ‘I never forgot that”.
Over time the show grew to three hours at Robinhood Radio and the Sunday in the Country Food Drive grew as well- this year 500 turkey dinners will find their way into deserving Tri-State homes this Thanksgiving. To date, the organization has raised over $300,000 and still counting.
But Dave’s service to community didn’t end with the Food Drive. He used his show to promote uncountable fundraisers throughout his listening area- firemen’s breakfasts, Veteran’s causes, Walks for Alzheimer’s , sports-related fundraisers and much more. No charity was too small for Dave to shed light upon. He made each cause important. During his last broadcast Sunday, as well- wishers were calling in a steady stream, Dave reminded listeners that there was still time to catch the local pancake breakfast.
By week’s end, Dave and Chris will be at their new home in Florida. The Sunday morning show will continue under a different format, and Dave has left the Sunday in the Country Food Drive in capable hands. In these parts, life will certainly continue without Dave and Chris, just not quite as well.
Besides leaving an unmatchable legacy of community service, Dave leaves behind some lessons and inspiration for those who have been paying attention: Always remember where you came from. Understand the importance of giving back. Always acknowledge those who have helped you along the way. And, maybe most significantly, see how much one “average” man can accomplish in a lifetime.