Frank Marinello wanted to do more than just raise money for autism research — he wanted to help his nephew.
The Fontbonne Hall softball coach’s 15-year-old nephew Joseph Gavinelli has autism, and that inspired Marinello to organize an event to raise to raise money for a group that advocates for families dealing with the condition.
He also wanted to raise awareness among his young athletes, who may not always appreciate how lucky they are to be able to play the game they love.
“It’s a reality check for these young ladies who have the ability to get on the field and not have to worry about something that is going to impede them from playing in the game,” Marinello said.
He got 17 of the best softball programs from New York City and Long Island to come together to play for the cause at McGuire Fields in Bergen Beach last Sunday for the first of what he hopes will become an annual event.
Gavinelli and his family were there helping out, along with a staff of volunteers, and the event raised more than $8,000 for Autism Speaks, an advocacy group. Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the development of communication and social skills. Marinello also organized a breast-cancer-awareness event in September.
Once word of the autism event spread, Marinello said many the schools quickly reached out to him and asked if they could be involved.
“Every school really, really wrapped their arms around it,” Marinello said.
“It makes use feel better that we can play for them,” said Fontbonne ace Bianca Marletta, who has a 22-year-old cousin with autism. “Even though they can’t, we know we are playing for them. We like doing a great thing for them.”
Teams were required to do more than play two softballs games. They each made a $200 donation, brought two baskets filled with donated items to be raffled off, and two trays of baked goods to be sold. The goodies included chocolate covered Oreos decorated as softballs and lollipops in the shape of puzzle pieces, which is the symbol for Autism Speaks. There was even a clown on hand painting faces and making balloon animals.
Many squads, including Fontbonne, Telecommunications and St. Edmund made up special T-shirts for the day. Some included the names of people with autism. Fontbonne also sold the T-shirts at the school for a dress down day. St. Edmund’s senior Nina DiCioccio, whose 16-year-old brother Alfonso has autism, appreciated the efforts of all involved.
“It’s really touching that fact that all these people take time out of their life to do this,” DiCioccio said. “It is really amazing.”
The day was supposed to happen back on March 28, but bad weather forced a postponement. The gorgeous weather over the weekend had many the coaches hoping the event stays in May. It gives the teams a chance to play different competition with the playoffs quickly approaching.
“It worked out good,” Marinello said. “March 28 would have been a little bit rough. It looks like the good Lord made it a special day.”
©2015 Community News Group
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