Winning in the Game of Life
Published: January 17, 2013
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A thought kept nagging at the mind of Abington Heights girls basketball coach Vince Bucciarelli.
It was not about the sport he has coached for all these years - it was about finding another way how he and his team could give back to the community.
Helping those less fortunate than he and his players has been a trademark of the Lady Comets coach and the program, and he found himself wanting to do more.
Bucciarelli's program already has helped many people over the years through an adopt-an-angel-type program where the team supplies two families with gifts and food around Christmas.
The Lady Comets have also participated in the local chapter of Coaches vs. Cancer, a group that now encompasses not only the Lackawanna League but also the Wyoming Valley Conference in a massive undertaking begun and organized by Lackawanna Trail boys basketball coach Andrew Kettel.
There is also Pink Night, usually held when the Lady Comets and Scranton Prep meet for the second time in league play.
Still, Bucciarelli wanted to do more, and he kept coming back to helping make some wishes come true, to put smiles on the faces of children.
But how to make this different from the other charitable things the Abington Heights program does made Bucciarelli wonder, until he finally came up with an idea.
"I talked with Jeff McLane, the Abington Heights boys basketball assistant coach," Bucciarelli said. Just like that, both varsity basketball programs at the school are going to be involved in fund raising for Make-a-Wish.
"It's something I thought about doing last year, but it was too hectic," Bucciarelli said. "I didn't know if it would fly."
Including the boys team extends the reach of the charity work that can be done. While still in the planning stages, Bucciarelli expects the captains of both programs to put their heads together for the betterment of the charity.
"My job is a little easier," Bucciarelli said. "I talked to my captains and they're going to get together and come up with some fund raising ideas, like perhaps a car wash or something like that to get the ball rolling."
The newest charitable endeavor for the Lady Comets has some successful predecessors to look up to and show what can be done when they put their minds to it.
"This is the first year, and I hope it works out as well as the others," Bucciarelli said.
Pink Night grew out of a college basketball game Bucciarelli watched, and the result has been wonderful, growing larger than even the veteran coach ever imagined.
"I saw about coach [Kay] Yow [a women's college basketball coach at North Carolina State who died of breast cancer]," Bucciarelli said. "I wanted to bring more awareness to the disease."
He did just that and sought a program willing to cooperate with him for this mission, and his eyes turned to Abington Heights' biggest rival, Scranton Prep.
"I knew [then-] coach Roy Gibbs would get on board, I could count on him," Bucciarelli said, recalling the cooperation he got from the former coach of the Classics in the memorable night for Selena Waters, who had Down's syndrome and got into a game between the teams.
He didn't expect what happened next.
"Once it started, the Scranton Prep parents club went to our booster club and asked if they could do it every other year," Bucciarelli said.
So on Monday, Feb. 4, the Lady Comets and Classics will battle once again for Pink Night, pink shirts all over the place, doing their best for charity.
The adopt-a-family drive was successful once again, with two families benefiting from the generosity of the Lady Comets program.
"This year, for the first time, one of the families had older kids, so the girls were able to buy for other teenagers," Bucciarelli said. "We gave quite a lot of gifts."
It all adds up, helping others along the way.
"I'm very proud of the girls," Bucciarelli said. "We wanted to give something back. There's more to basketball than Xs and Os."