Monday, November 16, 2009

Martelli in Scranton for Coaches vs Cancer

St. Joe's coach helps launch local Coaches vs. Cancer campaign

Phil Martelli could have been sitting in his suburban Philly home reading the Sunday paper, or perhaps mapping out a game play for Tuesday's matchup with Holy Cross.

Instead, the Saint Joseph's University men's basketball coach knew he had something better to do. That's why the four-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year was in the cafe at Scranton High School, telling a crowd of about 200 basketball coaches, officials and administrators that it was part of their obligation, too, to support the 2009 Coaches vs. Cancer campaign.

"It's part of the responsibility to the community," said Martelli, explaining his involvement in Coaches vs. Cancer. "You just can't coach the team. You can't just recruit the future teams.

"I don't see coaches out here, I don't see volunteers, I don't see a committee. What I see are heroes, and heroes are ordinary people who take extraordinary steps. This is absolutely extraordinary for a Sunday morning to have this whole area filled.
"What you are doing today to pursue a cure for cancer is equal to your pursuit of championships on the floor."

What started as a grass-roots effort two years ago by Lackawanna Trail coach Andrew Kettel grew to an event that raised awareness, and more importantly, $38,000. This year, the Lackawanna League and Wyoming Valley Conferences have joined forces with expectations to raise much more than just attention.

"This year we're continuing to grow. We've added the Wyoming Valley Conference, and now we have 88 boys and girls teams to do even better than we've done in the past," Kettel said. "We've doubled our schools, $38,000 is going to grow, and the more people, the better. The energy drives us to do whatever we can do."

That energy included student representatives from Elk Lake, Lackawanna Trail, Riverside, Wallenpaupack and West Scranton high schools, who will be using Coaches vs. Cancer for their senior project.

Involvement of students was a point of emphasis from Martelli.

"The schools finally get it that the bulk of the education for our young people doesn't take place in front of a blackboard," Martelli said. "It doesn't take place with people lecturing them. It doesn't really take place in group projects or powerpoint presentations. The bulk of their education takes place in hallways and buses and cafeterias.

"And what they've been taught is that it's an obligation to give back. The schools are doing a remarkable job now with encouraging all students to get involved with community service. You've made them better as people."

Martelli's real goal is to pick up the paper some morning and read a headline that cancer has been defeated. In the meantime, he's asking coaches to do their bit, and for people to support that effort.

"Everybody in this room has been touched, and it doesn't discriminate," Martelli said. "It's horrific for the families. It's not about the coaches. It's about the heroes, who take their time like your doing, who go in their pocket and take their one dollar.

"I'm a guy who believes the glass is always half full, and I do believe there is that one dollar that's going to find this, that's going to make the quality of life better for a family that's struggled with this dreadful disease."
Coaches took lanyards, T-shirts, backpacks and other fundraising items back to their schools. The fundraising effort will continue, with Coaches vs. Cancer games scheduled for the boys and girls of both leagues the weekend of Jan. 29-30.

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