ALLENTOWN: Foundation supports youth athletes

Donation to provide equipment for youth basketball league

by James McEvoy, Managing Editor
 ALLENTOWN — At a recent practice at Allentown High School, the boys and girls of the Mid-Jersey Mavericks, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball program, learned more than posting up for rebounds or setting an effective screen.
   The youth players gained this insight learned about the importance of generosity and compassion through John and Jean Gianacaci of Christine’s Hope For Kids, who presented the Mavericks with a $1,000 check.
   According to Allentown resident Rich Weise, who serves as program and tournament director of the Mavericks, the funds will be able to provide equipment and athletic apparel for the program, and specifically for some of the kids who otherwise may not be able to afford them.
   The Gianacacis started Christine’s Hope For Kids, a nonprofit organization, to continue the passion to help others exhibited by their daughter Christine, of Hopewell Township, who perished in the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
   Christine had gone to the island nation with fellow students from Lynn University of Boca Raton, Florida, to help impoverished children, her parents said.
   ”We started this foundation three years ago to honor our daughter,” Mr. Gianacaci said. “One of the things about Christine that really, we think separated her, is that no matter what was happening in her life that day she never left that affect how she treated others.
   ”She always wanted to give,” he added. “Her loving and kind spirit has not been forgotten. We’re here tonight to help you.”
   They told the boys and girls they hoped to impart the values their daughter so exemplified.
   ”The real message is, though you need help today, you can help somebody else, too, just by being kinder, help your buddy, whatever it may be,” he said.
   ”I think it’s important to play sports, it’s important to be a part of something, it’s important to learn team spirit and sportsmanship,” Ms. Gianacaci said. “But the greater message is to pay it forward. Be good citizens, be good people.”
   The Mavericks program first began three years ago with only three teams and has grown to include 12 teams and 100 young athletes from the local area as well as from as far as East Brunswick and Willingboro Township, according to Mr. Weise. The program features teams comprising ed of youth players from grades four to eight.
   Mr. Weise said the program helps impart lessons of teamwork and sportsmanship in the age of “SportsCenter” and individual performances being emphasized over a team effort.
   ”These kids are watching ESPN and they’re seeing the highlights and everybody’s trying to do their own thing and we (wanted) to teach them more of a team concept,” he said, noting he, his wife Linda, director of finance and merchandising, and Ron Simpson, one of the other coaches who also serves as a director of player development, all have collegiate basketball experience.
   ”We play team basketball and that’s kind of our mantra,” he added.
   For more information on Mid-Jersey Mavericks, visit www.midjerseymavericks.com.
   For more information on Christine’s Hope For Kids, visit www.christinehope.org.