Local children are true all-stars at annual Swish for Kids

For one morning, it was a score for kids with cancer.

St Ephrem’s and The Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, also known as Frankie’s Mission, hosted their third annual Swish for Kids event on January 19 at St. Ephrem’s gym.

Men’s college basketball teams, the St. Francis Terriers and College of Mount Saint Vincent Dolphins, were in attendance to mingle with the children battling various cancerous illnesses as well as run drills with them.

“We just give them a stress-free day where they can just be kids and not have to worry about anything else,” said Caitlin Harper, who coached the children throughout the day, along with her father Kenny. “They love playing with the college players and they’re all great to the kids.”

After introductions by the coaches and organizers, the morning started with the two college teams playing a five minute scrimmage. The children cheered on the rising stars after each slam dunk and three-point basket. The players even allowed the kids to do some coaching as they observed from the sidelines. One kid urged a player to pass the ball more.

“This is what my son Frankie wanted. He would tell me to put smiles on faces of children,” said Camille Orrichio Loccisano, founder of Frankie’s Mission, named after her son Francesco Loccisano, who lost his battle to osteosarcoma and treatment-related leukemia in 2007 at the age of 17. “So this is a day where we’re really making them smile. It gives them an opportunity to forget about the chemotherapy, forget about treatment. It’s a special, touching day.”

Soon after the scrimmage, it was time for the children to take the court, which included a race to half court, free throw shooting and dribbling drills. Many of the kids were able to take on the college athletes one on one on side hoops, eager to show off their defensive and shooting skills.

“This is the highlight of our season,” said St. Francis Assistant Coach Jamaal Womack. “Nothing will mean more even if we win a championship. It’s great to see the smile on the faces of kids that are fighting for their lives.”

After a morning of drills, a pizza party was thrown for the children, which also gave them the opportunity to bond with each other. Finally, a trophy ceremony concluded the day. Players from both colleges lined up side by side as each child ran and slapped high fives with them to receive their awards.

Loccisano is pleased with the progress made by the now nationwide organization, but knows there is more that can be done. “Only four percent of the $5 billion of cancer research goes to children. That is unacceptable in a country where kids always come first,” she said. Still, with the help of Frankie’s Mission along with other cancer organizations across the nation, change can be made.  “We are teaming up and coming together as one throughout the country.”

“Our foundation is growing. I’m a board member and very proud to be one,” said event organizer and basketball coordinator at St. Ephrem’s Frank Stella as he spoke to the children. “Some people thank me, but this is not about me. It’s about all of us, the kids, parents, players and volunteers. If we could get your minds off the situation you’re going through, then it’s a job well done. We look forward to doing this again next year.”

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