The city’s first snowstorm of the year couldn’t stop the Fifth Annual Swish for Kids event — hosted by St. Ephrem’s Youth Basketball Program — from being successful.
The fun-filled event and fundraiser, originally scheduled for Sunday, January 24, was rescheduled due to the storm and held at the St. Ephrem School gym, 7415 Fort Hamilton Parkway on Sunday, February 7. All childhood cancer survivors and children who are currently in treatment were invited to take the court and shoot hoops with players from the St. Francis Terriers and College of Mount Saint Vincent Dolphins men’s basketball teams.
Funds raised from the day of activities went towards Frankie’s Mission, a local organization that offers assistance to families of children with cancer nationwide.
Camille Orrichio Loccisano, founder of Frankie’s Mission — named after her son Francesco, who lost his battle to osteosarcoma and treatment-related leukemia in 2007 at the age of 17 — discussed the day’s significance.
“It was such a beautiful event that’s just growing,” she said, adding that out of all the events the organization hosts that support kids who have cancer and their families, this one holds special significance.
“It’s the one event which the children with cancer actually attend and participate in,” Loccisano said. “The day is meant for them just to have fun, forget dealing with cancer and focus on having a good time.”
Frank Stella, a Frankie’s Mission board member and an organizer of the event, was also pleased with this year’s event.
“It was very successful. We had a lot of kids that showed up for the first time. Around 38 kids RSVP’d to the event,” he said. “It was cancelled two weeks ago, which worked out because more children were able to come. It must have been close to 300 people in the gym. It gets bigger every year. The first year, we had six kids participate and 50 people in the gym. Everyone from the community came out to show their support.”
Among those that made the day a success were the players, who held clinics, drills and scrimmages with participants.
“The young college kids come with their coaches and they are so enthused and inspired to do a great job and get the kids playing,” Loccisano said. “They’re busy with athletics and academics, so to make time to be involved with us, we’re grateful.”
“They always enjoy being a part of it,” added Stella. “St. Francis and Mount Saint Vincent have been a part of this for the past few years and they always love being a part of it and interacting with the kids.”
A new addition this year was having girls from Mount Saint Vincent who also dressed up as Disney princesses.
“The children loved it. There were lots of photo ops and they had lunch with the kids,” Loccisano said.
Elected officials Councilmember Vincent Gentile and State Senator Marty Golden also attended the event, alongside all of the day’s 11 sponsors.
“In terms of growth, so many more people want to show up and volunteer,” Loccisano added. “So many community people come to help and they are of all ages. They love seeing the children playing happily.”
As a mother, this year’s Swish held special meaning for Loccisano.
“It was especially meaningful to me to have the event at St. Ephrem’s court, knowing that was the same gym that Frankie played on so many days in his youth,” she said. “The most important thing is you don’t want your child to be forgotten. This salute proves that he’s not.”