Junior Emma Maley loves to perform community service, but as a multisport athlete at Penn Charter, Maley, along with many student-athletes like her, has difficulty finding the time to give back when her after-school hours are dominated by a soccer practice or basketball games.
“Because of that, it makes it harder for athletes to do service projects,” she said.
Service has always been one of the pillars of the Penn Charter experience, and thanks to the continuing evolution of the school’s Center for Public Purpose (CfPP), PC athletes are discovering more ways to get involved.
Penn Charter hosted a two-day basketball tournament in December featuring six area high schools, with all proceeds benefiting Enable Sports and Fitness. Enable is a nonprofit established by Laurie and Robert Rosania OPC ’82 to provide meaningful fitness and athletic opportunities for youth and young adults with special needs. The Rosania family created the organization in support of their eldest child, Daniel, who has Down Syndrome. As Daniel grew up, he loved sports like most other children his age but lacked access to facilities that specialized in athletics for kids with special needs.
The Rosanias are also parents of two current Penn Charter students, eighth-grader David and seventh-grader Andrew, and Bob is a PC Overseer, so the family connection with PC is complete.
Around the time Enable was getting off the ground and establishing itself in the special needs community, Penn Charter basketball coaches expressed interest in hosting a benefit hoops tournament. That idea led to Alyson Goodner OPC ’96, director of the CfPP. One of the center’s ongoing goals is to establish a “community incubator” where students and alumni can brainstorm ideas for new service partnerships in the community. The tournament was born.
“When our coaches first came to us with the idea and the Rosanias came in to talk to us about their vision, I was so psyched,” Maley said. “We were all so excited to do something that combined our love of basketball with a cause to help kids be able to play a game we love.”
While Maley, her teammates and their boys basketball counterparts spread the word to the rest of the student body, the Rosania family worked diligently with the school to plan the event, which took place on Dec. 8 and 9, 2017.
“It’s a fantastic event,” Bob Rosania said. “Penn Charter has great traditions for both athletics and service, but they often operate in their own silos. This is a great way of joining the two, and it allows the athletes to be directly involved in a cause while they play their sport. We’ve got PC/GA Day in the fall and Color Day in the spring, and it’s our hope that this inaugural tournament grows in each subsequent year and becomes our winter tent-pole athletic event.”
Throughout the tournament’s two days, Enable had a table set up in the lobby of Dooney Field House staffed by Laurie Rosania and Enable program director Liz Grande, informing attendees of Enable’s mission to become a safe haven for athletes with special needs, offering them a place to work out, play sports and socialize with friends.
“As founder, Laurie has personal family experience, and she and Bob realized a gap in the market,” Goodner said. “Their son loves athletics, but because of his physical disability, there aren’t places for him to go work out to the level able-bodied kids can. They created a solution, and it’s our hope that the tournament keeps getting bigger as Enable continues to raise money and awareness.”
And even though the PC girls team won their side of the tournament while the boys finished second, the weekend was about much more than wins, losses and a couple of basketball games. It opened many of the players’ minds to ways they can perform service while playing their sport, and also added critical life perspective watching Daniel Rosania and some of his Enable buddies’ eyes light up as the tournament unfolded.
“These kids are just like us in that they want to be part of a team and have a place they can call home,” senior Jake Nicastro said. “The values Penn Charter instills in us allow us to offer these kids a home here and show them they’re welcome. It aligns with the Quaker belief to find a Light in everyone. An event like this not only helps the cause but also raises the awareness of every student who came.”
Goodner said the Enable event inspired sophomore basketball player Lizzie McLaughlin to get the team involved in work with Project HOME, and head girls basketball coach Joe Maguire has connected with Athletes Helping Athletes, another sports organization that supports kids with special needs.
“This,” Goodner she said of the student-athlete service work, “is just the start.”
For student-athletes like Maley, the event had a full-circle meaning.
“Mr. Rosania went to school with my dad, so it’s crazy that I’m now able to help him and his son Daniel all these years after our dads played football together,” she said. “Our families have gotten so much from Penn Charter, and I know this tournament adds to that. It will be something I’ll remember when I’m older.”