It took almost a year of fundraising, and two weeks of hard work just before school opened, but St. Benedict’s School has a newly refurbished gymnasium.
On Saturday, November 6, St. Benedict’s pastor Fr. Stephen Norton dedicated the new gym. A basketball coach and parishioner who is also a recent graduate of the school helped raise $11,000 for the renovations to the gym, including a new scoreboard, retractable bleachers holding about 65 people, new florescent lighting, and a paint job.
CYO basketball coach Benjamin Piacquadio, 20, from Throggs Neck, who graduated from St. Benedict’s in 2003, spearheaded the fundraising effort. Piacquadio, a history major at Iona College, said he wanted children from St. Benedict’s School to have facilities to play sports like he had as a student.
“When I was there, the gym looked kind of run down and they could not put money towards improvements because there are other places money is needed,” Piacquadio said. “I wanted the kids to have the same experience that I had when I was there. When I came back to coach, the gym looked in even worse shape, so I thought of ways I could help.”
Piacquadio said that the project began as an effort to replace a 30-year-old scoreboard. He started in January with a recycling program where he called on parents and parishioners to bring in deposit bottles that he could trade for cash. After receiving a go ahead from the pastor, Piacquadio sent home flyers to parents in the basketball program. Donna Miller, also a member of St. Benedict’s class of 1977, offered to help. She had an e-mail list of contacts from a recent reunion.
“My son plays on the basketball team and when he brought home a flyer asking for bottles and cans, I thought that many people would be more than happy to donate money to their alma matter,” Miller said. “I was able to bring in about $1600.”
Additional funding came from a basketball tournament that raised $4,000, and individual doners. Fr. Norton said he is pleased to have been installed as pastor just as the volunteers were done rehabbing the school gym. Included in that work was help from a local business whose owners wish to remain anonymous, but who Piacquadio said donated electrical work. Norton said that Piacquadio expanded the project beyond a new scoreboard.
“Father Smith, my predecessor, had given Ben the go ahead with a simple request that he raise funds for a new scoreboard for the gym,” Norton said. “Ben really took charge and was able to get alumni of the school to donate time and money. I have only been here for three weeks as pastor, and people tell my that I would not believe what the gym had looked like before. I am extremly grateful for the donations of time and money to this effort.”
Smith said that a plaque outside of the gym will permanently commemorate all who gave to the restoration project.
Piacquadio got help from his fellow coaches, including basketball moderator Frank Cammarota, Lauren Endres, Gary Hill, Fallon Madigan, Frank Carbone, Hector Rivera, and John Siciliano. Also helping were coaches who all are under 25 year of age and are recent graduates of the school: Marisa Boiano, Nick Piacquadio, Christopher Mileo, and Holly Cammarota.