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Monday, March 1, 2021

Blue-Gold All-Stars – On and Off the Field

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

Once again, it’s time for the most important and best-run sporting event in Delaware history, the annual Blue-Gold All-Star weekend, high-lighted by the Blue-Gold high school football game. On Saturday at Delaware Stadium in Newark, young men will lace up their pads for the final time in their high school careers, but anybody who follows this event knows it’s much more than a football game – it’s a life-changing experience for everybody involved.

And everybody knows what a worthy cause this is, about how it’s raised millions of dollars and state-wide awareness for Delawareans with cognitive disabilities under the umbrella of the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Intellectual disABILITIES – and those capital letters aren’t a typing error. This weekend will be a positive one from the first event to the last.

Not everyone is aware that the game itself is just one part of the weekend and that the football players are just one group involved with it – there are also cheerleaders and band members and ambassadors and, of course, the guests of honor, the buddies, the young people for whom this is all about.

But most people have no idea about the people behind the scenes, the dozens of volunteers who spend countless hours putting this weekend together. It’s not an easy job and often it’s a thankless one, but that doesn’t deter for one second those volunteers who have found a cause that is bigger than they are, a cause that is worthy of their energy and effort.

And it’s not a coincidence that most of those volunteers got drawn into the Blue-Gold experience after they played in the game or coached in it or were involved in some other way. It was such a rewarding experience for them that they were compelled to remain involved.

That includes the executive director of DFRC, Tony Glenn, and his front-office team: operations coordinator Laura Dunbar, director of advancement and media relations Renee’ Blessington and office manager Guy VanderLek.

It also includes the board of trustees — president/treasurer Frank Albero, vice-president Robert Russel, secretary Lynne Sklar and Ruth Banta, Stephen Cleary, Bruce DiNardo, Michael Gamel-McCormick, Stacy Gatti, Ann Marie Haggarty, Kyle Hodges, William Kelly, Daniel Kimmel, Rita Landgraf, John McCarty, Martha McDonough, Gerard McNesby, Colleen Popp and Jane Richter.

Those people are just the tip of the volunteer iceberg. And they don’t just sit around at meetings and talk about things and then delegate the hard work to somebody else. The volunteers work year-round to put on this event, and as soon as this year’s weekend is over they’ll start planning for next year’s.

Why are these people so dedicated to this cause? Tony Glenn once told me that it was twofold – the joy on the buddies’ faces and the satisfaction on the volunteers’ faces. Glenn noted that even though the weekend is mostly about the kids involved, it’s also about the good feeling the adults get from being involved in such a noble cause.

None of the volunteers get paid, of course, but they don’t even ask for a pat on the back or a quiet “thank you.’’ Their reward is seeing their events run smoothly and the money and awareness those events generate. And ask any of those volunteers why they work so hard and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

Then they’ll tell you to volunteer and find out yourself. They’re confident that you will be like they were, and once you start you’ll never want to stop.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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