Jan 9, 2014
Connecticut Family's Touchdown Pass: Football as Arena for Improving Young Lives
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Gathered in Indianapolis will be about 6,000 coaches and 10,000 people altogether, representing levels of the sport from the NFL down to Pop Warner. “We have a booth rented,” Kathy said, and they will personally be handing out “Frank’s book to every coach.”
Their presence will be formally announced to the coaches gathered in a couple of different sessions, and “We’ll give a presentation about Frank with some pictures,” Kathy said. Coaches will then be directed to their booth to get copies of the book.
Last January, she noted, Frank personally sent out 6,000 copies of book. “I was getting calls in early May [right after he died] … from coaches all over the country,” in places like California, Texas, even Hawaii, expressing their condolences, along with admiration for Frank and gratitude for the book that encapsulated his mission.
“We are just on a mission to keep his legacy alive, and coaches pick up on Frank’s passion,” Kathy said, noting the importance of coaches as teachers: “The kids look up to their coaches.” Another phenomenon of contemporary society that heightens the role and responsibility of coaches is the trend of high-profile athletes not being role models for young people, but instead, as Kathy said, “collapsing in front of them.”
“We [want] to get this program in the hands of educators as well as coaches,” Kathy said. “It’s really for youth everywhere.” The effort means targeting Connecticut schools, and already a guidance counselor at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury uses it. (Kathy was born in Waterbury and still has family there, and the DiCoccos, who live in Farmington, formerly lived in Southbury.)
The for-youth-everywhere approach is just another outgrowth of Frank DiCocco’s expansive desire to help. The most telling anecdote involves the football program at Yale. Kathy DiCocco recounted how her son was participating in a summer camp one year at Yale, driving to New Haven and back every day. One day, he came home and said they wanted him to coach.
Joining the staff at a hallowed Ivy League program was a labeled a “no-brainer” by everyone, Kathy said—everyone, that is, except Frank. “He ends up turning Yale and West Point down and going to Stillman College. He said, ‘Those kids need me more.’”
How could he make such a declaration, and decision? Because Frank’s guiding principle was, “I’m in the sport to change lives,” not just win games.
And that meant he took his activism far beyond the football field. “Wherever he happened to be … he always took on coaching football as his community service because he just loved the sport so much,” Kathy said.
Even when he was in Palm Beach, Fla., there were kids whom he considered “inner city, at risk,” and to help them he would take them grocery shopping on his own time, hold fundraisers, sometimes even cook them dinner.
When he coached at Stillman in Alabama, he sent tickets so all the neighborhood kids and students at the local elementary school so they could attend games. “He’d pass out Stillman College T-shirts to the elementary school kids,” Kathy recalled.
So you can see how taking on Frank’s mission is the only thing that the DiCoccos could have done after his death.
“He was just passionate about this. He did the best he could and we have to keep it going,” Kathy said. “It makes me personally feel like I am helping the world, we are helping the next generation. We’ll try and do that for as long as we can.”
“If we could help one kid somewhere, then we’ve been successful,” she added.
The H.O.P.E. Foundation and the DiCocco family has already been successfully thousands of times over—not only through Frank’s work, and now that of his parents and sister, but also through scholarships that have been given.
Kathy and Lou DiCocco went to Stillman in August to establish an endowment and scholarship there, and they have done the same at Avon Old Farms.
It’s all about fulfilling Frank’s “wish” and mission, and creating a better and more successful future for young people in general, and specifically those who come together around the sport of football.
For more information on Frank DiCocco and his charity, see the foundation’s website at www.hopefoundation.us. To learn more about Hartford’s Camp Courant’s program and history, see the website at www.campcourant.org.