By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—School Superintendent Matthew Malone was stunned when he heard about three Brockton High School students who biked 3,800 miles from San Francisco to New Jersey to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy.
“I woke up and ran 3 ½ miles this morning. I thought that was tough, but 3,800 miles? That’s impressive. That’s incredible,” Malone said during the annual “Breakfast With Champions” ceremony Sunday, March 20 at the Shaw’s Center.
Malone was pointing out the feat by three students, Elizabeth Chauppetta, Kristin Schilling, both seniors at Brockton High, and John Fontes, a freshman, who from June to August rode their bikes across country to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy, not only earning much needed money for research, but also an award from the Brockton Youth Foundation. (Pictured above from left to right are Schilling, Chauppetta and Fontes with Foundation Chairman Bill McGauley)
Along with the three teens, also recognized were: Harry Allen, the first director of Brockton Community Schools; Kathleen Smith, the current director of Brockton Community Schools; Tony DeGrace, a Brockton firefighter who has been a dedicated youth coach and adjustment counselor at the YMCA and pictured above with daughter Ahnika; George Sylvester, a long-time basketball coach for Brockton Community Schools; and the entire board of Brockton Youth Soccer Association, which offers soccer to more than 1,000 Brockton players a year.
Elizabeth Chauppetta said her two twin brothers Troy and Andrew--freshman at Southeastern Regional Vocational School—who suffer from Duchenne disease, a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy were the reasons she and her cousin John and friend Kristen decided to complete the bike ride across country.
“They’re the inspiration,” Chauppetta said.
(Pictured at right with family)
Missing from the festivities was Harry Allen, who turned 80 on March 14.
He is spending the winter in Florida, McGauley said, and when Allen returns to Massachusett he will receive his award—a special Wheaties box with his picture on it—during the school’s “Summerfest” event.
Allen’s grandson Jon Gezotis, his wife Ellen, and Allen’s great-granddaughter McKenzie attended the ceremony in Allen’s honor.
“He would be so proud,” Gezotis said. (Pictured above with Ellen and McKenzie)
High School Principal Susan Szachowicz remembered how Allen--who taught English at the high school until taking over as head of Brockton Community Schools—was one of the first teachers and coaches to take girls sports seriously.
A Brockton High 1971 graduate, Szachowitz said she had a penchant toward sports as a youngster, but there wasn’t any sports for her to play.
“This was before Title IX—there was nothing for girls,” Szachowicz said.
Allen, Szachowicz said, would help organize afterschool games at Nelson Playground where she played softball and other sports with like-aged boys and girls. When she was a freshman, Allen asked Szachowicz and other girls to join a fledgling girls track team.
“I can guarantee you, not one of us knew what a discus, shot-put or javelin was,” she said. She said under Allen’s tough, yet endearing guidance when he would tell them “pain is sweet,” the team ran in circles and sideways in the old, tiny Brockton High School gym and in 1971, the team claimed its first state championship—and the first ever for a girls team at Brockton High.
“I still have that letter and certificate on my wall,” Szachowicz said. “He was so ahead of his time,” she said.
Rick Savignano, head of Brockton Youth Soccer Association thanked all of those that came before him and all of the current board members for launching a program 30 years ago that has grown to more than 1,000 boys and girls a year.
Savignano was proud to point out that John Fontes, one of the cross-country riders, is also a youth soccer player. Savignano said the board decided to put the organization's logos on the box instead of their own as the current board because it is a symbol to remember those who came before and those who will lead the group in the future.
"Like the 2002 Patriots, we decided to run onto the field as a team," Savignano.