By Sonja Reis | MRCDC
A $250,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Steelers has fundraising efforts for a synthetic turf activities field at the Sto-Rox Jr./Sr. High School that much closer to the goal line.
“We just learned that the NFL Grassroots Foundation has awarded the “It Starts with the Field” project the maximum gift of $250,000! This award, along with the $320,000 raised, puts us at $570,00 and in striking distance of our $600,000 target,” said Peter Leone, Jr., a field committee chairperson.
Fundraising to replace the school’s existing grass field began more than a year ago and has moved steadily toward its goal through the kindness of 120 Sto-Rox alumni, friends and businesses.
In this latest funding cycle, the NFL awarded $3 million for new fields and field enhancements in 14 cities across the nation which include the McKees Rocks grant from the Steelers and the NFL Grassroots Program in partnership with LISC Sports & Recreation.
The field committee – chaired by Leone, Ray Puskar, Tom Diecks, and Chuck Fusina – never assumed they would be receiving the grant. In fact, they had been told the announcements would be made soon after the Super Bowl and as February slipped away with no word the group began to wonder how they could pull off the project without receiving the grant.
“The grant was absolutely imperative for the project to move forward,” said Leone, a 1979 Sto-Rox graduate who played football for the Vikings and later Columbia University.
“The grant doesn’t make us relax, it inspires us to do better. We feel obligated to the Steelers and Mr. Rooney to reward them for the trust they have placed in us.”
The committee learned of the award on Feb. 28 but had to wait until representatives from the Steelers could share the news with the school district’s superintendent and athletic director on March 2.
The contingent from the Steelers “showed up out of the blue” when they visited Sto-Rox with the news, said Superintendent Frank Dalmas who was pulled out of a meeting by A.D. Ryan Kacsur to learn the good news.
“It’s amazing. [The field] is for Sto-Rox, but it’s also for McKees Rocks and Stowe Township,” said Dalmas. “That’s just what made it exciting for me. Not just to host Sto-Rox activities, but community events, too.”
The good news has also sparked new thinking, already inspiring talk among school officials about the possibility of a new district wide soccer program.
The group’s goal is to start work by the end of the school year in order to have it in place for the start of the next. It’s been more than 40 years since the grass field at Sto-Rox Memorial Stadium has been resurfaced.
“Hopefully, come September, the brand new, green Sto-Rox Field, with a prominent white S-R at mid-field, will be evident from the sky as planes fly over McKees Rocks on their final approach into the airport,” said Leone.
The committee will host a celebration and appreciation reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 23 at Olivia’s, 318 Forest Grove Road, Kennedy. During the fundraising reception, the group will make updates on progress and describe the project timeline.
Reservations must be made by March 21 to firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-201-6513.
For more information on the project, www.sto-roxfield.org. To make a donation, make checks payable to: Sto-Rox High School/Activities Field and mail to: Ray Puskar, P.O. Box 813, McKees Rocks, PA 15136.