By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — A number of Tonawanda High School football players grew up at the Tonawanda Boys and Girls Club on Franklin Street.
It’s where they threw and caught their first football, and Warriors coach Rob Gross knows just how important the athletic programs at the club are for the youth of Tonawanda.
That’s why Gross and his team have been volunteering twice a month since the end of the football season at the Boys and Girls Club, giving back to the community that has given all of them so much.
”I grew up in this building,” Gross said. “I grew up at the club and spent a lot of nights here, as did a lot of the guys on our team. To be a part of our football program, there is an expectation that you will give back to the community and this a great opportunity for our guys to do that.”
Three Warriors that are set to be seniors next season — Tim Barnard, Shane Guenot and Chris Mara — all attended the club when they were youngsters.
Guenot said volunteering his time at the club is a great opportunity to give back to a place that gave him so much as a child. He said the kids really enjoy the team drills that Gross has the players running in the gym.
Barnard remembers his time at the club as well, and said he can see the joy in the kids’ faces as the team helps them build their football skills.
”It’s real fun to come in,” he said. “It’s good to give back to the community. The kids are the next ones to come up, so we have to get them going early. To be role models to the younger guys, for us to get together as a team, is great for some of the other guys who grew up in this building.”
Sandi Geraci is the director at the club and said that the partnership between the football team and the club equals fun for everyone involved. The program is a part of a club initiative to move more into the community and get its members more involved.
”These kids are from the community and we want to expand as much as we can, and this is a great way to do it because obviously everyone loves football,” she said. “It’s a great way to get the kids into the club and even stay a little later. The coach has been doing a great job with the players.”
Geraci said there is probably a handful of future Tonawanda Warriors currently at the club who can’t get enough of practice time with the team.
The volunteer work is a part of the players’ busy off-season schedule. Including classes and homework, the players also juggle spring sports, lifting for football, training at Ralph Wilson Field House and part-time jobs. Gross said it’s a credit to the character of the players that they give of their time on top of their other responsibilities.
Gross said his time at the club growing up is something he still cherishes to this day. He credits the people that gave of their time before him.
”When I was young, Bob O’Brocta and Mike Basehart — who ran the show here — they were great individuals and great examples for me,” Gross said. “They really provided some great experiences for my friends and I, and I saw an opportunity to give back to them. I want to help out the club any way possible because they were such a big part of my life.”Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.