ALS fundraiser to benefit former football playerWritten by Kate Sabin | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Calabrese was born to be an athlete. His family describes him as “naturally athletic” and the “ultimate go-getter.” Growing up, Calabrese played on soccer and baseball teams and also wrestled. He found his true passion when he entered high school and tried out for the football team; he eventually played regional semi-pro ball. That changed in 2008 when Calabrese went to the doctor complaining of slurred speech. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
This May 28, the third Annual Dave Calabrese Football Blitz will take place at the University of Toledo Glass Bowl. The day features a car show, a silent auction and three football games, benefitting the ALS Association.
By the end of his Maumee High School career, Calabrese had been named MVP, was the Student of the Week and was captain of the football team. After graduating from Maumee in 1991, Calabrese played for several semi-pro teams, including the Toledo Tornadoes and the Glass City Grizzlies.
Today, Calabrese is unable to speak, write or eat on his own. He will be confined to a wheelchair within a year. His life expectancy could be as few as three years.
ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that targets motor neurons, the cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements. Patients with ALS experience a progressive weakening of the muscles. They continuously deteriorate and eventually lose their ability to walk, talk, and eat. At this point there is no cure, and treatment options are few.
Hard but fair
After being diagnosed, Calabrese decided he was going to make the best of his situation. He soon became the owner of the Northwest Ohio Knights, a local semi-pro team.
“He loves his football. That and family are what keep him going,” said Dawn Szymkowiak, Calabrese’s mother. One of his players, Brandon Simmons, said Calabrese is a “hard but fair coach” and is “definitely the best coach [we’ve] ever had.”
Players and family familiar with Calabrese understand his method of communicating through sounds and some words.
“It’s real hard to watch him deteriorate everyday, but he’s got a great sense of humor,” Szymkowiak said. “You’ll never hear him complain.”
Calabrese communicated that the hardest thing about the gradual muscle atrophy isn’t being sidelined from his favorite sport, but “having to depend on other people.”
The Knights will kick off the 2011 season at 7 p.m. May 28 when they face the Detroit Diesels.
“We would like to get everyone out to raise money and increase awareness for ALS,” Szymkowiak said.
The event is “all about supporting ALS and our coach,” Simmons said. Tickets are $10 for all three of the games scheduled, with proceeds going to the ALS Association to aid patients directly and provide funding for research. For ticket information visit www.nwoknights.org.