By Danny Schrafel
Amidst the battle on the court between the Harborfields Tornadoes and the John Glenn Knights for the Class A girls basketball crown on Saturday, a group of young men from each side of the perennial rivalry worked the crowd – together.
They scoured the stands on each side of the St. Joseph’s College athletic center in Patchogue to raise money for the Sean Urda Memorial Soccer Scholarship Fund, founded in memory of a John Glenn High School senior who died Jan. 26 in a snow-tubing accident in Huntington.
The boys were selling bracelets bearing Urda’s name and number 14 for a starting donation of $2. By the end of the game, they estimated they had raised hundreds of dollars. They expected to pull together at least $3,000 between efforts at John Glenn and Harborfields high schools.
For the cause, the rivalry is set aside – except for which high school might raise more money by the end of this week.
“It’s great because it’s not just one school doing it,” Glenn senior Jonathan Schefer, a former teammate of Urda, said. “Harborfields and John Glenn, usually, they’re considered rivals. It’s just a nice thing for both schools to come together on this one thing.”
Schefer and Glenn senior Corey Ainsworth said the idea for wristbands came from Chris Amoruso, a friend who played for the Harborfields Tornadoes and who played against Urda in soccer and baseball. He got the idea from bracelets sold after Tom Cutinella, a Shoreham-Wading River High School athlete, died Oct. 1, 2014 at Huntington Hospital after colliding with an opposing player on the field at John Glenn High School during a game against the Knights.
“I knew Sean from soccer. It was tragic that he passed away – I decided we should do something to help the fundraiser and make people aware,” Amoruso, a Harborfields junior, said.
Ainsworth, who had been friends with Urda since third grade, said their bond was incredibly tight.
“We played soccer throughout our entire lives together. We did everything together,” Ainsworth said, noting Urda had plans to play soccer in college either for Loyola or a SUNY school.
Theirs is the latest contribution to a fast-growing scholarship fund, which will award a scholarship to “at least one deserving high school senior who shows a passion for their family, their friends and soccer” in Urda’s memory. The initial goal was to raise $20,000, but as of Tuesday, 537 donors have contributed over $70,600.
“My family and I are truly grateful for everyone's support,” Sean Urda’s father, Gary Urda, said in a statement on the GoFundMe site for the scholarship fund. “Thank you for helping us create this lasting legacy for a truly special young man.”
The gifts are as small $5, as large as $2,500, and come in every size in between, with eight anonymous $1,000 donations. There are gifts from the Northport Cow Harbor United Soccer Club, the National Honor Society, the John Glenn High School Math Department and each of the Elwood School District’s buildings for hundreds of dollars each; staff at the Dix Hills Diner, where Urda worked, raised $700.
“Sean, the Dix Hills Diner will miss your smiling face and upbeat personality,” James Tomeo writes. “You made working fun, and we will miss you so much. Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to the entire Urda family.”
To make a contribution, visit gofundme.com/Sean-Urda .