Last Sunday, 140 basketball players, ages 8 to 18, took the court for their first game. That number is about 50 more kids than the normal turnout rate, and all get to play for free.
“It’s been a rough year with the hurricane,” said City of Marathon volunteer basketball coach Neil Cataldo, who runs a non-profit called MAYDEA, Marathon Association for Youth Development and Athletic Excellence. “With the kids being displaced from the hurricane and everyone tight on money, I didn’t want that to affect the turnout numbers this year.”
So, with donations from local businesses, MAYDAE (which includes Cataldo, Sean Kirwin and Linda Kruszka) collected the $3,000 it takes to run the 8-week program free of charge. It usually costs around $40 per player to cover the uniforms, equipment, and end-of-season awards.
“We were really hoping to get younger kids interested this year,” said Cataldo. “This was a good way to get their feet on the court.”
Cataldo, who owns Allgood Maintenance, has been involved with coaching younger kids for about 20 years and made the non-profit MAYDAE about three years ago to entice his customers to donate to local sports. “It was more beneficial to ask for money when the donations could be written off on their taxes,” he said.
Cataldo grew up on the Marathon High School basketball court and said consistency with the players is most important. “The kids who are playing for Coach Freeman now at the high school level, 90 percent of them came up through this program. And, they have had a lot of winning years under their belts lately.”
The non-profit donated a shooting machine last year to the high school and also helps subsidize other costs throughout the year for other programs and traveling student teams, like The Tropics and Outlaws.
“Every little bit of money we can help keep in people’s pockets helps,” said Marathon Parks and Recreation Director Jimmy Schmidt. “It is good morale as we adjust to the new normal.”