Here is Nancy Haggerty’s story on the “Hoops for a Cure” showcase.
NEW ROCHELLE — John Volpe (pictured above) had plans with pals to soak in some Duke March Madness on TV.
Instead, after earlier following doctor’s orders and cutting his girls softball team’s practice short to take a hospital blood test, he found himself bee-lining to the ER.
The test, the ER doc later said, had revealed sky-high blood sugar.
“He told me he was lucky to be talking to me right now — that I could be in a diabetic coma,” Volpe explained.
That was nearly four years ago. The 41-year-old’s life since has included weight loss, pre-meal/-bed insulin shots and a commitment to steer his Saunders softball and girls basketball players away from his major mistake — sugary food.
This year’s players were on the court here at New Roc Saturday, defeating Eastchester 41-34 to open the second annual Hoops for a Cure basketball tournament at the Monroe College Athletic Complex.
Last year, the Saunders- and Monroe-sponsored tourney raised $3,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. With an expanded field and Steiner Sports providing signed NBA auction and raffle items, tourney founder Anthony Nicodemo (below right) believes this year’s amount will prove much higher.
Nicodemo, Saunders’ boys coach whose team lost to Eastchester, 73-52, had more on his mind Saturday than his game.
Nicodemo recalls his now-10-year-old godson, Marco Saccomanno of New Fairfield, Conn., being hospitalized five years ago after collapsing at a barbecue.
“Here was this 5-year-old kid on tubes. He just looks awful. … It’s one of those things you don’t forget,” Nicodemo said.
Now Marco, running around here with foam JDRF fingers, is an “unbelievable athlete,” who’s “not deterred from doing what he loves,” Nicodemo said.
Spencer Mayfield is doing what he loves, too: coaching.
On Saturday his White Plains boys team fell here to Poughkeepsie, 52-38.
It was in 1993, his first year coaching the Tigers, that Mayfield learned of his type 2 diabetes.
Prior to diagnosis, he, like Volpe, was constantly thirsty, constantly visiting the restroom and basically not himself.
“I’d get through the school day and just wanted to lie down,” the phys ed teacher recalled.
Mayfield takes medication twice daily and has regular blood workups.
Diabetes might have been his “when,” not “if” question, since sufferers have included a brother, sister and his mother — his mom dying from a stroke Mayfield links to her diabetes.
Volpe, though, “didn’t take it seriously” when told he was at risk.
His diagnosis occurred a year later. The 5-foot-8 Saunders special ed teacher weighed 269 pounds. With exercise and improved diet, he’s now 214.
In turn, he’s watching out for others, noting, “When I see kids who play for me who are a little overweight, I take them on the side and tell them I don’t want them to grow up with the problems I have.”
Volpe’s players raised funds for the JDRF, something Nicodemo insists on with his players, who do the yearly JDRF walk with him, each raising $100.
“Some come from situations where they’re not so well off themselves, but I still think it’s important to give back — and they’ve embraced it,” he said.
Volpe sees the tourney as a showcase for both players and the cause.
“The best part is it’s great exposure to promote a cure,” he said.
Photos courtesy of John Meore/The Journal News. For the entire gallery click here.