Diocese, board shuts down WA fundraiser

June 27th, 2015 1:29 am

First Posted: 6/1/2013

And they’re off. Well, not quite.

For the past 15 years, the Wyoming Area Football Parents Association has put on what they termed one of the best Night at the Races events in Luzerne County.

And with just a week prior to the kickoff of the annual “Tribe Trot,” which provides the football program with between $10,000 and $12,000, the WAFPA was looking forward to the turnout at St. Barbara’s Parish Outdoor Pavilion.

Unfortunately, WAFPA president Dan Resciniti says he was forced to cancel the event that helps pay for travel gear and other necessities for the football program. The event was slated for Saturday.

A request to approve the annual event last week at the Wyoming Area school board meeting, including gambling on horse races, caught district solicitor Jarrett Ferentino off-guard.

Ferentino questioned whether the gambling activity would be acceptable within the new legal guidelines for charitable fundraising.

“I think we have to review it,” he said.

The request for approval was made by Resciniti, who said that he had attended workshops at Misericordia on the issue and had contacted officials about the planned event.

Board President John Bolin asked if Resciniti had received any approval in writing. Resciniti said that he had not.

Resciniti received a call from St. Barbara’s and was told that the diocese was no longer allowing people to use their property for fundraising. But Resciniti believed it went deeper than that.

Last Tuesday, Resciniti stood in front of the school board to explain to the panel that the event was B.Y.O.B., and the board had no problem with the alcohol because the school was not profiting from it.

“That took the agencies out of the picture,” Resciniti said. “The board approved it based on the findings of a solicitor.”

But that solicitor would later come back to haunt the WAFPA.

Resciniti was sent a letter by the solicitor stating that they couldn’t approve it because it was an illegal activity. But it wasn’t the alcohol that was the problem. It was the gambling.

House bill 290 touches on small games of chance. The vertical wheel and other games that can be found at church bazaars and fundraisers are in question.

And according to Resciniti, the diocese didn’t want that on its property.

Resciniti said he contacted legislators and discovered that the problem wasn’t the bill. He said it wasn’t going anywhere. The bill was passed through the House of Representatives. But once it reached the Senate, it stalled and is now tabled.

“With all that being said once we got the disapproval from the board and not having the ability to use St. Barbara’s, as president I had to do something,” he said.

Resciniti sat down with head coach Randy Spencer, assistant coach Tom Campenni, and Lou Ciampi, the chairperson for the Wyoming Area Alumni Association. It was there where the group decided it was best to shut the event down, even though it was so close to the event’s date.

“We decided that would be best,” Resciniti said. “We didn’t want to give our program a black eye. The school board could have pulled their affiliation with us, something like that. We didn’t want to deal with it.”

The WAFPA quickly acted on how it was going to make up half of its budget from the cancellation of Tribe Trot. This is what they came up with:

Horse owners will have two options. First, the owner can request their money back.

Or, something that will keep money in the WAFPA’s pocket, all of the horses will be turned into raffle tickets for three big ticket items. Those items are already purchased. They include a big screen television, an XBox 360 and an iPad Mini.

Tickets are still being sold prior to the drawing.

The raffle will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 11 at Meet the Warriors. The location of that event happens to be St. Barbara’s Parish.

“It’s kind of ironic,” Resciniti said.

Wyoming Area isn’t the first school in the area to have this problem. Resciniti said he spoke with representatives from G.A.R. and Meyers. Each of those schools had their Night at the Races shut down.

The WAFPA budgets about $25,000 for the football program annually. That money finances senior awards, team travel gear, duffle bags, a player barbeque and food during summer double sessions.

“Hopefully this can get passed through legislation sooner rather than later,” Resciniti said. “Until then, no one will be able to do this. In our case, the reward just wasn’t worth the risk.”