St. Ephrem’s Scores for Kids With Cancer

St. Francis College men’s basketball players Jahmel Bodrick, left, and Joshua Nurse, right, pose with “Swish For Kids” participant George Fischetti. Photo (C) Jim Mancari

St. Ephrem’s parish, Dyker Heights, once again came through with a “swish.”

In continuing a winter tradition, the parish hosted its annual “Swish For Kids” basketball classic on Sunday, Jan. 22 in the school gymnasium.

The men’s basketball teams from St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, and the College of Mount St. Vincent, the Bronx, put on a clinic for children battling cancer and those who have completed their treatment.

The life of a college student-athlete can be jam-packed, from schoolwork, to practice, to games, to travel week after week during the season.

However, at least for one day, these athletes gave back to their local community by interacting with children who’ve had a tough road.

“Anything you can do to help people in this situation is probably more rewarding than anything else in your life,” said Glenn Braica, the Terriers’ head coach. “You need to learn the value of that. It’s the most important thing that they can probably do all year.”

“There’s a lot of kids who are battling for their lives,” said Joshua Nurse, a sophomore forward at St. Francis. “Just coming out here and putting a smile on their faces really changes their lives and really helps them a lot.”

The event was founded in December 2011 by the parish athletic representative Frank Stella, who himself is a survivor of stage 4-B Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Six children attended that first year, and the event has continuously grown, with nearly 30 honorees in attendance this year.

“It’s really their day,” said Mary Donnelly, who chaired the event for the first time. “They are the true heroes. They are the ones who overcame obstacles.”

The children are always in awe of the talented college basketball players, who show off their high-level skills while also teaching the kids the basic fundamentals of the game they all love.

“I learned how to dribble behind my back,” said eight-year-old Julianna Cecere, a student at St. Ephrem’s and a participant in the event.

“It’s really cool because every year they come back with something new,” St. Ephrem’s student Tommy Guardavaccaro, 12, said, adding that this year he learned better dribbling skills from the college players.

In addition to basketball drills up and down the court, the children were offered a number of other entertainment opportunities.

Street ball legend Jack “Black Jack” Ryan wowed the crowd with his basketball tricks, and members of the Princess Project, a group of students from Mount St. Vincent who dress up as Disney princesses and visit local children’s hospitals, spread plenty of joy to the youngsters.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Francesco Loccisano Pediatric Cancer Foundation, committed to providing financial support for families all over the country with a child battling pediatric cancer.

Also known as Frankie’s Mission, the non-profit organization was started in memory of Frankie Loccisano, a former student at St. Ephrem’s School and Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, who passed away in September 2007 after a courageous battle with bone cancer and leukemia.

As he went through his treatment, Frankie had a vision of launching his own foundation to assist the childhood cancer community, since he always wanted other children to be able to smile as they went through their treatment.

“These are children that are going through a lot,” said Camille Orrichio Loccisano, Frankie’s mom and the president and founder of the organization. “They have a really serious illness, and they have to do so much to try to get themselves back to good health.

“This is a day for them to just forget about all that. It’s a day of fun, and that’s what my son Frankie wanted.

“This is Frankie’s home (parish). His wish is happening in his home, and it’s just so symbolic and it’s very meaningful to me personally as a mom who went through this.”

The organization, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, recently introduced a new initiative, thanks to a $50,000 grant from Investors Bank.

Members of the program, known as “Frankie’s Smiles,” visit childcare centers at hospitals to provide an enrichment program, including music and art, to children undergoing treatment. The pilot program was launched at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Fort Greene.

Sometimes the most complex cancer treatments can only do so much, but there’s one thing that always lifts these kids’ spirits:

A smile.

To make a donation to help a family of a child with pediatric cancer, visit

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