At its recent luncheon meeting, the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club was privileged to welcome Albert M. Vanasco, president of the Garden City Athletic Association (GCAA) for more than 32 years. In his review of the GCAA’s myriad team sport activities, he said that mainstream children, ages 6 to 18, are given the opportunity to participate in GCAA’s sports programs in which they may develop their skills and just have fun.
Vanasco is proud of the renowned Challenger Program for handicapped children that he created 30 years ago. Over the years, it has provided numerous sports activities (including its division in the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot) for youngsters with special needs.
“It wasn’t easy to get off the ground. We started out with eight participating children. Now, we have between 70 and 80,” Vanasco explained.
Challenger offers each youngster the opportunity to participate at their own level of ability. Vanasco said that watching these kids work to achieve, just having fun and putting smiles on their faces is gratifying. He reported that all Challenger programs are free, including the annual luncheon and tournament for the participants and their families—a highlight of the season.
Vanasco stressed that generous sponsors, a group of wonderful volunteers, plus support of the village and its forces are the keys to the GCAA’s success. “It’s a community effort,” he said, even to the volunteer pros from our local country clubs who teach golf and tennis to our kids with challenges.
“We have also initiated a buddy system for teenagers to help the players.” Vanasco said there is always a need for more volunteers, coaches and assistant coaches.
“Al Vanasco is the Mother Teresa of Garden City sports for our youth,” quipped Rotarian Jim Brady, past Little League coach who had worked with Vanasco long ago and was his presenter at the lunch meeting.