Utica to host 18th annual Sitrin Celebrity Classic Wheelchair Game


Matthew Breault

The 18th Annual Sitrin Celebrity Classic Wheelchair Basketball Game will take place in the Harold Thomas Clark Athletic Center.

Isabella Hudziak, Managing News Editor

After a two-year hiatus, the Sitrin Health Care Center will be holding the 18th Annual Celebrity Classic Wheelchair Basketball game on Thursday, April 28. The game will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Utica University Harold T. Clark Athletic Center.

The annual game, which consists of the Success Through Adaptive Sports and Recreation (STARS) team against local celebrities playing on the Celebrity Cruisers team, was created to promote visibility and raise funds for adaptive sports equipment 

“We have heard so many stories of people of all abilities that want to participate in sports or any activity in life and maybe they can’t because of lack of access, lack of funding or lack of information,” said Marc DePerno, the Director of the Sitrin STARS Adaptive Sports Program. “We try to bridge the gap in the world of sport specifically with the STARS program.”

The STARS program was established in 2001 to provide individuals with physical disabilities opportunities to engage in a variety of sports through their adaptive sports program, according to the Sitrin website.

DePerno expressed excitement for the event finally happening after a COVID induced two-year break.

“There was significant positive reception from the phone calls and communications from sponsors and celebrity participants from the past who said ‘yes, I wanna come back, I wanna play, this is a great event,’” DePerno said. “It calmed my news and it really brought a lot more excitement. Now we’re full steam ahead.”

Among the Celebrity Cruisers this year are Syracuse University men’s basketball members and brothers Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim and Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin.

Other non-athlete celebrities include New York State Sen. Joseph Griffo, Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, Steve McMurrary and Kristen Copeland from WKTV and more local figures from places including WIBX, BIG FROG 104, MIX 1025 and LITE 98.7.

The game will have a 50/50 silent auction, with concessions available for purchase and a raffle for the chance to compete in a three-point competition against the Boeheim brothers during halftime.

This year’s game has around 17 sponsors, including Fust Charles Chambers LLP to promote a successful event.

DePerno said Utica University students should consider attending the upcoming game because it is not only a learning opportunity, but a way to support the community.

“It’s a chance to see something that most people never see in their lifetime– a wheelchair basketball game,” DePerno said. “It’s an opportunity to raise awareness. You never know what might happen to yourself, a friend, a family or community member, and just learning about wheelchair basketball and the possibility of adaptive sport, that’s what it’s all about.”

Tickets can be purchased online at the Sitrin website, from the Sitrin healthcare facility receptionist or at the door before the game begins.