Sitrin STARS and local celebs back in action at 18th annual Wheelchair Classic

Boeheim brothers and Erin Hamlin participate in the event


Photo courtesy of Sitrin Home.

The 18th annual Sitrin Celebrity Classic Wheelchair Game was held at Utica University on April 28.

Corey Lichtman, Contributing Writer

The energy was contagious at the 18th annual Sitrin Celebrity Classic Wheelchair game on April 28 in the Clark Athletic Center. The event returned after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

Syracuse University basketball players Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim and Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin were the celebrity guests who participated in front of a large crowd.

“I had a blast tonight,” Buddy Boeheim said. “It was great to be a part of such a great event.”

The Sitrin Stars displayed a lot of skill as they led the whole game over the local celebrities. Players showed passion on the court, as well as good chemistry among each other. Three-time Paralympian Jimmy Joseph, of New Hartford, was a fan favorite with his hustle and energy on the court.

“It felt fantastic seeing everybody out there,” Joseph said. “I missed it. I haven’t shot a basketball in two years. Hopefully we keep doing this.”

The annual game matches the Success Through Adaptive Sports and Recreation (STARS) team against local celebrities playing on the Celebrity Cruisers team. 

Some of the other non-athlete celebrities included New York State Sen. Joseph Griffo, Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon and local figures from WKTV, WIBIX, BIG FROG 104, MIX 102.5 and LITE 98.7.

“It was nice to have everyone back in person,” said Steve McMurray, WKTV vice president and general manager who coached the local celebrities. “It is good to get other people involved because whenever I play, I come away with cuts.”

Attendees had fun during the event. At halftime, the raffle ticket winner got to take on both Boeheim brothers in a three-point competition, which excited the crowd. After that, both brothers signed autographs and took pictures with fans.

“It was nice to see the money go to a good cause as well as meeting the Boeheim brothers,” spectator Amber Jenkins said.

The crowd was energetic throughout the game and cheered after each basket was made. Both teams put on a good show, for a good cause. All profits will help fund new sports wheelchairs and equipment and offset training and competition expenses for the Sitrin STARS athletes.

Marc DePerno, director of the Sitrin STARS program and Utica alumnus, said it was great to be back in-person and the event’s atmosphere felt normal. He hopes to bring in another SU basketball player for next year’s event.

“This felt amazing and long overdue,” DePerno said. “We have to keep this tradition going.”