BY MARC MATURO
There was no coin toss to decide who would receive the ball and which team would be defending what goal, and there was no penalty called despite a late start as a long line of patient fans waited for the first autograph session to start.
But all in all, once the ball was kicked off at Dave & Buster’s at the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack on Sunday afternoon, everyone settled in at a plethora of tables as the National Football League (NFL) in general, and the celebrated New York Giants franchise in particular, played another small part in community involvement – this time for the many thousands of people brutalized by Superstorm Sandy.
Proceeds are earmarked for the Red Cross of the Greater New York Region.
David Wilson, smiling easily and trading small talk, was the first Giants player to meet and greet children and adults alike, many coming from afar, such as Victor Padilla of Bloomfield, N.J., in Essex County, a frequent visitor to the four-story mall.
“I came here to watch the game and have something to eat. I didn’t even know of this, but when I found out I decided to stay,” said Padilla, a Marine who maintains any Marine is always willing to help out. “I’m here for Andre Brown, he’s a good guy. I met him at L.A. Fitness (Secaucus, N.J.). I support everything he does. It’s all about helping out.”
Providing the first line of defense, so to speak, as fans entered the eatery was former Nyack HS receiver Paul Bennett of Central Nyack, a captain at Dave & Buster’s who played for longtime coach John Castellano, and later attended Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry not to catch a football but rather to catch a baseball as a first baseman (let it be said that the still-sturdy Bennett, Nyack HS Class of ’93, kept his hand on the gridiron with the Rockland Bruins, a semipro outfit).
First in line to purchase a ticket and then acquire an autograph and perhaps a photo was Regina Kennedy of West Nyack and her somewhat camera shy 4-year-old son, John. They were followed by former Monroe-Woodbury HS track and field teammates Ryan Kachmarsky and Matt Berman, a season ticket holder with his dad since 1970; they were seeking out Wilson and were happy to be supporting a worthwhile cause.
“The Red Cross effort if good for everyone, it’s definitely for a good cause,” said Berman.
Another season ticket holder of 25-plus years, who has been helping the cause by promoting ProSports on Facebook, is Neuman of Paramus, N.J.
“I have a lot of friends who are Giants fans,” Neuman noted. “When I heard about the cause, I knew it would be great. Dave & Buster’s community involvement is great, too.
Neuman was accompanied by Stacie Katz of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., whose only plaint related to her lack of season tickets.
“No, not me, I wish I had them,” she said, repeating a sentiment offered by longtime Giants fan Louie Caputo of Orangebgurg, who was waiting to meet Wilson with his wife, Stephanie, and his 5-year-old son, Angelo.
Bryan Markiet of Blauvelt, a self-proclaimed “huge Giants fan,” was content in meeting any player among a group that was to include, besides Wilson, Domenik Nixon, Steve Weatherford, Steve Brown, Andrew Brown, David Carr, and Chase Blackburn.
Markiet, alongside his young sons Elias and Ethan, students in the South Orangetown Central School District, was another attendee drawn by the dual purpose of obtaining an autographed photo and helping out those hurt terribly by Superstorm Sandy.
“You know, it’s very important to help these people,” he said. “Some of these people lost everything, and people tend to forget very quickly. Many, many people still need help. I’m glad to contribute.”
Charlie D’Angelo of Bardonia, a season ticket holder of eight years, wanted Wilson’s signature on a football.
“I had to come,” D’Angelo said. “These athletes deserve some credit. It’s absolutely great, especially on an off week – amazing.”
For his part, Wilson seemed to be enjoying the fact that the people were enjoying it.
“It’s all about them,” said the Giants’ rookie back, with a genuine smile. “I do a few of these from time to time, and it’s always better when the people seem to be having a good time.”
- Another benefit effort, for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, is scheduled at the Times Square Dave & Buster’s on Monday, Dec. 3, from 8 p.m. to midnight. On hand to commentate as the Giants meet the Washington Redskins, on TV, will be Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Henry Carson, and former tight end Mark Bavaro. For further information visit http://www.yourVIPpass.com.
- Mario Rosario of Nanuet, another captain at Dave & Buster’s, helped to control the ticket line.