When Ray Ventrone of Chartiers Valley High School came to Altoona for the first Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East West All-Star Game in Altoona, I’m certain his host family never anticipated that he would one day be a member of the New England Patriots making a key tackle against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
More than 400 of the commonwealth’s outstanding high school football players have played in Altoona since that first game in 2001.
During the week of June 15, theAllegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau will again roll out the red carpet for 68 additional players who will showcase their skills before thousands of spectators at Mansion Park and a live statewide television audience.
My annual task is to find host families for all of the PSFCA All-Stars.
The local folks who step forward to assist are wonderful ambassadors who form lasting friendships with the players and their families. Most stay in touch with these student-athletes as they go on to play college football and in some cases, move on to the National Football League.
In some years, it’s a little easier to find host families than in others. As the game is only about two months away, I’m getting a little nervous because I still need to find homes for 25 players.
Host families are required to provide a comfortable bed for each player they host, serve breakfast from Monday, June 16, through Saturday, June 21 and drive the player(s) to and from practice each day.
This year, the West practices at Hollidaysburg High School while the East prepares daily at Mansion Park.
Only two evening meals need to be organized during the week. Often pool parties and barbecues are arranged with other host families.
All host families enjoy many perks including free tickets to the welcome luncheon on Sunday, June 15, the awards banquet at the Blair County Convention Center on Friday, June 20, where former-Pittsburgh Steeler John Banaszak will be the featured speaker; and of course, the game itself.
If you’re a retired couple with a spare bedroom or two, you’d make a fantastic host family.
Moms and dads with small children have found this to be an enriching experience. Families of high school and junior high school football players have also appreciated this opportunity.
If you think you can assist us this year, please contact me at the Altoona Area School District by calling 946-8424 between 7 a.m.-4 p.m. You can also send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I’ll be glad to speak with you, send you the schedule and tell you about our host family orientation meeting on May 29.
Thanks for considering this invitation. If you step forward to help, I guarantee you and your family a quite memorable week as you show our visitors why Blair County is such a fine place to live, work and raise a family.
Tom Bradley is the director of public relations for the Altoona Area School District and a member of the PSFCA organizing committee.