Zach Thomann, Sports Editor
The Sitrin Stars held a 55-47 lead as time expired over a group of 17 local celebrities during the 16th annual Sitrin Celebrity Wheelchair Classic on Thursday, April 19, at the Harold T. Clark Athletic Center at Utica College. The celebrity team was down by so many points that the scorekeepers jokingly altered the score to make the game close.
Nobody at the event cared about who won the game. What was important to the fans and the athletes was showing their support for a great cause.
Some celebrities in attendance included former Syracuse University basketball players, Eric Devendorf and Lawrence Moten, as well as four-time Olympian in luge, Erin Hamlin.
This was Devendorf’s second time at the event, and he was grateful to be involved once again.
“I’m just happy to participate in an event for a great cause,” Devendorf said.
Devendorf didn’t score in the game, although he wished he could have, but the experience gave him some perspective on the challenges that the Sitrin Stars face every day.
“This is pretty difficult,” Devendorf said. “These guys out here are incredible. It just goes to show you that a lot of hard work goes into this, and I’m glad I could compete in such a fun event.”
Director Jim Rondenelli of WIBX radio was another celebrity who was held scoreless to the Sitrin Stars defense. Rondenelli has been competing for over five years, and he continues to be amazed by how talented the Sitrin team is.
“They are a real inspiration, and they are great at what they do,” Rondenelli said.
Rondenelli said he jumped at the opportunity to play this year, and he also has an enhanced perspective of the challenges the Sitrin athletes face.
“It’s a fun event,” Rondenelli said. “But after it’s over, I can stand up and walk away. Some people look at the athletes as disabled, but I see people with a challenge that they overcame.”
Many of the Sitrin Stars compete in many sports and a few have been in the Paralympic games. This was Hermin Garic’s 14th year competing in the Celebrity Classic, and he has a goal of finishing the Boilermaker road race this year.
Garic said he likes to set high goals for himself and was aiming for at least 20 points in the game. He didn’t quite make it to his goal for the game, but thoroughly enjoyed having the event at the college once again.
“Having UC host this is awesome,” Garic said. “We get a lot of people from the community coming to the event. It’s a nice gym, and we fill the stands every year. It’s a great feeling to play in front of a big crowd.”
Garic has played against several celebrities in his 14 years with the Sitrin team. He said that playing against former Syracuse players is a wonderful experience.
“It’s great to have them kind of humble themselves by getting in a chair,” Garic said. “They get to see the game from a different perspective, and how it is played.”
In addition to playing against Syracuse athletes, Garic enjoys seeing the community come together for the cause.
Garic’s teammate Vincent Bevivino is the one who helped get him started with the event. Bevivino has also played for 14 years and said the event continues to grow.
“It has been growing fast over the years,” Bevivino said. “It’s pretty shocking sometimes.”
The event continues to attract more fans and celebrities, and Bevivino believes it is the perfect way for celebrities and athletes to come together.
“If they look up to us, it gives people more reason to look up to them,” Bevivino said.