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Kids muster energy to raise $20K for track and field repairs

Bronx Times

Students at Villa Maria Academy are back on track. And field, too.

They helped raise $20,000 towards renovating the heavily used track and field course at the stately campus in Country Club.

Parts of the 200-meter track overlooking Eastchester Bay were battered last year by Hurricane Irene.

“It looked pretty weird with all those cracks and stuff on it,” recalled second grader Matthew McGrath.

He’s credited for collecting $465 for the cause, the most out of all students, said VMA gym teacher Michael Bernard.

Bernard organized a walkathon last May to help raise money towards fixing the track, with students asked to seek pledges.

“I was hoping to just get $10,000,” said Bernard.

Matthew’s pal Michael Oliveri scrounged up enough money to avoid digging into his own savings.

Andrew Gonzalez and Noah Marinaccio talked their folks into donating cash.

Twelve-year-old Alexis King, whose father Jimmy owns Ann Clair’s deli in Morris Park, jogged nearly 30 laps around the track.

Her father not only helped donate the food for the walkathon, but found sponsors for Alexis.

Jordan Epps, 12, convinced his parents to chip in by warning them he could “fall and break my face” on the track.

Six-year-old Rhiannon Hiney was happy to see the bumps go away while fifth grader Queenie Thompkins was glad to see a track “everyone can run proudly on.”

With the money raised, Principal/Sister Teresa Barton turned to WP Bluestone Inc., a Bronx-based masonry company headed by Joe Dodaro.

“This is definitely one of our prouder projects,” said Joe’s wife and business partner Maria.

“When Joe heard it was donated money he went the extra mile,” she said. “He made sure the track was done the right way.”

Starting in August, Joe and his team reinforced the seawall, smoothed out the asphalt surface and painted the yellow track lines with help from Bernard.

Worked wrapped up mid-September.

She was equally impressed by neighbors and administrators contributing to the project.

One of them was Joe Trezza, an avid runner and VMA’s head of maintenance, who led the administration’s collective efforts, raising nearly $1000 for the project.

His participating was a no-brainer: “Trying to keep fit and helping the school,” he said.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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