MIKE NIETO: T.F. North, T.F. South come together

2013-10-17T16:45:00Z 2013-10-18T04:35:04Z MIKE NIETO: T.F. North, T.F. South come togetherMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
October 17, 2013 4:45 pm  • 

Amidst the red for T.F. South and the purple for T.F. North, you may see a lot of blue at tonight's football game.

Blue as in shining the blue light on autism.

The players on both sides will wear blue socks and blue autism awareness stickers on their helmets.

All week students at both schools took part in fundraising raffles and had the chance to buy a blue T-shirt. Any student from either school who wears that shirt tonight gets in for free.

It will be a special night for T.F. North assistant coach Mike Anaclerio. On Oct. 8, 2012, his sister Mary died of colon cancer at the age of 41. Mary was diagnosed with autism as a child. Mike, a Merrillville grad, said while Mary's time was much too short, she made an impact on his family that was immeasurable.

"Mary's Piece of the Puzzle" is his way of raising money for autism awareness and to get kids involved, though he credits T.F. South assistant coach Chet Hanson for coming up with this idea.

"I was talking with Mike one night, we are neighbors, and I just brought it up," Hanson said. "He always talked about Mary and when she passed last year, I said this would be a good way for her name to live on."

Mike's parents helped found Crown Point-based In-Pact in the early 1980's. In-Pact creates an array of services to enable children to be maintained in their own local communities, according to its website.

Mary lived in her own apartment, which allowed her to be independent.

Yes, these two schools are bitter rivals, but it really says something about the kids in the two high schools and the people in these communities that they can come together for a good cause.

"This means a lot o me," Anaclerio said Monday as he, head coach Artie Rogers and the rest of the football staff were preparing for T.F. South. "Artie gave the kids a great speech about doing for others and that not everything you do is for yourself.

"These kids understand that. Javon Brown, one of our players, he spearheaded the raffle ticket-selling. He said, 'Coach gimme some, I will sell them.'"

Anaclerio said Mary's brain was donated to the Harvard Brain Bank for study so as doctors can find what causes autism and hopefully find a way to cure it.

Hanson concurred with Anaclerio about teaching kids to do the right thing.

"Our program, under Coach (Tom) Padjen, we teach kids about life lessons as well as football," Hanson said. "There is more to life than football. I really hope we sell as lot of tickets and raise a lot of money."

So do I. Mary's piece of the puzzle is just one small bit in a bigger puzzle. And a bigger picture.


This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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