Written by Matthew Levine Saturday, 09 August 2014 00:00
Much like any other Friday afternoon, on Aug. 1, the Over the Hill Gang held its weekly softball games at Ellsworth Allen Park in Farmingdale. However, this was no ordinary occasion for the men’s 40 and over softball league, which was playing to help raise funds for nine-year-old Sal Pugliese Jr., who has been dealing with Perthes Disease—which affects the hipbone.
“It’s awesome. This is what makes things happen... the fundraisers,” said Pugliese Jr.’s grandfather Anthony Betro. “Not covered by insurance so we’re relying on donations and the support of the community. That’s what makes the country great. Everybody pitches in when there’s need and magic happens. That’s what’s happening now.”
Each year, for the past 30 years, the OTHG has held an annual fundraiser to help those in need. Last year, they raised $20,000 and hope to do the same for Sal.
OTHG President Jim Reilly explained that each year, the league pools its money together. “Whatever is left over in our ‘kitty,’ we put on the side for charity,” Reilly said. “Each year we try to nominate a candidate and we have a charity night like this.”
In between the two softball fields, a stage was set for live music as well as raffle tables. Prizes ranged from acoustic guitars, a signed Eli Manning poster and small electronics like an iPod.
“Every player [in the league] donated $25 to the Over The Hill Gang charity. That’s figured into their registration,” Reilly said.
The charity committee that is associated with the league, heard about young Sal and his battle with Perthes, and decided to hold the annual fundraiser for him. Any funds raised went directly to the family to use it for whatever they need.
Sal was diagnosed with Perthes about 10 months ago. After feeling pain in the area and limping, the nine-year-old boy was diagnosed. Perthes is a disease that afflicts about one in 1,200 children. It happens when the hipbone deteriorates due to lack of blood flow in the hip.
The process to recovery includes taking stem cells from the femur and injecting them into the hip to help rejuvenate the bone. He had major surgery 6 months ago and is currently on a machine for up to 23 hours a day to keep his leg aligned, said Betro, who expected Sal to have to have a hip replacement in 20 years or so.
Sal unfortunately couldn’t see the outpouring of the community as he was down in Baltimore receiving treatment. When he returns he will be on the machine less frequently.
“Where he is, is more important at the moment,” said Betro. “He wanted to get that out of the way before school starts.”
However despite the difficulties at such a young age, Sal was doing remarkably well.
“Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but for a nine-year-old kid it’s amazing. A lot of people, a lot of kids wouldn’t be able to take it,” Betro said.