By Isaiah Negron
Frank DiCocco was a highly respected 29-year-old high school football coach who turned down a position at Yale to work with inner city teenagers that needed encouragement and guidance both on and off the field. In 2010, he wrote "Playbook for Manhood," an instructional guide to help young men develop the positive characteristics of manhood. In 2011, he created "The REAL Man Program," a character-education curriculum for coaches and teachers to use to instill in their players and students respect, integrity, courage and honor.
Tragically, Frank's life was cut short last April when he lost his courageous battle against bone marrow failure. After this devastating personal tragedy, his parents, Kathy and Lou DiCocco, turned their pain into a quest to continue their son's legacy and work. They took their cues from Frank who believed that positive action and determination can surmount any tragedy. From working with some of the country's leading high school and collegiate programs, he discovered his core mission of helping develop character and leadership skills in underprivileged young people.
In 2011, Frank had come to his parents with a plan. "He was coaching kids who were going home and all too often were not finding dinner or family members " Kathy explains. "He asked us to start a foundation to raise money for student athletic scholarships, team dinners and camps, which we did." Together Kathy, Lou and Frank started The H.O.P.E. Foundation, a non-profit organization that centers on Helping Other People Excel. Today, the DiCocco's faithfully carry on their son's mission to help train youth in need. "We both have done our own charity work but this was Frank's niche in the athletic world and we want to continue to carry out his dream," Lou says.
The DiCocco's have partnered with Hartford's Camp Courant, the oldest and largest free summer camp program in America. Together with The H.O.P.E. Foundation, the camp will launch a pilot program this summer using The REAL Man Character Development Program that features 20 lesson plans. This program will help over 1,100 young people to build character and make the right choices when faced with tough decisions. "We told Camp Courant about Frank's Development Program and they loved the books so we were happy to donate them for their curriculum," says Kathy. Lou added, "We're also trying to get the book into as many schools across the country as we can."
On January 12th, the DiCocco's had a booth at the American Football Coaches Association in Indianapolis, the largest convention of its kind that brings together coaches from across the country from high schools, colleges and the NFL. The DiCocco's handed out three thousand copies of "Playbook for Manhood" to interested coaches. "Our kids really need direction in today's society," Lou said. As Frank once said, "I believe in building people. Building championship football teams is important. Building championship people is even more important." •
The H.O.P.E. Foundation