By Cary Shuman
The Salesian Boys and Girls Club that has existed for 70 years in East Boston has launched a basketball league for teenagers and named it in memory of beloved youth leader Wally Bowe.
The Wally Bowe Salesian Basketball In-House League, named to honor the many contributions to the community by former East Boston youth leader and Salesian program director Wally Bowe, will get underway on Thursday, Oct. 20 in the club’s gym on Byron Street.
The Rev. John Nazzaro, executive director of the club, said four teams, consisting of boys and girls ages 14-18, have already signed up for the league. Nazzaro is expecting 6-8 teams playing a 10-game schedule leading up to the playoffs in January.
“Our goals are to keep teenagers off the streets, have a positive impact in the neighborhood, and create a good opportunity for them to play in a basketball league,” said Nazzaro.
Each player in the league with receive a basketball T-shirt. There will be a team championship trophy, individual championship trophies, and individual awards at a season-ending celebration.
“We’ve applied for a grant with the East Boston Foundation and we’re seeking sponsorships from local businesses and individuals,” said Nazzaro. “Currently we have 6-7 sponsors.”
League games will consist of two 20-minute halves running time, with stop time for the final minute of each half. There will be adult referees for each game including the esteemed Nazzaro, who is a certified basketball official.
Nazzaro said that he and Mr. Bowe grew up on adjacent streets in East Boston and he considered his lifelong friend “a great role model” for youths. Mr. Bowe worked at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club for 30 years.
“Wally Bowe was such an integral part of the Salesian Boys and Girls Club,” said Nazzaro. “When they think of the club, they think of Wally Bowe. We had a basketball league three years ago and the interest has recouped itself and I want to keep the league in his memory because he was all about the kids. I think the teenagers in the area need this league more than ever because it will keep them involved in a fun and positive activity.”
Nazzaro is being assisted in the organizing of the league by former East Boston softball star Nicole McCormack, who is program director at the club, and Renee Elliott, who is teen coordinator.
The Wally Bowe In-House League will supplement the club’s travel basketball program that has boys Under-12 and Under-15, and girls Under-12 teams that compete against other clubs in the region.
(The deadline for sign-ups for the Wally Bowe/Salesian Basketball In-House League is Oct. 6. Please call 617-567-6626 for more details).