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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Tom Bucaria
Rockville Centre 2013 Person of the Year
Tom Bucaria

Thinking back on the many soccer games she played as a child with her father watching in the stands, one in particular springs to Catherine Bucaria’s mind — one that took place on a cold, wet day early one March.

“We were playing through this rain, and all of a sudden, in the middle of the first half, I see my dad leave, and I think, where is he going? What’s going on?” she recounted. “Then he drives back. He had gone to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought seven Boxes O’ Joe filled with hot chocolate, just to give the players something to warm them up. He bought enough for a cup for every person on that field and in the stands. Every one.

“I don’t remember whether we won the game or lost it,” Catherine added. “I just remember everyone being so much happier going into the second 40 minutes.”

Tom Bucaria, omnipresent at village charitable functions yet customarily far from the spotlight, took over as president of the Rockville Centre Little League in 2010 — years after both of his children had left the league. Since then, as his friend and Little League colleague Paul Sewell describes it, Bucaria has broadened the league’s focus from purely sports to emphasize community service.

Since Bucaria’s first year as president, the Little League’s Kick-off Parade Food Drive has collected nearly 10,000 pounds of food donations, all of which goes to Rockville Centre food pantries. In 2012, with his leadership, the league inaugurated its own chapter of the Challenger Division, a baseball team for disabled youths. The group began its first season with 16 players and around 30 student members of the Best Buddies program, an organization that creates friendships between volunteers and people with developmental disabilities. This year there were twice as many players and nearly 80 Buddies.

“He does a spectacular job with the Little League — he’s a terrific president,” Gene Kirley, who serves as commissioner of the Challengers, said of Bucaria. “He’s a leader, and he really has the interest of the children first and foremost.”

Kirley added, “He loves the Challengers. He loves the kids. His selfless contribution to children and young adults with special needs is just unbelievable.”

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