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The folks behind Sun Smart, including key organizer Teri Festa (standing, far right, in front of retired Montclair assistant principal for athletics John Porcelli) have put together events such as the Sunsmart Bowl during last fall's Nutley-Montclair Super Essex Conference football game. This season, on the weekend of Sept. 12-13, the SEC is urging all its football teams to be a part of first Team Sun Smart Weekend. (Photos by Glenn Kross- www.glennkrossphotography.com)
Millburn at Livingston on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 13, will pick up where Nutley at Montclair left off last year with its first Sunsmart Bowl as Team Sun Smart Weekend takes center stage.
SEC To Raise Skin Cancer Awareness
LIVINGSTON- Pat Genova was like many of us, taking in a bit too much sun through the years only to one day realize he better take more notice of what this long-standing summertime habit for many was incurring on his own body.
“I was a sun-worshipper,” said the veteran Livingston High School athletic director. “Then, I had a scare a few years back when the dermatologist found something on my back, biopsied it and discovered melanoma.
“Now I buy totally into the importance of guarding against too much sun for all ages and at all times of the year. You can’t be too careful.
Fairly soon all fall athletes will be out in the August heat for pre-season practice for football, soccer, field hockey and the like. Then, when the season gets underway, the awareness of protecting oneself against the sun will be taken on first hand by the Super Essex Conference, which is encouraging all its football teams to take part in the first "Team Sun Smart Weekend," scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12-13.
“It’s an awareness we’ve tried to instill in all our athletes and coaches at Livingston and we’re trying to promote the importance of using sun screen, and observing care when it comes to avoiding too much exposure to the sun,” said Genova. “I’m thrilled that the SEC is fully behind the idea and that people like Teri Festa of Montclair is doing some great work behind the scenes with her emphasis on a great program and cause.”
Teri, a former standout female athlete at Montclair High, is carrying on the legacy of her dad, the late Ray Festa, who was a standout quarterback for coaches Clary Anderson and Butch Fortunato at Montclair.
In fact, Ray Festa and Mike Gertrude of Nutley were two all-time great quarterbacks for their respective schools in the 1950s and are now still making an impact more than half a century later as their memories were honored with a great message during the first “Sun Smart Bowl” to raise skin cancer awareness, held last fall as Nutley and Montclair met at the Mounties’ Woodman Field.
“This partnership between the Mike Geltrude Foundation and the Ray Festa Melanoma Foundation (also known as Live Sun Smart Foundation or LSSF) has been a long time in coming,” said Teri Festa, who is executive director of LSSF. “Dan’s (Geltrude) dad and my father were similar in the fact that both men were people who cared deeply about their towns and the kids who lived there.
“It is a natural partnership that I am confident will help LSFF do great things together beginning with this tribute game.”
Mike Geltrude (Nutley Class of 1959) and Ray Festa (MHS Class of ’57) actually played against each other on Oct. 13, 1956. Both men, who were major parts of their communities in their post-playing days, each died of melanoma, which led to the foundations created by each man’s family.
The LSSF and Mike Geltrude Foundation have now joined forces to raise awareness about the importance of skin cancer prevention and early detection of the disease. There is educational literature and sunscreen available at the game. Both teams wore orange ribbons on their helmets as well as orange shoe laces, and the cheerleaders wore orange ribbons to signify solidarity and support for the message.
It’s an on-going effort that will also take place at schools such as Livingston on Saturday, Sept. 13, when the Lancers host rival Millburn in their first Sun Smart Game as part of the SEC’s emphasis on the project.
There will be volunteers on hand at tables where the word will be spread about how to live responsibly in the sun and sun screen will be distributed.
Scientists have estimated that a child who applies sunscreen can cut the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult by as much as 70%.
“We think it is very important to remind people to wear sunscreen all year long so that is why we chose to conduct a sun awareness event in the fall,” said Dan Geltrude of the Mike Geltrude Foundation. “It is amazing to think that Ray and my father played against each other in the same game over 50 years ago and now we are here having lost both of them to the same insidious disease.
“The idea is to support the ideas that athletes who spend lots of time outdoors are at higher risk- and also especially back then when they didn’t know a lot about sunscreen and other sun protection behaviors.”
Montclair’s retired assistant principal John Porcelli and Nutley Athletic Director Joe Piro are two other men who are strongly behind the idea of a Sun Smart Bowl.
“This is just a tremendous idea and I give credit to both Teri and Dan for joining forces with their foundations to promote a great cause in their fathers’ names,” said Porcelli. “And, we’re able to bring the information awareness aspect of it all into athletic events, which is great.”
“It’s our hope – both with the Live Sun Smart and Mike Geltrude Foundations – that before players lace up their cleats or put on their protective padding, that they will apply a generous layer of sunscreen to their faces, arms, legs and other areas of exposed skin,” said Teri Festa.
Teri’s dad helped lead the 1956 squad, considered one of the finest squads in Montclair’s rich football history. The team, which also featured the Haines twins, Richie and Robert, outscored its opponents, 307-28, while recording five shutouts. Montclair knocked off a very good East Orange team, 28-0, in week 5, edged a superb Clifton edition, 19-7, in week 8, and then crushed a then up-and-coming Bloomfield team, 33-7, on Thanksgiving Day for three of the more noteworthy victories that fall.
Ray Festa, who was an ardent supporter of all Montclair sports as a great Mountie fan in his adult life; passed away Nov. 8, 1992.
“You can tell from the dedication to such a great cause that Teri shows that she truly loved her dad and wants to help promote a tremendous effort in his spirit by encouraging all the schools in the SEC and beyond to maintain awareness about the sun and take precautions in it,” said Genova. “We’re thrilled to be behind the cause in the SEC and we hope all our member schools are as enthusiastic about it as we plan to be.”
The following is a message from the SEC to its member schools about Team Sun Smart Weekend:
Super Essex Conference
Team Sun Smart Weekend
September 12 /13, 2014
In order to promote skin cancer awareness in our youth and throughout Essex County while reinforcing importance of everyone to wear sunscreen, a Team SunSmart Weekend will be held in the Super Essex Conference the weekend of September 12 /13, 2014.
We are hopeful that every school throughout the conference will participate and promote this initiative in any or all of the following ways during this weekend.
The late Ray Festa, star quarterback for the 1956 Montclair High football team, and eventually a victim of the dreaded disease of skin cancer, is the inspiration of his daughter, Teri Festa, who has encouraged many, including those administrators in the Super Essex Conference, to raise awareness about an important topic through the upcoming 'Team Sun Smart Weekend," which will take place at SEC football games the weekend of Sept. 12-13. (photo courtesy of the Festas)
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