By Isaiah Negron
There are few things in life stronger than a family who bands together in the face of tragedy to help others. Frank DiCocco, a highly respected 29-year-old football coach worked with inner city youth that needed encouragement and guidance both on and off the field.
After his untimely death in 2011, his sister, Nicole, along with her parents, Kathy and Lou DiCocco, turned their pain into a quest to continue Frank’s legacy and work. “As a football coach, my brother realized that many of his team members went home to single parent families that offered very little support,” Nicole remembers. “I want to take what he started and bring it into fruition.” From there, the family started the H.O.P.E. Foundation For a Better Tomorrow, a non-profit organization which stands for: Helping Other People Excel, by funding scholarships, sponsoring after school programs and providing character development programs to schools with limited resources.
“My motivation is really to be my brother’s memory keeper,” Nicole confides. The REAL Man Program, a character development program written by her brother Frank, aims to teach young men how to respect women as well as themselves, by using the game of football as a reference point. “The program is especially poignant at a time rife with violence in the NFL,” she adds.
A former debutante, Nicole broke out of her bubble and took the helm in honor of her brother, forging a new path where she learned about football, charity, and the importance of helping the underprivileged. “New York has a wonderful circuit of galas that raise money for various charities, but rarely do the participants have the opportunity to work with the actual people they are helping,” she admits. “Now I’m using my skills to closely work with the children we have invested in, trekking to the PS 5 elementary school in Harlem to sit with the children, watching them grow into mature and considerate individuals.”
The most rewarding experiences have come from students using the program in everyday life. Last month, the Rogers Morning News in Arkansas ran a story about a vivacious 8th grader who was slapped by a girl on the bus ride home. His first thought was to hit back but the REAL Man lesson kicked in and he stopped himself.
Partnering with Hartford’s Camp Courant, the oldest and largest summer camp program in America, the foundation launched a platform using The REAL Man Character Development Program. “We have been able to engage so many people to share in what my brother envisioned,” she reveals. “Last year, the foundation awarded 11 scholarships, sent seven children to Camp Courant and disseminated 16,000 copies of the REAL MAN program to need-based schools nationwide.
In 2015, Nicole and her parents aim to further spread Frank’s character development program across the country and provide even more scholarships. “One hundred percent of the money we raise goes to the foundation and our scholarships, with the day to day operating expenses being underwritten by the DiCocco family.”
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