On a night when the Williamsport Area School District welcomed its current and former students, the community, decked out in pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, gave a special "welcome back" to one alumni Friday night.
Frank Girardi, hall-of-fame football coach at Lycoming College, was awarded the first-ever Distinguished Alumni Award for the district.
"It's really a great moment. My days at Williamsport High School were nothing but great memories," Girardi said after receiving the award from Sue Swank-Caschera, president of the alumni association.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN, JR./Sun-Gazette
Above, former Williamsport Area High School football player and hall-of-fame Lycoming College football coach Frank Girardi accepts the first Distinguished Alumni Award prior to Friday evening’s Millionaire football game in Williamsport.
Although Girardi, a 1957 graduate, had great success while he roamed the sidelines for Lycoming College, his football career started as a running back in the 1950s.
After receiving his degree from West Chester University, Girardi began coaching, which he said was "natural." After coaching Jersey Shore Area High School, Girardi became the head coach for the Lycoming College Warriors - a post he would hold for 36 years.
Girardi became one of only 29 coaches to earn more than 200 victories with one school and won two national championships with the Warriors.
He was inducted into four hall of fames - Lycoming Athletics Hall of Fame, Valley Hall of Fame, The
Pennsylvania State Sports Hall of Fame and West Chester University's W. Glenn Killinger Hall of Fame.
Girardi also was given the honor of having ESPN Radio 1050/104.1 name its lifetime achievement award after him.
To Girardi, there was no place better for his alma mater to present him with such an honor than Millionaire Stadium.
"You can't beat this. A fall night, the smell of grass and a football game. It doesn't get any better than this," he said.
And of all his accomplishments, Girardi said he's proud that he always had a team of "consistent winners." He said there were no ups and downs with losing records, they always competed.
But stressing the "student" part of student-athlete was equally important. Girardi said his players understood that professional ball wasn't likely and that they simply played for the "love of the game."
Dr. Kathleen Kelley, superintendent, said Girardi was very deserving of the award.
"We are Millionaire proud to claim Frank Girardi as on of our alumni. He has distinguished himself in athletics throughout his career. We wish him success in all his future endeavors."
The crowd also welcomed the city's youth football cheerleaders, who cheered with the high school squad during the game.
Erin Butler, commissioner, said when she started the four squads that there were no funds. The group is now participating in competitions and other community events.
Butler is hoping that its bringing the community together and reintroducing Flanigan Park.
"I think it pulls (community members) together. Everyone was so scared to go down to Flanigan Park after the shootings," she said.
These were just some of the activities during homecoming, as much of the crowd showed support for Breast Cancer Awareness by participating in the "pink out."
Lynn Robinson, president of the football booster club, said the event has been held for three years. This year, the club sold pink shirts that will see its proceeds go to Geisinger Health System.
Robinson estimated about 400 shirts sold.
The club also sold blue ribbons in support of Head Coach Kevin Choate, who was diagnosed with colon cancer at the beginning of the school year.