Annual tournament honors Josh Smialek
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Mar. 20, 2013
Sometimes something good can come out of a tragedy. Such is the case with former Stafford High School student Josh Smialek who was killed in a car accident five years ago. Since that time, his mother, Gail Smialek, his sister, Sarah Smialek, and friends have held an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Their goal is to raise funds for an on-going athletic scholarship at Stafford High School and for improvements to town courts at Olympic Field, off Route 190, in Josh’s memory.
“[Josh] was all about basketball,” said Gail Smialek, explaining the reason behind the annual tournament. “He was co-captain of the Stafford High team and played travel basketball, and he volunteered in a K to grade three program to help children learn about basketball.”
This year the tournament was held at the Stafford High School gymnasium on Saturday, March 16. The all-day event began with a children’s tournament at 9 a.m., followed by a women’s team tournament at 10 a.m. and an open tournament at noon. The day featured not only basketball competitions, but also food, a DJ, and raffle prizes.
Many of those who attended the tournament were friends and former classmates of Josh, but there were many others who were older or younger that turned out to play.
“I came to have some fun and maybe relive some high school memories,” said Dan Vasbinder, who sat on the sidelines with friends Colin Purdon and David McPhail while they awaited their chance to shoot hoops.
A fair number of women who competed in the women’s tournament wore lacy black tutus over their shorts.
“[The tutus[ were my aunt Tamy Sullivan-Daley’s idea,” said Sarah Smialek. “She’s always been big on costumes and being fun and festive.”
Sarah said that over the years, the proceeds from the annual tournament have been split evenly between the annual scholarship and improvements to Olympic field, which include installing benches and a water fountain, painting and paving the basketball courts, and planting bushes and trees.
Gail said that this year she had been approached by the local athletic director to fix the lighting at Olympic Field to allow for playing basketball in the evening. “My son loved basketball so much, he would shovel that court in the winter just so he could shoot hoops,” she said.
“Paying for the lighting may take a few years because it’s very expensive, but that’s our goal,” said Sarah. “I think the tournament is a really nice way to remember Josh and do some good things for our community.”
Gail added that although her son was only 20 at the time of his death, he had a strong passion for everything he did. He worked at a local grocery store and had been an honor student at Manchester Community college, with plans to go on to Bryant College in Rhode Island to pursue a degree in business.
“There’s not a lot in Stafford to occupy kids, and that was a big thing for Joshua,” said Gail. “He saw that, and his goal was to someday get a business degree and open up some type of a business that helps kids.”
“My son was a good kid,” Gail said. “Losing him left a big empty spot inside.”