October Volunteers of the Month
Dom Bartone and the Michael Bartone Foundation
Dom Bartone became involved in the ALS cause when his younger brother, Michael, was diagnosed in 1999. He and his group of rugby and golf loving volunteers were struck by the devastation this illness had caused Michael and the stunning impact it had on Michael’s entire community of friends and family. As Michael’s condition worsened, so did their resolve to raise money and awareness for the disease that took his life when he was only 38 years old.
That was 2002. Fast forward 14 years and the Michael Bartone Memorial Foundation is stronger than ever. “Michael and I were so close growing up in Downingtown. He and I were only 4 and a half years apart, with our sister Cammie in the middle. It is in his honor that the Scrum for Six, a Rugby Tournament, was started back in 2003. Though the Golf Tournament and Dinner Dance were held first in 2002, thanks primarily to our Uncle Charlie who is no longer with us. Uncle Charlie really spearheaded the golf outing.” Dom makes a constant point of crediting the many who have stayed with these fundraising events through the years, since the other family members and the Committee of thirteen guys have not changed much through the years.
As Chapter Executive Director, Jim Pinciotti, would attest, the whole group exhibits extraordinary love for Michael and commitment to staging two very difficult and time-consuming events deserving extraordinary praise. The half million dollars raised through both events is testimony to the resolve of this determined volunteer group.
After what amounts to forty or so separate events, all the members of this group have settled into roles that make the job seem easy.
As the rugby players age, they keep on coming back year after year, despite the toughness of the game. The Scrum for Six – named after Michael’s Rugby Number “6” takes place every year in late April or early May. As the springtime flowers bloom, each year, Michael is remembered on the home pitch of Brandywine Rugby Football Club in hotly contested matches between Brandywine Old Boys, Brandywine A side and the Brandywine Women’s side. They keep score and it’s the “real deal” but it’s not truly about who wins – rather it’s about continuing the spirt of Michael.
It’s a spirit of unselfish inspiration for Dom and for all of those who continue to love Michael.
For Dom and those supporting the Michael Bartone Foundation, the game goes on for not only the sake of The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, but also, each year, students from Michael’s alma mater, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA have received scholarships which today total $57,000.
Dom was raised in Downingtown, and like most of his friends and family still lives there. But he feels at home wherever he is helping. He is a trained ALS Community Ambassador, has helped with the Chilly Chili for Paula event (along with his mother Edie), participates on Walk to Defeat ALS® teams, supports many ALS Golf Outings, the Annual luncheon, events run by Charlotte and Steve Potter (who is living with ALS), the Phillies Phestival, and never misses the ALS Scumuffa Car Show Benefit in Wagontown, PA. Dom is also a former Chapter Board Member.
Dom and Rugby. Dom and Golf. Dom and Volunteering. Dom and Caring. The words are synonymous. Dom has shared a long and deepening affiliation with the Chapter since he lost his brother more than 14 years ago. The recent golf event and dinner was again a tremendous success, and while Edie previously did most of the cooking for the golf outing, she has stepped back somewhat and today, the Bartones, along with family and friends still bring their own creative and delicious fare. And the Rugby Tournament continues to grow with the Brandywine Women’s Team becoming a key part of the day several years ago.
“While the matches and money raised are important aspects of the events, the true importance is the kinship and the celebration of Michael’s life by those who were closest to him. The Golf Outing is vital to our cause, yet there was no activity closer to Mike than rugby and no group closer to him then these rugby “mates,” the close friends in attendance and the Committee and family. To look out over the pitch (field) on that sunny Saturday, view the crowd of all ages, some of whom only see each other on this day, provides the event coordinators and me with the clear reason for our hard work,” reminisces Dom.
Michael Bartone played Rugby for 14 years and each year displayed a dedicated teammate ethic. “His never-quit mindset positioned him as a quiet leader. His winning attitude burned until the last days of his life on earth.
For Michael and those with ALS who follow, and for Dom Bartone and his fellow-volunteers, there is always a glimmer of hope as they steadfastly support the ALS cause.
No one is thinking of quitting.