A Delaware tradition will continue this Saturday night, when the kickoff leaves the tee for the 58th annual DFRC Blue/Gold All-Star Football Game at Tubby Raymond Field in Newark, Del.
The Blue/Gold game is an annual all-star game featuring the best the first state has to offer when it comes to high school football talent. While there will be many plays on Saturday night that will force fans to rise out of their seats, Saturday’s events reach far deeper than any ordinary football game.
Partnered with the DFRC (Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with intellectual disabilities), the Blue Gold program helps to enrich the lives of countless youths with intellectual disabilities yearly with programs like the Hand-In-Hand program.
Bob Carpenter and Jim Williams, founders of the DFRC and the first Blue/Gold Game held in August of 1956, were both parents of children with intellectual disabilities inspiring a game to raise awareness and funds.
In 1974, the Hand-In-Hand program was instituted to raise awareness among the high school participants about who they play the game for each year. Since rosters were announced back in February, seniors of the Blue/Gold Game have been paired with a Buddy, or person with intellectual disabilities, participating in many activities together over the last 4 months such as parties, picnics, and dances. Also, students are encouraged to see their Buddy outside of Hand-In-Hand events throughout the months leading up to the game. The goal being to bond with their Buddy, creating lasting memories for both, while learning more about people who have intellectual disabilities.
As for the game itself on Saturday night, both rosters are filled with some of the best talent in the state, many of which will suit up as teammates after years of being rivals on the gridiron.
The game will feature many all-state players, including 8 players who participated in this year’s State Championship Game from Salesianum and eventual State Champion Middletown. From St. Elizabeth’s Andre Patton to Caesar Rodney’s Devon Horton, both squads have their fair share of electric players, bound to light up the scoreboard.
Since its inception back in 1956, the Blue/Gold Game has not only changed the lives of countless individuals, but it has started family legacies as well.
Blue Head Coach Joe Aviola will become the first Head Coach since 2003 to coach his own son, Joe from Delaware Military Academy. It will be the first time a father has coached a son in the game since Dave Hearn coached his son Travis Hearn leading the way for the Gold team in 2003.
Sam Quillen of Wilmington Friends will become the third Quillen to participate in the game after his Father, Delaware State Representative John Carney and Uncle Mike Carney participated in the game back in 1974.
Nicholas G. DiGati of Middletown will join his 2 older brothers, Phillip and Anthony, along with his Sister Crystal as the fourth member of the DiGati family to participate in the game. Phillip and Anthony representing the Gold Team in 2005 and 2007 respectively, while his Sister Crystal was a cheerleader for the Gold Team back in 1999.
James Booth of Sussex Central becomes the eight Booth family members to participate in the Blue/Gold Game representing not only the Gold team but the Golden Knights, as well. Booth’s Father, 3 Uncles, 2 Cousins, and his Brother have all participated in the game going back to 1970.
On Saturday night, two teams will take the field to battle for bragging rights while showing off their skills in front of a sold-out crowd. Skills that could one day land some in the NFL, like 2013 New England Patriots draft pick Duron Harmon, who represented the Gold Team for Caesar Rodney in 2009. Or the next Congressman like John Carney who quarterbacked the Gold team back in 1974.
Regardless of where some of these talented players may end up, they will have affected many lives through the Blue/Gold program, ensuring that the legacy of diversity, awareness and acceptance continues.