Rivals Wayne Hills, Wayne Valley come together to honor player who died from leukemia
Two Passaic High Schools that are usually rivals joined forces Friday night for a good cause.
Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley high schools faced off at Wayne Hills' field. But Friday’s game was bigger than any rivalry. The stadium was a sea of orange to honor the memory of a Wayne Township teen who died from leukemia.
The night started with a moment of silence. "One town, one heart" was the night’s theme. The 2022 football season and Friday’s game were dedicated to Wayne Valley football player Rocco Sivolella, who died earlier this year.
“Words cannot describe how we feel and how this community came together from Day 1 and the suppose that Rocco saw while he was fighting this battle,” says Anthony Sivolella, Rocco’s father.
The 15-year-old would have started his sophomore year this month. He was diagnosed with the illness in January and died in May.
“It all started with COVID, it wasn’t getting better, so Jan. 12 he was in the ER, diagnosed with [acute myeloid leukemia] and he fought a good fight,” says Paula Corrieri, Rocco’s mother.
“I saw him about three weeks before he passed and that day, I remember it like it was yesterday. We had the best time when he was sick,” says Jess Cappadona, Rocco’s girlfriend. “We didn't even think about it when we were together. It was just so happy.”
Paula Corrieri says Rocco underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and was supposed to get a bone marrow transplant. But his cancer returned at the beginning of May, and he died on May 17.
Orange is the universal color for leukemia. Supporters from both teams, players and cheerleaders wore orange to honor Rocco’s memory and to raise awareness for the illness.
“We’re usually rivals, and he brought us all together. One town, one heart,” says Julietta Lally, of Wayne Valley.
“This is what we're doing, we're trying to come together and bring the whole town together and do this. It's just amazing cause for the scholarship at the end of the year. It's great,” says Wayne Township Public Schools athletic director Dave Drozjock.
T-shirts with the slogan “One town, one heart” were sold ahead of the game to raise money for the Rocco Sivolella Scholarship Fund. It was started by the teen’s family for local high school graduates.