Hundreds of local residents joined forces Saturday at the fifth annual Rick Bailey Memorial Turkey Bowl at MacArthur High School.
When Bailey, a 2004 MacArthur High School graduate and Wantagh resident, was tragically killed in a shooting in his final year at the University of Albany, a group of friends decided to host a flag football tournament in his honor. In addition to the tournament, a reception was also held at Mulcahy's Pub & Concert Hall in Wantagh.
Steve Mazziotti founded the tournament in a matter of weeks after learning of his friend's passing and said he is proud to see it develop into a honorable tradition.
"We've had nothing but good feedback," said Mazziotti. "We have an incredible community here. We had about 200 people in 2008 and this year we're up to almost 400 participating players."
Mazziotti remembered Bailey as a bright student, a caring friend and a positive spirit that uplifted those around him, characteristics that shaped the Rick Bailey Memorial Scholarship.
"He could lighten up a room just by being there," Mazziotti recalled. "He put his friends before himself and he was always trying to make someone smile. It's rare that he wasn't smiling himself. We just want to keep that memory alive in this tournament."
Proceeds from Saturday's event will benefit two MacArthur High School graduates, one male and one female, with a $1,000 scholarship each. Additional money raised will go toward Hurricane Sandy Relief through the Long Island Red Cross.
"Our scholarships go towards recipients with that special spirit, someone who can light up a room, that can really change everyone's attitude for the better," said Mazziotti. "Of course, they need great grades too, as Rick was a great student, but we really look for that similar attitude."
Bailey's killers were sentenced to prison earlier this year, something Mazziotti said was certainly a relief.
"The people responsible for this are now doing their time and getting exactly what they deserve," he explained. "The detectives and lawyers and attorneys from Albany were never able to participate, but now that the case has been closed they'll be joining us tonight. It means a lot to us to have them here."