Warren Township Recreation Commission Honors Youth Sports Volunteers of the Year

Warren Township Recreation Commission Honors Youth Sports Volunteers of the Year Pictured clockwise: Basketball, Lacrosse, Wrestling, Soccer Credits: B. Nemcek
Vince DeNave, Mike Evangelist, John King Credits: B. Nemcek

WARREN, NJ - Warren Township Recreation Commission recognized Warren Township sports groups at a dinner on  March 2 and each sport honored a Volunteer of the Year. Mike Evangelist, Clinical Director of Rehabilitation at JAG Physical Therapy, spoke on preventing sports injuries.

The volunteers of the year are:

2016 Lacrosse Volunteers of the Year, Mark and Donna Sieb Warren Township Hills Lacrosse Club - Co-Treasurers presented by Rich Burton

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Recently retired from their post, Mark and Donna Sieb have been the longtime caretakers of The Hills Lacrosse Club since its inception in 2003.

Over the last ten plus years, Mark and Donna volunteered countless hours and days as field generals, maintenance coordinators, game and practice schedulers,  coordinators of officials, website managers, and above all organized and thorough treasurers who always maintained a high level of excellence and organization.

Their collective work as two of Warren's finest volunteer pair has helped account for 3,500 plus kids being able to experience the great game of lacrosse for many years. Their collective work has also motivated many lacrosse athletes in our program to play at the next level due to the fun, inviting, and rewarding lacrosse experience both Donna and Mark provided.

Their devotion and efforts have never and will never be matched. We are forever in Donna and Mark's debt for establishing and maintaining a standard of excellence that guides us to this day.

Sincere thanks from your friends and colleagues at The Hills Lacrosse Club.


2016 Warren Youth Basketball Volunteer of the Year, Ray Balkonis and Mike Garyantes presented by Greg Reilly. Neither Mike nor Ray have children currently in the WYBA program.


Ray Balkonis

In July of 2004, Warren Recreation approached Scott Andersen to run the Warren Youth Basketball Association program. Scott asked Ray to be one of the original board members (the only one remaining) because Ray's daughter played on Scott's travel team.  Ray accepted the position of Secretary.  In this position Ray has been responsible for tracking registrations and payments for both the travel and recreation programs of WYBA.  Last year Ray also took on the role of Webmaster.


Mike Garyantes

Mike joined the board in August of 2006 (the second longest remaining board member) as a Division Coordinator.  He then took over the roles of Director of Scheduling (probably the most difficult job in WYBA) and the overall coordinator of recreation basketball. Mike is known for his precision of maintaining his accurate schedules and his sometimes long emails.


In September 2010, Scott Andersen the founder and original president of WYBA, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 50.  WYBA then started the Scott W Andersen tournament that provides 2 scholarships to graduating seniors that participated in WYBA.

Organization is most proud of :

1. Pushing for more fairness by using WHRHS coaches to evaluate travel basketball tryouts.

2. Increased mandatory playing time for older grades so no one sits the bench during a game.

3.  Expanded enrollment in our "Buddy Ball" program which brings basketball to the special needs community.  We are very proud of this. 

Watchung Hills Pop Warner Volunteer of the Year – Carl Checchio, presented by Andy Mariion


Carl Checchio has been with Watchung Hills Pop Warner since 2007 and over the past 10 years he has served as both a Board Member and a Football Coach.  Carl has been Vice President and Executive Board Member since 2011 and the Director of Field Operations since 2007.  He is responsible for all upkeep and maintenance at the Pop Warner complex at 101 Old StirlingRoad in Warren.  His duties are endless and entail everything from ensuring that the sod practice field is lined and ready to go for the August football scrimmage jamboree to routine maintenance and replacement including installing garage doors on the P.A. booth and the Speed& Agility barn.   On game days, Carl is at the complex from 7:30am until 6:30pm and his job never ends.  On the coaching front, Carl has coached numerous teams from Flag to Mitey Mite and this year, will be the Head Coach of one of our Jr. PeeWee football teams.  


While Carl has always done a superb job for the organization, he exceeded all expectations in 2016.  For the longest time we have wanted to have our Snack Shack located near the turf field (it was previously in the Field House.)   After numerous discussions and encouragement, we were able to get Carl to take on the project of constructing a new Snack Shack.  Through his great work, along with that of his brother, Rob Checchio, we now have a fully operational Snack Shack adjacent to the entrance gate of the turf field.  This project included extensive site work and excavation, design and ordering of the custom shed, securing contributions from other craftsmen, such as flooring, granite countertops and shelving, electrical, etc.  In total, this project was a $40,000 retail job which cost the Watchung Hills Pop Warner program nothing.  After using the Snack Shack this past fall, we notice an extremely significant increase in our concession sales.  Thank you to Carl and his brother, Rob, for their generosity and great work on behalf of Watchung Hills Pop Warner.


Watchung Hills Pop Warner Accomplishments

1)   Teams to Disney

2016 was a banner year for our competitive football and cheer teams.  In total, we sent 3 teams to Disney World in Orlando, FL for the Pop Warner National Super Bowl Football & Cheer competition in December 2016.  Our Jr. PeeWee and Jr. Varsity Cheer teams both represented the program exceptionally well, finishing 3rd and 5th respectively in the nation.  Meanwhile our Pee Wee football team won the Eastern Region Championship and advanced to Disney as 1 of the 8 teams in Division 2 vying for the National Championship.  They finished tied for 3rd in the nation after beating a team from Colorado but losing to a team from Miami who eventually won the National Championship.


2)   Challenger Football

We are exceptionally proud of the continued growth of our Challenger flag football team for children with special needs.  The team has grown from 7 to 20 boys and they had a very fun season playing with other special needs teams in New Jersey from Old Bridge and Port Reading.  Our goal for the 2016 season was to raise enough money to send the entire team to Disney World in Orlando to play against other special needs teams at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  First we secured games against teams from North Carolina and San Diego and then we raised $40,000 during the month of November in order to send each player, with a parent, at no expense (covering airfare, lodging, park hopper passes and food) to Disney.  It was a truly amazing experience for all the families and one that they will not soon forget.   Pop Warner only holds the Challenger games every other year, so the program is already working on plans for 2018.  


3)   Vince DeNave was instrumental in securing a significant donation from Summit Medical Group – over 15 pieces of exercise equipment including stair masters, ellipticals, universal weight machines, stationary bikes, etc.  Vince led the way to move the equipment to complete the outfitting of our Speed & Agility Center located at the complex.



Watchung Hills Wrestling Association 2016 Volunteer of the Year Marc Hayward prented by Matt Saum

Marc has been on the WHWA Executive Board for over nine years and was pivotal in re-organizing the program into its current structure.  He has held the position of both President and Recording Secretary during that time and his dedication to the program is unparalleled.   WHWA now has a full ExecutiveBoard including: a President, Vice President, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, and three trustees.  Marc helped create and establish multiple committees, including: the Facility Committee, Apparel Committee, Concessions Committee, Coaches Committee, Nomination Committee, and the Conflict Resolution Committee.  All of these improvements are a distinct reflection of Marc and his vision for the program.

Marc was also a cornerstone to the completion of the Watchung Hills Wrestling Association- Christopher Noble IngrassiaTraining Center.  During the years of construction, Marc spent many weekends volunteering his time and experience as a carpenter within the building.  The building is a reflection of Marc’s personality and his vision to create a dominant wrestling program for athletes in grades K through 12.  Wrestlers from the four sending districts will benefit from his efforts for many decades to come.

For these efforts and specifically his time spent volunteering at the WHWA Christopher Noble Ingrassia Training Center, we would like to recognize Marc Hayward as the Watchung Hills Wrestling Association 2016 Volunteer of the Year.



Watchung Hills Soccer Association 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Linda Bosco presented by Frank Sena

Linda Bosco is a local CPA who has been a member of the Watchung Hills Soccer Association Board for almost 12 years.  She joined when her sons were playing soccer and has continued to be an intergral part of the organization even after they aged-out of the program.  

In her role as treasurer, Linda was instrumental in the formation of the Friends of Watchung Hills Soccer and Lacrosse group.  Funds raised by this group were used to install turf on the back field at Duderstadt. 

Linda is the consummate volunteer.  In addition to her duties as treasurer, she can be seen handing out shirts to prekindergarten players on opening day of the season, as well as working the WHSA booth at the Warren Township Annual Bonfire.  Linda is always looking for ways to help our organization grow and change to meet the needs of the soccer players and their families in our community.  We are proud to name Linda our WHSA Volunteer of the Year. 


Warren Baseball Softball 2016 Volunteer of the Year, David Reale


David Reale - Coach/Volunteer of the Year exemplifies the Rec Spirit of developing each and every child on our teams. The legacy his Father left behind in Warren & Watchung sports is evident in David, they have been long time supporters of our programs.

His patient approach to coaching has developed many of these kids into better players and has always developed a better team.

In addition to coaching  each and every Rec team his 3 kids are involved with, David also helps with the travel teams and he has joined our board of directors. 

Finally, I would like to add that David takes all of his commitments seriously and his service is not self serving.  He is a contributing member of our board and a huge benefit to our program overall.


I would also like to mention one other volunteer who has been doing a fantastic job for our program and that is Bill Bartnick. Bill has been a key volunteer in revitalizing our softball program. With reaching out, planning & coordinating our efforts to work with all the sending district children. Thanks so much Bill.


Thank you Eleanora & the Warren Recreation Dept for having this great awards dinner for our youth sports.


Volunteers are extremely important in youth sports, without our volunteers we could not survive as a program. Our program is sustained by our parent coaches, volunteers for clean up day, opening day, field day and other activities throughout our season.


In the past 3 years we have seen a growth of 10-15% per year in our tball programs for kindergarten & prek players.  These are players are 6 years old and younger. This Spring our Pigtails softball division, which is K & 1st grade girls, has seen an increase of 10% and registration is not finished.

This growth is an indication of how great our volunteer coaches, board members & parents are and how crucial they are to our program.



Warren Baseball & Softball completed a lighting project on our batting cages in the past year. We installed energy efficient LED lights above our batting cages. The job was paid for by WBSI & we were very appreciative of the assistance and help from the town for getting the job approved and taken care of.



Finally I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers who give so much of themselves and expect so very little in return.



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