ATLAS — An outpouring of love and support greeted ALS sufferer Steve Anoia on Saturday at the Coal Region Sports Complex as more than 400 people attended the “Rock the Complex” benefit for the popular 1997 graduate of Mount Carmel Area High School.
In addition to classmates, family, friends and former teachers and coaches, the crowd included perfect strangers who heard about Anoia’s battle against ALS and wanted to support him.
“Steve is getting back what he gave,” said his father, Dean, of Kulpmont. “This crowd and the support we’ve received is breath-taking. I’ve never felt anything like this. It shows how many lives he has affected.”
Steve’s mother, Doris, added, “The whole community has come out to support Steve and our family is very grateful. People in the coal region have so much heart and it’s on full display today. It’s overwhelming.”
Steve’s wife, Jill, originally from Coatesville, Chester County, said she’s amazed to see how tight her husband’s high school class has remained 21 years after graduating. She was also deeply impressed by the generosity of coal region residents, some of whom don’t even know her husband.
“Steve is very humbled and grateful,” she said.
Steve, his wife and their two sons, Gabe 14, and Chase, 10, live in Royersford, Montgomery County, where they are active in the community.
The benefit was primarily organized by three of his Steve’s classmates — Amanda (Matzura) Shebelsky, Jaime Hynoski and Kenny Pizzoli.
“We are very happy with the turnout today and all the support we received from everyone who made this event very successful,” Shebelsky said.
“We all grew up together and have remained close,” commented Hynoski. “We started planning this event in June and put it all together very quick. I’m just overwhelmed at all the people who came here today in support of Steve.”
Shebelsky said approximately 100 gift baskets were donated along with numerous gift cards and sports memorabilia, including an autographed jersey with a personalized message from Kansas City Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce.
Among the raffle baskets was one from Kansas City Chiefs general manager and Mount Carmel native Brett Veach, who previously arranged for Kelce to do a video in support of his classmate and the “Rock the Complex” fund raiser. Veach graduated with Anoia.
One of the lighter moments of the day came around 7:30 p.m. when Steve’s father read off some messages sent to his son, including one from Veach, who was an all-state football player for Mount Carmel Area before playing for the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware and coaching with the Philadelphia Eagles and Chiefs.
In a text message response, Steve said, “I’m still an Eagles fan. Brett needs to try harder than that to convert me to a Chiefs fan.”
Other immediate family members in attendance were Steve’s brothers, Tony, 37, and Barry, 29. His 27-year-old brother, Matt, is serving with the U.S. Army in Germany and was unable to attend.