The William Smith College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee recently presented the Community Member Appreciation Award to Geneva resident John Bifarella. A recent article in the Finger Lakes Times details the honor, noting that Bifarella attends numerous games in support of both Hobart and William Smith in a wide range of sports.
In the article, William Smith senior Kelsey Landahl, a four-year field hockey player who presented Bifarella with the award explains, “He comes to a lot. He’s really into it. He knows when the games are…he knows the stats, he knows the schedule. He really just completely enjoys sports and has latched onto college sports.”
This is the first year this award was presented. “People go out of their way for us as student-athletes,” Landahl is quoted. “We get awards all the time, but there are a lot of people behind the scenes, and without them, those awards wouldn’t be possible.”
The full article about Bifarella and the award follows.
Finger Lakes Times
William Smith Honors ‘No. 1 Fan’
Susan Clark Porter • May 10, 2009
Geneva – “I like sports,” says John Bifarella. “I’m a sports fan.”
He means it. His love of sports goes beyond a simple fondness for catching some basketball or football on the tube now and then.
Bifarelli, 51, of Geneva said that for “a long time” he’s been taking in as many games as he can at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, rain or shine – and not just the more popular sports of basketball, football and lacrosse, but field hockey and track meets, too.
That’s why the Geneva man, himself an athlete who plays basketball in the New York State Special Olympics, was honored recently by the William Smith College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee with the Community Member Appreciation Award.
Friend Marge Shanahan of Geneva accompanied Bifarella to the awards banquet. Shanahan, former director of the Community Lunch program, said Bifarella is a longtime visitor to the lunch program and often sees William Smith students volunteering there. He always makes a point of asking how their teams are doing.
“Everybody knows him and likes him,” Shanahan said.
The recognition meant a lot to Bifarella.
“He was out of his mind with joy. He was thrilled,” she said.
Also accompanying Bifarella to the awards banquet was Beth Shanders, his service coordinator with the Ontario ARC. Shanders has worked with Bifarella for almost two years and described him as an exceptionally gentle man who has encyclopedic talents when it comes to sports statistics.
“He might not be able to tell you how long he worked at the Geneva YMCA, but he knows that he started there when Jim Kelly was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills,” Shanders said.
Bifarella now works with Abbey Industries.
William Smith senior Kelsey Landahl, a four-year field hockey player, presented Bifarella with his award. She said she was moved by Bifarella’s pure elation upon receiving it.
Landahl has known Bifarella since she was a first-year student, seeing him not only at her own field hockey games but at basketball contests, too.
“He comes to a lot,” she said. “He’s really into it. He knows when the games are…he knows the stats, he knows the schedule. He really just completely enjoys sports and has latched onto college sports.”
But his devotion is not limited to the Colleges. Landahl, who comes from Arcade, south of Buffalo, said she and Bifarella often discuss the Buffalo Bills. He is also a huge Yankees fan and thinks new Coach Joe Giradi is doing a good job.
Shanders said Bifarella often travels to Yankees games or the Bills’ training camp with the help of a local travel agency that arranges packages for people with disabilities.
Although the award was not a surprise, Landahl said, Bifarella didn’t know he’d be receiving it from her.
“It was a great way to end my relationship with him,” she said.
This is the first year SAAC has bestowed appreciation awards. Landahl said the committee, which includes two members from each of William Smith’s sports teams, wanted to recognize those who support student-athletes.
“People go out of their way for us as student-athletes,” she said. “We get awards all the time, but there are a lot of people behind the scenes, and without them, those awards wouldn’t be possible.”
Shanders found it especially meaningful that the female athletes chose to recognize Bifarella.
“He was very excited, and it was all he talked about from the time he got that invitation up until that night,” said Shanders, adding that Bifarella was a bit anxious before the presentation, telling her he had never received an award before.
To reassure him, Shanders said, she’d ask him why he was chosen, to which Bifarella replied: “Because I’m their number one fan.”
For now, Bifarella’s award is on his kitchen table, but he says he plans to hang it in his bedroom soon.
“I feel good,” he said. “I got my award.”