Annual stickball tournament in Troy raises awareness of child homelessness | State

Annual stickball tournament in Troy raises awareness of child homelessness | State

TROY, N.Y. — Seven stickball teams competed for a good cause on Sunday in the Stick It to Child Homelessness Stickball Tournament.

This event is held each year at Troy’s Little Italy Market Place to support the work of local organization Joseph’s House and Shelter.

Founded in 1983, Joseph’s House & Shelter is a Troy community-based, not-for-profit corporation that provides a continuum of homeless services to residents of Rensselaer County. Joseph’s House offers emergency shelter, street outreach, and support services to homeless and formerly homeless individuals, youth, and families, with a focus on providing non-judgmental services where each guest’s dignity and worth are recognized and respected.

Just as approximately 2.5 million children – one in every 30 kids – are homeless each year in the U.S., in 2020 there were 120 children living in local homeless shelters provided by Joseph’s House.

“This is a national dilemma,” said event organizer and community leader Rocco DeFazio, noting that the problem has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented the tournament from taking place in 2020.

Through this year’s event, DeFazio aims to raise awareness about this issue, while addressing the immediate needs of children who are homeless.

The annual stickball tournament, a tradition in Troy for more than a decade, raises funds and collects donations to help homeless children at Joseph’s House & Shelter.

Items like diapers, socks and toiletries are among the most needed by the nonprofit. “Just basic necessities,” DeFazio said.

“We just hope to bring awareness of the needs,” DeFazio continued, sharing that many local residents are unaware of the severity of child homelessness in their community.

“When I tell people about the number of homeless people in Troy, they’re astonished,” he said.

In spreading the message through the stickball tournament, organizers hope that Capital Region community members will be inspired to make a donation to Joseph’s House and Shelter.

“It’s been a really difficult year for the families,” Joseph’s House and Shelter Executive Director Kevin O’Connor said, noting that families at the shelter stayed longer than usual because housing options were scarce. “It’s been really a challenge.”

The return of the stickball tournament is a ray of hope. “People are vaccinated. The world’s back again. People are being safe. It’s a beautiful day, and great donations,” he said, expressing his appreciation for the event and its organizers. “It’s a terrific day for the community.”

Earlier this month representatives from the Stick It to Child Homelessness Stickball Tournament and Joseph’s House & Shelter presented the Golden Stickball Award to two Vietnam Purple Heart veterans, Bill Sage, of Troy, and Pat DeStefano, of Red Hook, in recognition of their many years of service and donations to Joseph’s House & Shelter.

“They do a great, great service for the community,” said Sage, who owns Sage Brothers Painting Co. in Troy, while watching a stickball game on Sunday afternoon.

Both Golden Stickball awardees, along with DeFazio, all grew up playing stickball.

Stickball is a street game related to baseball, usually formed as a pick-up game played in large cities in the Northeastern U.S.

“If you’re my age, everybody played stickball,” DeFazio said, explaining that it is a very inexpensive game to play. “You just needed a rubber ball, and somebody needed to take their grandmother’s broomstick.”

In addition to fighting child homelessness, the tournament keeps the old-fashioned sport of stickball alive in the Collar City. “It’s very nostalgic,” DeFazio said. “It brings back fond memories.”

More information about Joseph’s House and Shelter is available online at

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