A video game tournament being conducted as a fundraiser for The Marisa Tufaro Foundation would have gotten the competitive juices of the nonprofit organization’s namesake flowing.
Playing video games was among Marisa’s favorite pastimes, and she would have enjoyed the old-school flavor of the upcoming Woodbridge Township School District Tecmo Super Bowl Tournament, which will be conducted in the Woodbridge High School media center on Feb. 3, the day before Super Bowl LII, from noon to 4 p.m.
A $25 donation per player, to be collected on the day of the tournament, includes lunch and a complimentary T-shirt.
All proceeds from the event will benefit The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit launched last July 30, which would have been Marisa’s 14th birthday.
Since its inception six months ago, the foundation, whose mission is to help children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area, has spearheaded several initiatives which have benefited children associated with Special Strides Therapeutic Riding Center in Monroe, Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, Saint Peter’s University Children’s Hospital, Hands of Hope, Kiddie Keep Well Camp, the Lakeview School, the Ronald McDonald House of Central Jersey and others.
The foundation is scheduled to announce two new initiatives later this month.
Marisa was born with a complex cardiac defect that required six open-heart surgeries. Despite keeping hundreds of doctor’s appointments and being hospitalized for more than two years, she lived a vibrant life that inspired.
A heart transplant, which was supposed to extend Marisa’s life, tragically cut it short after a postoperative complication developed into a rare form of Stage IV cancer. After radiation and chemotherapy treatments failed to thwart the relentless onslaught of an aggressive disease that riddled her brain and body, Marisa succumbed to her illness last January following a valiant battle. She was just 13 years old.
Playing video games – whether it be on her handheld Nintendo DS or Wii console – provided Marisa with a wonderful diversion through the many illnesses she battled including two life-threatening conditions that necessitated her heart transplant.
Realizing that modern video game systems were not her father’s forte, Marisa graciously indulged her dad, playing Pac-Man and other old-school games with him on an Atari Flashback she received one Christmas.
Marisa enjoyed occasional trips to YESTERcades, visiting locations in Somerville and Red Bank to engage in some old-school gaming, for which she clearly had a penchant. Tecmo Bowl would have been right in her wheelhouse.
Originally introduced in 1987 as an arcade game, Tecmo Bowl soon afterward became the first console game to feature NFL players through a licensing agreement with the league’s players’ association.
Tecmo Bowl teams are named after NFL franchises with each team mimicking the roster of those squads. All teams have an arsenal of four plays. Each team has a different level of effectiveness based on its personnel and play selection.
The Woodbridge Township School District Tecmo Super Bowl is not the district’s first foray into assisting The Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
This year, the foundation will make available at least $5,000 in scholarships, including money from the second annual Marisa Tufaro Memorial Woodbridge High School Scholarship, which Woodbridge Public Schools, through its benevolence, fully funds in Marisa’s honor and memory.
The scholarship will be awarded to two exceptional college-bound seniors from Woodbridge High School who strive for excellence academically, athletically or in the arts, who overcame adversity (not limited to medical challenges) and who epitomize the caring spirit that Marisa’s family believes makes the Woodbridge school-community special.
The first annual scholarship recipients were 2017 graduates Alex LaGrippo and Jordan Vazquez.
Marisa’s parents, Greg, a longtime sports writer for the Home News Tribune, and Cyndi, a longtime Edison Township Public Schools educator, were honored to present the scholarships to LaGrippo and Vazquez during an awards ceremony at the high school last spring.
In addition to sponsoring the scholarship, Woodbridge has supported the foundation in several other ways.
The high school donated its facilities and volunteered its staff to host the 2017 Greater Middlesex Conference All-Star Basketball Doubleheader, from which all proceeds benefited the foundation.
In addition, Woodbridge baseball players paid tribute to Marisa last season, during which the Barrons set a school record for wins, ended a 20-year division championship drought and made their first sectional final appearance in 30 years. The team’s star player, Harry Rutkowski, a Rutgers University signee, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and it’s legendary Hall of Fame head coach, Lou Urbano, retired at the end of the season.
The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, which pays forward the kindness of others, has benefited from private donations and more than a dozen fundraisers such as the Tecmo Bowl Tournament.
Any questions regarding the tournament should be emailed to Brett Hoyer at Brett.Hoyer@woodbridge.k12.nj.us