Homes Away from Home

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Shown from left are Adrian Danchenko, Palm City, Florida; Lenny Zubrickas; Christina Zubrickas, holding baby Reed Joseph; Roseann Zubrickas; and Tyrone Bronte, Australia.

By John Andreoli

Often the quest to excel is carried out quietly.  At all levels of organized sports, athletes can go about their daily lives in relative anonymity.  Their goals and the path to achieving them may differ, but their attitudes and dedication are much the same.  In this highly specialized world, it almost always takes extreme personal sacrifice to rise amongst the ranks.

For the members of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights hockey team the struggle entails another often worrisome detail many athletes are lucky to take for granted—a place to live and three square meals a day.  Young players who hail from various parts of the United States and all over the world forego many of the luxuries most teenagers take for granted in their pursuit of a college scholarship or a possible career in hockey.  Cyber schooling is often sandwiched amongst multiple daily practices all while being far from the comforts of home. While social media can be a great help, long distance relationships with friends and family in different states and countries can be difficult to maintain. Homesickness can be a daily tribulation that many of us are fortunate enough to not have to consider.

Roseann Zubrickas is the Billet Coordinator for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights and places young athletes with families around the area.  The young men, generally in their mid-to-late teens, are responsible for getting themselves back and forth to practice and games at the Revolution Ice Centre as well as whatever costs are associated with personal care and/or luxury items.  What they require is simple: A bed, a place to keep their clothes, and three meals per day. They do require internet access to keep up with their studies, as well.

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Adrian Danchenko from Palm City, Florida

While being close to their practice facilities is most convenient, players in the past have lived as far as a 40-minute drive away.  Families that sponsor a young hockey player (or multiple players at once) receive a monthly stipend of $400 per month for each player.  Sometimes housing two players at once is easier as they can travel together and keep each other company.

Their season runs from August through May, though the time they spend at a potential home may vary depending upon where they are at in their schooling.

“We’ve placed players in all different sorts of living situations, whether they be conventional two parent families or single parent families.  We’ve had a lot of success placing the kids with “empty nesters” or those whose adult children have moved out and have a spare bedroom.”

While a potential host family may have concerns about how players spend their downtime, Roseann assures them that the players’ behavior is monitored both on and off the ice and that their coaches have a zero-tolerance policy related to misconduct.  As members of a junior hockey club, the young men are not just developing their talents, but are also learning how to become mature adults who are accountable for their actions.

Those interested in hosting a player fill out a questionnaire regarding household rules and responsibilities that are expected to be maintained.  Roseann meets with the players and potential hosts to ensure that the two are a proper fit. In her own home, she keeps in contact with the players’ families who have themselves come to visit, as well. The host families are strongly encouraged to notify the coaching staff should any issues arise. As the Billet Coordinator, Roseann also keeps in close contact with hosts to make certain that a clear standard of conduct is met.

The billet program for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights provides a unique opportunity for people to share their homes and lives with young men who have sacrificed a great deal to pursue their dreams.  As such, the comfort and care provided by a host family is often what they need the most.

“They’re not just tenants or roommates.  You keep in touch with these kids and follow their progress.  You learn about where they’re from and invest in their goals. You care about them and vice-versa.  They become family.”

To find out more, please call Roseanne Zubrickas at (570) 499-6393 or email her at

Athlete of the Month: Jenna Bradley

Jenna BradleyBy Steve Svetovich

The world is her oyster.

Holy Cross junior softball pitcher Jenna Bradley is putting together a season for the ages as she pitches her team to the district finals against Northwest.

Daughter of Josh and Jenn Bradley, the talented junior had a 17-3 pitching record at press time. She totaled an astounding 272 strikeouts and a miniscule 1.02 ERA at press time.

Jenna fired a shutout, 2-0, with 16 strikeouts in the district semifinal win over Mountain View.

She has a double figure strikeout total in every game she pitched this season except a shortened three-inning contest.

Jenna also is tearing the league apart as a hitter. She was hitting .533 with seven homers and 25 RBIs at press time.

And Jenna excels in the classroom too. She has a 4.06 grade point average with dual enrollment at Marywood University as an IHM scholar. She will earn 18 college credits through the IHM scholar program when she graduates high school.

She is junior class president and a member of the student council advisory board at Holy Cross. She is a member of the National Honor Society and a member of the foreign languages club.

Jenna has committed to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the fall of 2020. She will play softball and study sports management with a goal of getting into the Eisenberg School of Business.

Jenna, who used to ride horses competitively, said she owes a lot of success to her parents. “They tell me to put the work in and good things will happen. At the end of the day you will be successful if you work hard. They tell me to play hard all the time and work equally hard in school. They are always there for me.”

Status-FastPitch-Game-Leather-SoftballJenna said Holy Cross veteran baseball coach Joe Ross, who came from a baseball family in Green Ridge, teaches her a lot.

“He tells us to not get wrapped up in the nonsense. Take one pitch at a time. Enjoy the game. Keep things simple. Put your work in. Have fun.”

Jenna, an All Regional selection as a pitcher last season, also plays first base where she was honorable mention as a freshman. She is widely considered one of the top softball players in the area.

She attributes the success of the team to her teammates. “We fight right to the end. A lot of people underestimated us because we are young. We did this playing for each other and not as individuals. We make each other better.

Jenna, well spoken, confident and humble in nature, talked about her personal success. “I play because I love the game. It keeps me level headed. I surround myself with people and teammates who make me better.

“I have played through adversity and overcomed it. When someone says you can’t do something or accomplish something, you work even harder.”

Jenna said she likes music and would like to see country artist George Strait in concert.

With a strong intellect, she talked about her future goals.

“Well, I am committed to play Division I softball at the University of Massachusetts and want to perform well. I would like to complete my degree and then get into marketing maybe for NIke or Under Armor. Eventually, I would like to own and operate my own sports facility where I could coach and be a part of a recruiting process for other young softball players. I would like to help develop and recruit young players. That would be my ultimate goal.”

Commissioners Honor Lady Bucks

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The Lackawanna County Commissioners recently presented ceremonial proclamations to the Lady Bucks basketball team in recognition of its PIAA Class 3A State Championship run.

Members of the squad and coaching staff were feted during a brief assembly at the high school on April 11.

With members of the squad, are at back left, Commissioner Laureen A. Cummings and Head Coach Ben O’Brien. Back inside right is Assistant Coach Mike O’Malley along with Commissioner Patrick M. O’Malley.