Retired UD coach joins Friends of Jaclyn team

Nonprofit links childhood cancer patients with sports teams.

After 28 years as a baseball coach — the last 18 leading the University of Dayton’s team — Tony Vittorio’s taken on a new position with Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ), a nonprofit foundation serving children with pediatric cancers.

››RELATED: Shoes for the Shoeless strides north

The 51-year-old Kettering resident feels so passionately about both “careers” that he says, “I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life.”

Eight years into his role as head baseball coach for UD, Vittorio saw an HBO documentary on the Jaclyn Murphy story. Jaclyn, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age 9, loved lacrosse; a nurse knew the Northwestern lacrosse coach, and arranged computer facetime and texting between her, the team and Jaclyn, who became an honorary team member.

Spurred by the support and hope this experience gave to Jaclyn, her parents started the FOJ foundation to bring together other childhood cancer patients with sports teams, using the motto ‘Live in the moment, play in the moment.’ Today, Jaclyn is 24 and the junior varsity lacrosse coach for her old high school team.

“That documentary brought me to tears,” Vittorio, the father of two, recalls. “Although Jaclyn’s been free of cancer for years, she lives from MRI to MRI. The next day, I had a recruiting tour and searched out Jaclyn’s father, Denis, in Hopewell Junction, New York. During our conversation, I asked if we had anyone in the Dayton area our baseball team could adopt.”

Two years later Vittorio got a call from FOJ and was “assigned” a boy, Cameron Neal. “Our team adopted him with the goal to enhance his life for the time he had left.

“Our starting catcher, Kuris Duggan, had just gone through surgery on his wrist and was having a difficult time. He started hanging out with Cameron during practice and they became the best of buddies.”

Duggan and Vittorio spent time off the field at Cameron’s, playing video games and taking him on various outings. With field manager Chuck Shelley, they built him a ramp, and, on his last Christmas in 2014, the team held a party for him and his family at its hitting facility, handling all the logistics, food and gifts.

“We had him for four years,” said Vittorio, who gave 14-year-old Cameron’s eulogy with Duggan in 2015. “We all realized that while we were enhancing his life, he was enhancing the lives of 35 baseball players.”

››RELATED: Fairmont student volunteers with joy

When Vittorio decided his career as baseball coach was winding down, “I thought of FOJ and knew it was something I wanted to do with my life and it could be a win-win situation.”

Murphy, who had become a friend, created a position for him as development director. “They’d have several fundraisers a year but needed to take it to the national level,” said Vittorio. “My responsibility is to raise funds for the kids and their families, to help with medical bills and helping siblings go to college. Cameron had three siblings, and the family needed help with college after the medical bills.”

Vittorio also serves as a representative of FOJ, assisting with ‘adoptions’ and funerals, communication with families, helping with galas and more.

“They just called me about a child in Tallahassee — I know all the baseball coaches in the country and can give them names and hook them up with teams.

“I’ve cherished every moment of coaching,” he says, “and people say it’s hard to explore other avenues, but the timing’s perfect. I started August 15, and my heart and soul are with this organization.”

Contact this contributing writer at

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

What cats see when they look in the mirror
What cats see when they look in the mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Abby, our 16-year old cat, thinks she is. When Abby could no longer jump up on the kitchen counter to eat from her bowl, we searched for a place she could easily reach but Teddy, our Lab, could not. We placed the queen bee’s bowl in front of a large mirror on the master bathroom&rsquo...
Drivers confused over BMV license changes
Drivers confused over BMV license changes

Changes at the BMV are frustrating Ohio motorists. They’re waiting in long lines, then find out they don’t have the documents they need for the new Ohio driver license and identification card. The licenses look similar to standard ones, except they have a star in the corner. The deadline to have the new ID is more than two years away, and...
SICSA breaks ground on new facility in Washington Twp.
SICSA breaks ground on new facility in Washington Twp.

SICSA Pet Adoption Center will be opening their new 25,000-square-foot Pet Adoption and Wellness Center, 8172 Washington Church Road, on Wednesday, Sep. 26 at 10:00 a.m., according to a release. This new facility will extend SICSA’s adoption capacity to 89 percent, the adult and youth humane education programs to 50 percent, increase prevention...
I-75 traffic stop in Miami County leads to prison time
I-75 traffic stop in Miami County leads to prison time

A Lancaster woman arrested along with her boyfriend on Interstate 75 in Miami County in a stolen vehicle with a stolen firearm and more than $3,300 in hidden cash was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison. Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Gee said the circumstances involved in the traffic stop by state troopers and subsequent arrests didn&rsquo...
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash outside Middletown
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash outside Middletown

A woman was killed and two others injured in a two-vehicle crash this afternoon on South Dixie Highway just outside Middletown. The woman, who was not identified pending notification of family, was the driver of a Kia Forte headed south. Her car was struck nearly head-on shortly before 4:30 p.m. by a northbound Honda minivan occupied by a male and...
More Stories