With a nod to the power of sports to help local communities, Shaquille O’Neal recently made the biggest – so far, at least – individual contribution to a fund seeking to rebuild a worn-out high school running track in south-central Massachusetts.
It’s probably not something Shaq would have seen himself, but it appears someone in Shaq’s business office has a connection to the town of Palmer, Massachusetts, where one man has started an online fundraising campaign to rebuild the high school track in honor of his wife, who died recently in an accident on couples’ farm.
Before her death, Lisa Domnarski had started a campaign to rebuild the running track at the local high school. She and husband Matthew Domnarski met while running track at the school, and she had talked about giving back to the school and town that brought she and her husband together. Now Matthew Domnarski says he intends to follow through with his wife’s wish.
That led Domnarski to start an online fundraiser with a goal of a half million dollars. Within the first 72 hours, the fund had raised about $60,000, and now it’s well over $85,000 – donated by more than 1,500 donors.
Recently, that fund saw its biggest single donation of $2500 – from Shaq. Seems Domnarski went to school with someone who works for the Big Man, and that person saw online Facebook posts about the funding campaign for his old school and town…then brought it to Shaq’s attention.
A statement from Shaq’s business office reads: “As a former professional athlete, Mr. O’Neal recognizes the importance of having adequate equipment to realize one’s potential in athletics, and also in every aspect of life. Palmer deserves … functioning equipment.”
Lisa Swist (later Domnarski) and Matthew Domnarski ran track in high school, and the Palmer track is where they first met. Over 30 years later, they have two sons who have experienced the consequences of an inadequate track, from tripping in potholes to not being able to have home meets. Matthew says he and his wife had talked about raising money and rebuilding the track.
With Shaq’s donation, there’s been renewed interest in the online fundraising campaign. Domnarski says it’s scheduled to end on September 6th of this year, which would have been his wife’s 51st birthday.
Domnarski told local reporters, “I want to turn the fundraiser into a 501c (nonprofit) so that larger businesses can donate and they can have them deducted on their tax returns.” The word is getting out, but so far there have been no bigger donors to step up.
Domnarski says he got a call from the local bank handing the incoming donations for the fundraiser, telling him about the donation from Shaq. He says he “had to ask twice” to be sure he was hearing the name correctly. Yes, indeed…the money was from Shaq. Not the first time the Big Man has reached out to help with community projects, both big and small.