PLAINS TWP. — Grace Gober was forced to miss her team’s softball game Wednesday night. The Wyoming Area senior, however, was busy accepting the highest award from the Wilkes-Barre Chapter of UNICO National during the organization’s annual dinner.
She took the stage to a standing ovation.
Grace was named the UNICO 2016 Brian Piccolo Award recipient for overcoming adversity during her senior year of high school following the death of her mother, Anne, last summer. Along with presenting the Brian Piccolo Award, the chapter handed out more than $40,000 in gifts to local charities. Also, Wyoming Area senior Zachary Lagrue was presented with the Wilkes-Barre Chapter Scholarship.
Full of tears, Grace addressed the crowd after she was given a $1,000 check and the award trophy by Wilkes Barre Chapter UNICO President John Terrana.
“We both shared in loss,” Grace said in comparing herself to the former Chicago Bear Piccolo, who passed away to cancer. “He lost his life, and I lost my mom. Over the past few years, I haven’t relied on my teammates, coaches and family more than I had to this year.”
Grace’s mother was killed on July 21, 2015, when the vehicle she was operating was struck by an unlicensed driver who was operating his vehicle under the influence of morphine. Grace, her father, Joe, and three siblings had to adapt to life without mom. The Wyoming Area community had to adapt to life without mom.
Throughout her time in the Wyoming Area School District, Anne Gober was a volunteer for several different organizations. She was secretary of the Wyoming Area Softball Parents Association and was involved with the Wyoming Area Field Hockey Parents Association, Wyoming-West Wyoming Little League and volunteered with many other organizations.
Though it all, Grace found a way to continue to excel both on the field and in the classroom her senior season. In fact, her grades at Wyoming Area have never been higher after she decided to dedicate her senior year to her mother.
“This is an awesome tribute to my mom, and my family,” Grace said. “They’ve been my backbone through this whole process.”
A straight-A student, Grace was named First-Team All-Wyoming Valley Conference in field hockey just three months after the death of her mother. She helped the Warriors reach the semifinals of the PIAA District 2 Class AA championships last fall and was named an honorable mention to the Pennsylvania All-State team.
She was named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association High School Honor Roll earlier this spring. She was also named to the Pennsylvania Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Academic team.
Currently, Grace is helping Wyoming Area chase down a WVC title in softball, where she provides leadership to the team as this year’s captain. Wyoming Area’s softball team fell to Tunkhannock, 5-3, Wednesday night.
“I would have loved to be there and help my team,” she said. “There would have been no better feeling out there.”
When the news came out about the matriarch of the Gober family, the Greater Pittston community, along with the entire Wyoming Valley, came out in support. In the fall, the field hockey team organized the Anne’s Angels fundraiser to raise money for the family and the children’s education costs.
Most recent, the Wyoming Area softball team players can all be seen wearing wristbands with Anne’s initials, AEG.
“I can honestly say I do not know where I would be without the field hockey team and the softball team,” Grace said. “They are my family, my teammates, my sisters. I owe everything to them.”
Jarrett Ferentino, who is solicitor to the Wyoming Area Board of Education, knows Grace well for being the district’s student representative. Ferentino, who gave the address at the dinner, said the event on Wednesday is the organization’s Super Bowl.
“If there ever has been an appropriate name for a young lady, it’s Grace,” he said. “I’m silently inspired by her.”
Grace plans on heading toward a career in law, which Ferentino thinks is a perfect fit for the senior.
“Grace is going to turn tragedy into triumph,” he said.
Back in November, Grace signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her field hockey and academic careers at Temple University.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick