85: Friendship and the Fratello Fraternity

85: Friendship and the Fratello Fraternity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inside Basketball

Friendship and the Fratello Fraternity

A friend is one who joyfully sings when you are on the mountaintop, and silently walks beside you through the valley.

~William Arthur Ward

Mike Fratello was head coach for the Atlanta Hawks in 1986 when his daughter Kristi had a birthday spend-the-night-party with several of her little girl friends at the Fratello home. The next morning one of the girls, whose parents would not allow her to ride a bike, got up early and was fascinated with Kristi’s new ten-speed bike. She wanted to ride it. She took the bike without anyone’s permission and down the hill she went. She was unable to stop the bike, hit a neighbor’s garage, was thrown from the bike and suffered severe head injuries requiring emergency brain surgery.

Unfortunately, the girl’s parents had both been recently laid off and were without any medical coverage. Needless to say, the medical bills began pilling up... and up... and up. When Mike received the news of the girl’s accident, he rushed back from training camp to stay with the family in the hospital. As the young girl lay in a coma, Mike felt helpless; surely, there was more that he could do.

Mike decided that something needed to be done to help the family with their medical bills. Mike started calling some of his coaching friends — Willis Reed, Dick Versace, Tommy Lasorda — and asked me to help put on a Friends of Fratello Foundation luncheon that people still talk about today.

The luncheon started as a Mike Fratello roast, but the stories they told about each other were so fascinating that the luncheon lasted past three P.M. We could have used eight microphones because everyone wanted to get in on the act! Businessmen were calling to say they were not coming back to the offices that afternoon.

After everything was said and done, we made enough money to pay almost all the medical bills for the little girl. Today that little girl is thirty-two and is doing extremely well thanks to the efforts of Mike and his friends.

When it came to charity work, Mike Fratello had one of the biggest hearts.

~Rachel Styles, former House Manager, The Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, GA

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