Steelers, Police Pals tip off to benefit scholarship
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Bethel Park police Sgt. Charles Bonczek died in 2006 awaiting a heart transplant, but through a scholarship named for him by his colleagues, his big-hearted legacy lives on.
The annual basketball game to raise money for the scholarship, pitting the Police Pals against the Pittsburgh Steelers basketball team, will be held at 8 p.m. March 8 in Bethel Park High School gymnasium, 309 Church Road.
Pre-game activities include a game between borough police and fire departments at 6:15 p.m.
All proceeds will benefit the Police Pals programs for elementary students and the Sgt. Charles Bonczek/Bethel Park Police Association scholarships.
The scholarship program was named for Sgt. Bonczek four years ago.
Last year, 11 scholarships of $500 were awarded to students who attended Bethel Park Police Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program, a 12-week program for high school students who are interested in pursuing law enforcement as a career.
"It's nice that the police recognized him as such an enormous part of the community with his 39 years on the force," said Sgt. Bonczek's daughter, Heather Milharcic. "He was appreciated."
During his borough career, Sgt. Bonczek served as a patrol officer, K-9 officer, Police Pal, Citizen Patrol instructor and later a sergeant.
Suffering from congestive heart failure, he was waiting for a new liver and heart from a single donor. When the organs arrived, it was determined the liver was flawed, and he received neither organ. He died two weeks later on Christmas Day 2006 at age 61.
"It was a devastating day when this man who dressed up as Santa to bring joy and gifts to young and old left us," Mrs. Milharcic of Bethel Park said.
The Bonczek family is hoping for a large turnout to benefit more than the scholarship recipients.
"My children will never be able to experience the love and the gift of Charles," Mrs. Milharcic said, "but they will be reminded of his greatness through this scholarship as long as the funds provide for it."
Tickets cost $7 in advance, and $9 at the door. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Evey Hardware, Eat'n Park on Route 88 and at the Bethel Park police records room.
First Published February 28, 2013 5:47 am