Follow Emma and Dan’s Route 6 Journey

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

A flyer for Emma and Dan’s Route 6 Journey hangs from the fridge at the Harborcreek home of the Perritano family. Sixteen-year-old Emma Perritano’s face lights up whenever she catches a glimpse of it.

So far, she is enjoying the journey, eagerly waving her hands when they pass someone on the street. All the while, humming her favorite songs, a collection of tunes from Wicked, Disney movies and some old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Her parents, Penn State Behrend men’s soccer coach Dan Perritano and college registrar Jane Brady, said it’s exactly what they hoped for.

“I wanted to take Emma and do something special,” Dan Perritano said. “While she doesn’t understand what we’re doing completely, she points to that flyer now, and she knows we’re doing something special.”

What they’re doing is a 360-mile trek across Pennsylvania’s historic Route 6 to help raise funds for the Arc of Erie County. Emma is a non-verbal life skills student at North East Middle School and has benefitted from the Arc, which provides advocacy and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Dan is pushing Emma in her Team Hoyt running chair, a custom-built chair designed for physically-challenged individuals that was purchased through grants from ACHIEVA and Billy’s Friends Foundation, two non-profit organizations for persons with disabilities. The two have already begun checking off some of the western miles on Route 6 during weekend outings.

The duo hopes to finish at least 100 miles before setting out on May 18 to finish the trip.

“Once we get on the road, we aren’t coming back,” said Perritano, who will use the MapMyWalk app to track completed miles.

Perritano said the two average about 15-minute miles when moving consistently, and he hopes to do between 15 to 20 miles per day.

“The plan is to do 10 or 11 miles in the morning, have lunch and then do maybe another 10 in the afternoon,” he said.

Perritano said they won’t carry many supplies and will mostly rely on purchasing things on the go.

However, if supplies get too low, Perritano does have a lifeline.

“I can’t imagine them going three of four days without me coming to the rescue,” Brady said.

Perritano plans to finish the journey on May 30, but knows challenges could arise. Hazardous weather could cause a delay, so he said the completion date is tentative.

“It’s going to be so rewarding,” Perritano said. “It’s something special that we will always remember.”

To learn more about the Arc or how you can contribute to Emma and Dan’s Journey, please visit their website at thearcoferie.org or contact Arc president Dr. Karen Morahan at kmorahan@edinboro.edu or Dan Perritano at dpp2@psu.edu.

Follow Emma and Dan’s Journey on their Facebook page.

Olivia Belack follows Jimmy Belack’s lead at Penn State Behrend

Olivia and Jimmy Belack (8)
By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

From birth, Olivia Belack has followed her big brother, Jimmy.

First they crawled. Then they walked. Then they played soccer.

Soccer has always been the favorite pastime for the siblings, both members of their respective Penn State Behrend soccer team.

“It’s pretty much always been soccer for us. We both felt a knack for it,” says Jimmy, a senior defender and an accounting and finance major at the college.

The Pittsburgh natives’ commitment to the sport has paid off. It led Jimmy to Penn State Behrend where he has started all four seasons for the Lions, been a member of two AMCC Championship teams and is the team’s all-time assists leader (28).

The best could be yet to come.

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, the Lions begin their pursuit of a third AMCC title in four years when they play Mount Aloysius in the AMCC Tournament semifinals. For Jimmy, a two-time All-AMCC selection who leads the team with 44 points, it’s an opportunity to end his collegiate career on a high note.

“It feels really nice to know that I have made an impact,” he says. “It would be pretty special to be able to win another title this year.”

Olivia is hot on her brother’s heels. A midfielder and first-year finance major, she leads the women’s team in points with 34.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, when the Lions defeated La Roche 4-1 in the first round of the AMCC Tournament, Olivia scored the first goal to give the Lions a lead they never relinquished. The Lions will continue their postseason march Wednesday, Nov. 5, when they face Franciscan in the AMCC Tournament semifinals.

Her success mirrors Jimmy’s early experience with the Lions. As a freshman in 2011, he scored the game-winning goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmy’s athletic achievements piqued Olivia’s interest in Behrend when she began researching colleges.

“He never pushed me toward Behrend, but he always supported me,” she says. “I knew I’d like it here.”

An added benefit for the two close-knit siblings is that the men’s and women’s teams travel to matches together, giving them an opportunity to watch and cheer one another on at games.

It has also led to a friendly rivalry between the two.

“If I have a goal or two, (parents of soccer players) will then joke, ‘Jimmy has to score three now,’” Olivia says.

“My teammates will also look at me and say, ‘You can’t let her top you,’” Jimmy adds.

This very scenario played itself out on Sept. 27. Olivia recorded the first multi-goal game of her career as she scored twice to lead the Lions to a 2-1 win over Penn State Altoona. Later that day, Jimmy matched her performance in the men’s 5-0 win over Penn State Altoona.

The two say attending Penn State Behrend together was a great decision. It’s made it easier for their parents, Jeffrey and Kelly, to visit and attend games. And Jimmy played a big part in helping his sister get acclimated to her classes, coursework and the entire college experience.

“If I ever need anything, I just call him,” Olivia says. “Having Jimmy here definitely helped me, especially during the first few weeks.”

Olivia also now has the perfect example to follow as she gets set for three more seasons of collegiate soccer.

“It would be nice to be as successful as he was,” she says.

If her first season offers any indication, she likely will be, which comes as no surprise as she’s always followed in his footsteps.