CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Following the tragic deaths of two local teens, the owner of a sports memorabilia business is helping honor their memories.
Gianna Cirella and Maddie Potts never knew each other, but the two had a lot in common. Both were hard-working students and stars on their schools’ soccer teams. Potts, of Richmond, was the captain of the Chariho High School varsity girls soccer team. She suddenly collapsed on the soccer field as she was taking a penalty kick during a game back in September. Cirella, of Warwick, was a junior goalie on the Toll Gate girls soccer team. Cirella died on Nov. 1 after battling sepsis following a diagnosis of pneumonia.
Since their deaths, friends, family and community members have gone to great lengths to honor their memories. But Steven Barbato, owner of Stevie B. Sports Memorabilia in Cranston, joined the two families together by donating sports memorabilia to be auctioned off in their honor.
“It crushed me, I mean, as a parent. Someone might say I know how you feel, but you can never tell someone you know how they feel when it comes to a child,” Barbato said. “I said, ‘I really want to get involved with these two people.'”
The Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund’s mission is to raise money for sepsis research and to help families of those affected by the disease that took Cirella’s life. The Maddie Potts Foundation focuses on some of Potts’ passions, such as athletics and art, through annual scholarships.
With the help of other local organizations, such as the Tasca family, Miller’s Crossing and the Edgewood Gallery, Barbato donated six signed Patriots items to the foundations. Barbato donated one Tom Brady jersey, a Julian Edelman jersey and a photograph and three Rob Gronkowski jerseys.
“To see the outcry of support and the love for these two children was absolutely overwhelming for me,” Barbato said.
When asked to estimate the value of the donated items, Barbato said, “Just about $10,000.”
Barbato said although he has raised a lot of money for the organizations, it’s impossible to put a price tag on helping others, especially the families of Cirella and Potts.
“You can never get back what they lost, I mean, if that lets them smile even for a moment at a time, then I did my job,” Barbato said.