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Damn Scranton, Back at It Again with the Questionable Taxes!




As perilously as a sorority girl relying on iced coffee to keep her life together on a Monday morning, the city of Scranton is calculating nefarious taxes on just about any thing and any one they can to safeguard its seemingly incompetent leadership.

Scranton’s latest target: John Basalyga. The entrepreneur was billed earlier this month an overwhelming $254,920.80 for questionable taxes on a parking garage he owns in downtown Scranton. (And here I was pissed off about my Comcast bill. I’m definitely counting my blessings now.)

Anyways, here’s what we know:

  1. Basalyga bought a parking garage in September 2016.

  2. The garage was a tax-exempt property when it was purchased.

  3. The Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office admittedly allowed the privately owned parking garage to remain tax-exempt since 2017.

  4. When a Scranton resident complained at a city council meeting earlier this month about the garage remaining tax-exempt, the tax assessor’s office decided to change the garage’s classification from exempt to taxable.

  5. Even though the garage was just changed from a tax-exempt property to a taxable property less than two weeks ago, a bill for 2017 and 2018 was sent, including late fees, so high that it could afford to buy all 402 Scranton High Class of 2018 graduates three pairs of Yeezys and still have money left over.

Now that sounds like a foolishly large amount of taxes for less than a year and a half — unless the city knows something about the property that no-one else knows, like Pablo Escobar stashing cocaine between layers of bricks in the garage and giving the property assessment an immoderate value. I could understand that. But without a shit-ton of cocaine from a notorious Colombian drug lord, I just don’t get it. Do you?

Better than the Weekend called the deputy director of assessments for Lackawanna County directly — his name is John Foley — seeking answers in hopes of understanding why the county is collecting taxes on a property for dates before the property became taxable. Foley angrily refused to comment on the matter. However, when I called pretending to be a student at Lackawanna College working on a paper for my summer class, I uncovered a more candid response from the woman who answered the phone. She claimed the taxes were billed due to an oversight and identified it as the tax assessor office’s fault.


It gets worse. Apparently, the Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office has a history with oversights. Better than the Weekend exclusively spoke with a woman whose property was carelessly sold in a sheriff’s sale due to an oversight — even though she paid her taxes.

Jamie Constantine, who owns The Velvet Elvis vintage shop in Scranton, also co-owns Spring Hills Farm in Dalton. She says she was taken aback when a man approached her property a few years ago claiming he needed access to the land because he just purchased it from a sheriff’s sale. It turned out the Lackawanna County assessor’s office sold a portion of the land because of an oversight in filing their paid taxes.

“It cost more than $5,000 in legal fees to get it taken care of even though we were paying our taxes the entire time,” Constantine said.

That’s hard-earned money the owners of Spring Hills Farm never saw again.


That right there is proof Scranton’s government retains the kind of self-sabotage frat boys usually grow out of. However, unlike light beer and cheap handles of vodka, the power that comes from being an elected official is an intoxicating feeling these Peter Pans in positions of power can’t seem to detach from as the years pass by, their hairlines recede and problems grow bigger and bigger.

In a report by Eyewitness News, Foley said his office decided to “roll the dice” when sending Basalyga a bill for nearly $255k. Is it just me, or should someone in that kind of position speak more assuredly on behalf of sending a bill for the price of a small yacht and not like someone who just had to sign himself out of Mohegan Sun?


If the tax assessor’s office decided to change the tax classification of John Basalyga’s garage moving forward, that’s fine. Scranton’s financial state is in undeniable peril. No property should be exempt from taxes right now. Yet, somehow, an astonishing 33 percent of the properties in Scranton are exempt from paying taxes, largely placing the burden on homeowners struggling to keep a roof over their head. No city should have one-third of its property exempt from taxes.

Whoever allowed that to happen deserves diarrhea so messy that they have to take a shower after. Imagine how much it would help if the mayor grew a backbone and pushed for every property to be taxable for just the next decade. It seems, however, the mayor wants to be in office so he can cut ribbons and practice his Rosetta Stone on the Bar Pazzo menu.

If you’re a church, think about this: What would Jesus do? Would he not pay taxes if it meant families would struggle to keep their home? I don’t speak for the divine daddy J, but I doubt it.


As for The University of Scranton, know this: They keep expanding and buying properties downtown that takes tax money away from the city and likely cause taxes to spike for hardworking families who spend their entire lives here, unlike the students. When the university bought a building on Courthouse Square in 2012, the city lost out on the taxes it provided. The previous owner of that building paid $15,590 in school taxes alone. Just that property’s taxes could help buy a lot of supplies for students that underpaid teachers are left responsible to cover. According to their website, The University of Scranton’s 2016-2017 school year revenue was more than $224 million while the city of Scranton’s revenue was less than half of that. If the university is raking in a quarter of a billion dollars in a single school year, and Scranton is struggling, they could manage to allocate some of that to pay taxes for a few years to help the city out.


Perhaps this is the biggest question: If 33 percent of properties in Scranton aren’t being taxed, why is the city attacking John Basalyga and his parking garage? Basalyga is one of, if not the, biggest investors in Scranton right now. He invested millions into saving the mall and transforming it into a marketplace. Basalyga has a vision for this city and is actually taking action to try to build it up. What message does this send someone interested in bringing a business here — that Scranton grasps at straws when it needs money and attacks people they think can foot a bill? Of all the property owners you could attack, you decide to go after one of the few people who would invest large sums of money into saving the city? That’s an abuse of power. That’s like slapping your wife across the face and then expecting her to make you dinner and iron your clothes for the next workday.  Or, maybe it’s just like Scranton politics.

Perhaps a positive takeaway here is that people are being heard at city council meetings. Hopefully people will go and encourage Scranton to roll the dice in the right direction and ask for John Foley’s resignation. His leadership is clearly ineffective. His office’s oversights are costing the city seemingly due taxes and residents legal fees to prove they paid taxes. It would be great if people would encourage council to not use taxpayer money to fight Basalyga’s likely appeal and put more effort into noticeably slimming the percentage of tax-exempt properties in the Electric City.

And before Scranton politicians and tax collectors fall asleep at night, which I don’t know how many of them (not all) do with a clear conscience, they should ask themselves this: What would Michael Scott have to say? Like Jesus, I don’t speak for Michael Scott, but I imagine he’d probably say something like:




Ben Nemtin from ‘The Buried Life’ on the Importance of Chasing Unrealistic Goals



Better than the Weekend interviewed Ben Nemtin — and his theory on unrealistic goals will change the way you look at life.


Jim Carrey walked on stage at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management commencement ceremony to address 285 optimistic college grads when he delivered more than just advice; he candidly handed out wisdom that would be fortuitously shared in the years that followed by people who were never even in the room.

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” he pointed out. “What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.”

Carrey reminisced about his father, Percy Joseph Carrey, who was just as funny and rightfully deserving of making a living off being a comic. “But he didn’t believe that was possible for him,” Carrey said. “He made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job.”

As surely as the room felt disheartened for Carrey’s dad, they were responsively uplifted by the lesson that followed: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing something you love.”



Though the young men and women in caps and gowns applauded Carrey’s sensible intention that day — and more than 12 million others marveled at the advice when watching the speech on YouTube — science says 92 percent of people don’t achieve their goals, per a Inc. report. Experts try too hard to speculate methods for achieving success and only overcomplicate it. Psychologist Carl Beuke says overachievers seek out a feeling that contrasts with underachievers. High achievers have a heavy appetite to accomplish something important and get gratification from success in demanding tasks. Consequently, they’ll give intense effort over long periods of time in pursuit of their goals. Less accomplished people are more motivated to avoid failure. They’re genetically programmed to protect themselves from embarrassment and the sense of incompetence that comes from failure. Where total avoidance of tasks isn’t possible, failure-avoiding people are likely to procrastinate or give less than their best effort. Basically, sciences suggests success is an inherent trait.

Fuck science. People overcome fears and change their lives every day. We’re capable of surprising ourselves and the rest of the world.

Enter Ben Nemtin. He can get practically anyone with a pulse — even the most pessimistic, keg’s half-empty kind of a guy —to rethink pursuing their goals with one simple, eye-opening sentence:

“Most of the population doesn’t believe they can do great things so they shoot for realistic goals, which makes realistic goals the most competitive.”



Nemtin told Better than the Weekend he was basically one of those people motivated to protect himself from failure when he suffered from crippling anxiety and depression as a young college student in Canada. He felt disoriented and uninspired — and so did his friends. His buddy Jonnie Penn was struggling with the divorce of his parents. Nemtin’s buddy Duncan Penwarden was having a hard time mourning the the death of a friend. Another pal, Dave Lingwood, was unhappy being 30 pounds overweight. They felt lost. But they soon realized they weren’t alone when Jonnie shared an old poem with the crew that he was assigned to read in English class called “The Buried Life.”

Four lines of the poem struck the group of friends, Nemtin says.

“But often in the world’s most crowded streets, 

But often in the din of strife,

There rises an unspeakable desire,

After the knowledge of our buried life.”

After reading that old poem, their lives were never the same.

“The poem articulated this feeling we couldn’t articulate,” Nemtin said. “We had all these things we wanted to do but we couldn’t do them because they were buried by the day to day, by school, by work. Whatever was filling up our days, it pushed back our goals and dreams. We were struck by how this poem was so old but the author was able to articulate exactly how we were feeling better than we could. This was a 150-year-old poem and [the writer] was feeling the same way were were feeling. Clearly, we weren’t the first or only people to feel this way.”

Fired up, Nemtin and his friends decided to ask themselves one question.


Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

Nemtin and his friends didn’t want practicality to hinder their biggest goals in life and design a structured tower of regret. So they made an epic list of what they wanted to accomplish by asking themselves: What do you want to do before you die?

“The question was to prioritize the things that were important to us,” Nemtin said. “It wasn’t a realistic list. The intention wasn’t to actually complete them, it was to write down our biggest dreams. We didn’t expect to do any of the big ones.”

But they did. And they learned how to live their best life in the process.

No. 46: Do a sketch with Will Ferrell

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

No. 95: Play basketball with Obama

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

No. 108: Have a beer with Prince Harry

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

Their journey to cross goals off their bucket list became the subject of an MTV show in 2010 called “The Buried Life.” In 2012, their story became a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller appropriately titled: “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?” They were even invited to sit down and talk with Oprah, which happened to be one of the goals on their list.

No. 124: Be on ‘Oprah’

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

As unrealistic as their goals were, they discovered they had a better chance at making them happen because nobody was competing to do them.


Ben Nemtin approached the podium at the 2018 University of Utah commencement ceremony to deliver the keynote address for the next generation of goal-chasers when he shared more than just words of encouragement; he compelled everyone in the room, and thousands who watched the speech on YouTube, to really think about what they want to do before they die. Nemtin looked back on his journey when sharing a message of how to make the impossible possible — and that’s what he’s been dedicating his life to since making the list.

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

Nemtin travels the world to help people think differently so they can have the tools to motivate themselves to attempt their unrealistic goals. And that group of lost boys — including Jonnie, Duncan and Dave — now have a production company called Theos which creates content that moves millennials to see the world differently. Among their shows: “Dare to Live” on MTV starring Rory Kramer and maybe, as unrealistic as it may sound, a show starring me if they read this and text me to set up a pitch meeting.

Photograph provided by Ben Nemtin

“I like to think of dreams as projects. Writing a goal down is that first tangible step. It also creates accountability. Ultimately, you want to create as much accountability around your goals as possible,” Nemtin says. “Also, sharing your idea can invite more people to help make it happen. You don’t know who can help you unless you share it.”

Some people might be clueless as to what they’d like to do, spellbound by thinking of seemingly endless options and unsure which direction to go first. In such a case, Nemtin says don’t think. Feel.

“Ask yourself what you’re curious about. Follow that curiosity,” Nemtin said. “That curiosity will lead you to your passion. Whatever excited you when you thought about it, you want to follow that excitement.”

Nemtin may be idealistic, but he’s not naive. Not all of your dreams will come true and he knows that. There’s people out there who won’t get the chance to have a beer with Prince Harry, such as Meghan Markle’s crazy step-sister, but that’s another story.


“When it comes to your goals, you have to try it. The worst that could happen is you could learn something,” Nemtin said. “If you come to a dead end and there’s really nothing else you think you can do, or you get to a place where you just don’t want to try and go after it anymore, that’s completely normal. Then, you just pivot. You’re not going back to square one, you’re just recycling what you learned and you’re following whatever else you want to follow.”

Now it’s your turn to chase your biggest dreams. Your destination can be reached. The proof is there. What are you waiting for? There’s a future out there waiting for you to grab a black Sharpie and fearlessly write it — with the courage to even cross a few things out on occasion, but to write it nonetheless.

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10X Better than the Weekend Was the Realest News on the Internets



My name’s Justin and I’m the guy who founded Better than the Weekend. It’s incredible to think of how far this site has come since that hot summer morning in 2016 when the mayor of Scranton, PA showed up at a small office space — which had no fucking windows at all or any semblance of a professional business operation going on — to cut a red ribbon and commemorate that I was launching an online publication. I can still feel the bearing of overwhelming sleep deprivation that consumed my body, from working through nights that turned into mornings, which had me disoriented and barely standing as the mayor shook my hand to congratulate me.

Scranton, PA mayor, Bill Courtight, obviously the one in the suit, cutting the ribbon to celebrate the launch of Better than the Weekend, July 13, 2016. Also pictured: Founder Justin Adam Brown, center right; intern Nick Hughes, far right; intern Rikki Onhvandy, far left.

I created this platform to build a community of people who wanted to get through the week, together, while staying informed and being entertained. Better than the Weekend is a community for people who want to achieve greatness and feel better while striving for a feeling that’s even better than the rush they get at the start of the weekend. I had recently been laid off for budget cuts from a newspaper reporting job, in a role under an editor whose abrasiveness and inadequacy for the industry caused my enthusiasm for writing to become expunged as indiscreetly as a criminal record of a rich kid with a drug charge. The leadership at the publication I wrote for often pushed back on ideas that followed industry trends, resulting in a damaging disconnect with the paper’s audience. I started to realize news organizations prided themselves on being the Top, No. 1, or Most at something. That glaring self-appointment and futile top priority does nothing for the reader or viewer. I thought people might respond better to a media company that doesn’t make people feel like they’re beneath it, but part of it. Then I remembered my internship experiences at E! Entertainment and Jimmy Kimmel Live, where a principal focus on creating the best content possible while connecting with the audience organically unfolded success.

I had no idea what the hell was going to happen when Better than the Weekend went live. I had no investor to fund my big ideas or bring an experienced staff on board. I took on interns who wanted to be part of something new. All of my resources were spent renting an office and building a website with money from collecting unemployment and donating plasma. The day we launched, I didn’t even have five bucks in my bank account for a small Facebook boost to push my first article. Still, Better than the Weekend had 80,000 page views in its first week. My sacrifice and ambition had paid off.

There’s still a great deal of polishing to be done and many, many, many, many people to inform that Better than the Weekend even exists — but at least I now have an office with windows. Not only that, Better than the Weekend operates in a storefront HQ with a ping-pong table, which legitimizes any startup as far as I’m concerned.

Founder Justin Adam Brown, hanging the sign at Better than the Weekend HQ, Scranton, PA, in August, 2017.

Two years later, here’s some hallmark moments that define what Better than the Weekend is with flashbacks summing up 10 times this site has dropped some of the realest news on the internets.

The time Better than the Weekend hosted Scranton’s first-ever live-streamed political debate.

An aftermath of the 2016 presidential cycle had everyone and their mother become a political commentator on social media. People I never saw weigh in on politics were suddenly passionate about what was going on in D.C. It made me wonder: How many of these people can name someone on their own city council?

It was fall 2017, and Scranton was heading into a mayoral election. When I found out there was going to be a mayoral debate hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, I decided to live-stream the event on the Better than the Weekend Facebook page to help introduce my audience to local government.

But the League of Women Voters wasn’t having it. When I called to introduce myself and tell them I’d be live-streaming it from my phone while sitting in the audience, they said I wasn’t allowed to.

“This is a public forum debate, correct?” I asked.

“Well, yes. But we already have someone else filming it,” I was told.

A local public access TV station, which most people in the community haven’t heard of, had the exclusive recording rights to a public debate for candidates running for public office. This wasn’t sitting well with me. While I was told I could sit down and take notes with a pen and paper to write about it, I found it reckless for the League of Women Voters to limit media access. So, I wrote about my discrepancy. Within a few hours, their Facebook page went from a 5 star rating to a 3.2 rating. People wanted to see this debate live.

The next morning, a representative from the League of Women Voters called me. He insisted I was just being a troublemaker, but he’d allow me to live-stream the debate. The morning after that, he revoked that invitation because he said the League of Women Voters didn’t understand the technology and didn’t have time to look into it. I told him I was going to host my own debate the next week. He laughed, explaining how his organization spent months researching and forming questions. “Watch me,” I said.

The League of Women Voters posted their debate on YouTube a few days later. It reached roughly 400 views.

The next week, I moderated Scranton’s first-ever live-streamed political debate. Even more, it was a town hall format where, also for the first time, only the youngest generation of voters asked the questions. More than 2,500 people streamed it live. Within 24 hours, the debate reached 8,000 views. The League of Women Voters publicly promised to research live-streaming for future debates.

Scranton’s first-ever live streamed political debate

Posted by Better than the Weekend on Thursday, November 2, 2017

The time Better than the Weekend threw an election night party.

The 2016 election cycle was an intense experience for the United States. After living through it, we thought Americans deserved to turn up. So, we hosted an election night party where some cheered, some cried, and everybody drank while taking a swing at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton piñatas.


All the times we got naked with people to expose their dreams.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Is the answer different from what you’re doing now?

The idea of uncovering your deepest desires can be intimidating. That’s why Better than the Weekend started an initiative to inspire people to literally expose themselves for who they really are and what they truly want out of life. We asked people to get naked and expose their dreams as contributing photographer Lisa Petz captured the moment.

We started with Brittany Beadle, who survived a breast cancer diagnosis in high school and dreams of one day sharing her journey as a writer.

When pre-election polls found then-candidate Trump to lack support from white college-educated females, we found one who dreamed of living in an America under his leadership.

Then there was this undocumented immigrant who dreamed of becoming an American citizen.

And who will forget the man who dreamed of becoming Scranton’s first black mayor?

The time we rebooted the Genetti wedding commercial.

If you lived in Northeastern PA in the 1990s, you remember the long-running Genetti wedding commercial in which a little girl dreams of having a wedding reception at Genetti’s. She’s not thinking about her dress or who her groom will be, she’s thinking of the venue she’ll celebrate her nuptials. Sounds realistic.

In the spirit of reboots such as Fuller House and Will & Grace, Better than the Weekend rebooted the classic ad, with the original cast, to find out whatever happened to the Genetti wedding girl.

When we published photos of a recovering drug addict reenacting an overdose to raise awareness.

Alexis Johnson wanted to parallel the anniversary of her sobriety with a message to raise awareness around drug addiction.

“People need to visualize what an overdose looks like, not just see words across a TV screen or a headline in the newspaper. Just talking about it isn’t helping,” she told Better than the Weekend in 2016. “Maybe being able to see that extreme horror of how it goes down will wake people up and encourage young people to not pick up that first drug or drink.”

Johnson bravely reenacted the graphic scene of an overdose — with makeup, so chill — to make a statement.

The time we spoke with a man proven to be wrongfully convicted of murder.

In 2004, Ryan Ferguson was a college student in Missouri when he was arrested for the 2001 murder of a newspaper’s sports editor named Kent Heiholt. He was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison, missing holidays with his loved ones and opportunities to hug his mom for more than two seconds without getting reprimanded by an abrasive security guard.

He eventually proved his innocence and was released in 2013, after nearly a decade locked in a cage.

Better than the Weekend spoke with Ferguson, who’s post-jail mission is to raise awareness that every hour someone is arrested for a crime they didn’t commit in the U.S. and help free those wrongfully convicted, before the premiere of his MTV docu-series, “Unlocking the Truth.”

Ryan Ferguson from MTV docu-series “Unlocking the Truth.”

When we helped the Scranton Fire Department raise money for the first fallen firefighter memorial in the state.

The Scranton Fire Department does more than than just fight fires. When they were working overtime to raise awareness, and money, for Pennsylvania’s first-ever memorial honoring fallen firefighters, Better than the Weekend invited them to the HQ to help them get the word out.

Scranton Firefighters Are Raising Money for an Awesome Reason

Some of our brave first responders from the Scranton Fire Department stopped by the HQ to tell us about the memorial they need your help constructing and how people can help!

Posted by Better than the Weekend on Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The time we called out the media for seemingly racial bias.

Two new Gallup polls found that 62 percent of Americans believe news is biased — and nearly half say news is inaccurate. When a newspaper unhinged a series of negative press targeting a Pennsylvania nightclub that regularly hired black entertainment, with seemingly racist undertones and overtones in the reporting, Better than the Weekend called them out and spoke to the nightclub owner to find out how fake news can impact a business.

“We have a lot of college students who come to Ali Baba Lounge,” he said. “When the paper reports a stabbing that happened near our establishment, which had nothing to do with us or the patrons who were at our club, their parents are afraid to allow them to come here or give them money to come to our shows. People who have never been here before are then afraid to come,” said nightclub owner Ali Abulalburak.

Fast forward a few months later, that same newspaper published a profile painting a positive image of the nightclub owner and his growth as a human being. Perhaps they realized people were sick of their racial bias bullshit and they needed to pivot.

When we introduced you to the adult sleepaway camp you didn’t realize you needed in your life.

Adulting can suck big, floppy donkey dick and we all know it. That’s why Better than the Weekend brought you inside Camp No Counselors, a sleepaway camp exclusively for those over the age of 21, where grownups adventure through the same activities kids do at camp, but with a beer in hand.

For example, a doctor shotgunned a beer at the campfire talent show.

Dude at Camp No Cousnelors, shotgunning a beer at campfire talent show.


After camp, Better than the Weekend deemed Camp No Counselor founder Adam Tichauer as the Godfather of Adulting.

In an interview, the Godfather of Adulting told Better than the Weekend why the only room at camp is that you can’t tell anyone what you do for a living: “As a thirty-something, you meet someone at a bar and you say, ‘What do you do?’ And then you think, ‘Okay, I get you. I know who you are because of what you do.’ I found when you remove your work identity, you are able to become whoever you want to become, and then you can make friends based on your interests like when you were a kid — not your preconceived notion of what an investment banker likes to do on his free time. As a kid, you didn’t do anything for a living, except have fun and make friends based on similar interests.”

When you introduced us to the world through your eyes…

Most of Better than the Weekend’s contributors aren’t journalists. You’re our main contributor — the Weekday Warrior who’s part of our community. You’ve shared some amazing stories with us!

People such as Jen Glantz, who wrote about how she was asked to be a bridesmaid so many times that she became a professional bridesmaid — for hire — and now gets paid to be in weddings.

Contributor Jen Glantz, making money being a bridesmaid. Genius!

In the article “Here’s How Having a Gay Uncle Can Save the World,” Jimmy Smith wrote about his niece: “She’s going be raised to not be judgmental. She will grow up to love everyone and everything around her. When I spend time with her she doesn’t see me as a gay man. She just knows me as her Uncle Jimmy. Because of our relationship, she’ll get to know people for who they are as people.”

Earl Granville, a retired soldier of the U.S. army lost his leg in June 2008 from a roadside bomb while leaving a site to build a school in a village in Afghanistan. In the article “I Served in the Armed Forces, Stop Assuming We All Have PTSD,” he wrote: “I stopped labeling myself as a victim and looked for a new purpose after the uniform came off. I started challenging my amputation with more and more goals.”

Contributor Earl Granville, kicking ass, per usual.

Remember Brittany Beadle, the breast cancer survivor who exposed her dream of sharing her journey as a writer in the nude Q&A “Dreams, Exposed” series? Well her dream to be a published writer came true. In the article “I Learned to Live Because I Almost Died,” she wrote: “Saying ‘We should do that someday’ is a phrase that rarely goes into action. That day usually doesn’t come. Life gets in the way. We get stuck in a daily routine instead of doing what truly makes us happy.”

Contributor Brittany Beadle, skydiving.

One thing that makes me truly happy is sharing Better than the Weekend with all of you.

Now go make this week the best week of your life.

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Former pro baseball player Sam DiMatteo brings 40 pairs of soccer spikes to orphans in Africa




The sound of a bat hitting a baseball is more than just a striking noise for Sam DiMatteo — it’s an electrifying harmony that serves as the heartbeat to his total existence.

A Pittsburgh native, 30-year-old DiMatteo played ball his entire life. After swinging the bat on the college level for California University of Pennsylvania, DiMatteo played for several professional baseball teams over a six-year period, before retiring with the California-based Sonoma Stompers in 2016. Now the hitting coach for the Palm Springs Power in the Southern Californian Collegiate Baseball League, DiMatteo finds himself reaching out to underprivileged youth around the world with his non-profit The SD Project because he doesn’t want to see kids miss out on opportunities that shaped him into the person he is today.

Sam DiMatteo, pictured right in September, surprised Jace, also pictured, with new clothes in Dickinson, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey destroyed his family’s home.

“When you’re young, you’re not mentally tough yet,” DiMatteo said in a phone conversation. “Participating in an organized sport teaches you important life lessons. When you’re playing sports, you learn how to fail. You have to learn how to compete to win. You learn how to get better at something through practice and hard work. You learn social skills from interacting with your team.”

There’s even scientific evidence to back up the benefits of kids participating in organized, competitive sports. A recent study at the American College of Sports Medicine discovered the fittest kids performed nearly 30 percent higher on standardized tests than the least-fit group.

DiMatteo said he encountered a family who almost had to take their son out of baseball when he was teaching at a sports facility during off-season in 2014

“This kid’s parents pulled me aside asking if they could pay at the end of the month. The end of the month came, and it was the same deal. They needed more time to pay,” he said. “Their kid had a bone disease that required him to stay active or he’d get really sore. They told me they were thinking of taking him out of baseball and putting him in ballet because it was a less expensive option. I didn’t want to see this kid who loved playing sports be forced into taking ballet, so I said I’d handle it.”

At the suggestion of a friend, he started a GoFundMe page and called it The SD Project. Instead of making the fundraiser specific to that family, he broadened his request in case he ever ran into the same situation again.

It worked out.

Proving a small deed can turn into something bigger, The SD Project has evolved into a certified non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the unifying and uplifting experience of participating in a sport to today’s youth suffering economic hardship or a physical or mental disability.

Sam DiMatteo, far right, visited Chicago with his former teammate Richie Serritella, far left, to empower a little boy, Leo, with one arm, pictured center, to keep playing sports.

Three years later, The SD Project has raised nearly $30,000 from the GoFundMe page, generous donations and T-Shirt sales.

DiMatteo took The SD Project to the House of Hope orphanage in Africa, where he showed up with 40 pairs of soccer spikes, jerseys and sports equipment for more than 20 disadvantaged orphans.

Sam DiMatteo with 40 pairs of Under Armour spikes for The SD Project’s September 2017 trip to Africa.

DiMatteo said most of the orphans greeted him barefoot with old, ripped clothing. But for a few hours, they were running around in brand new spikes and clean clothes, temporarily unmindful of their usual harsh realities, such as not having electricity at night.

“They were able to escape and just be kids for a few hours and run around and play,” he said. “That’s what The SD Project is all about.”

Anyone interested in donating to support The SD Project can click here for a direct link to the GoFundMe page. 


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