Trooper's supporters out in force
More than 1,000 friends, family members, state troopers and even a few Steelers turned out Sunday to remember slain state police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny and to raise some money for his two children.
"I think this is just wonderful. I thank everybody for my family," Florence Pokorny, the trooper's mother, said with tears in her eyes as spectators jammed Moon Area High School.
Pokorny's children, Alexandre "Ali," 16, and Joseph "Jake," 17, clearly have a lot of friends. Organizers sold more than 500 tickets to a spaghetti dinner in the school cafeteria, and more than 900 tickets to a basketball game between police and a Steelers squad that included quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"As a community and as Americans, when a tragedy strikes, this is what we do. We band together," said Mike Hauser, principal of Moon high school, which both Pokorny children attend.
Pokorny, 45, of Moon, was gunned down Dec. 12 while on duty on the Parkway West. Convicted drug dealer Leslie D. Mollett, of Knoxville, awaits trial in the shooting.
Organizers could not say how much money they raised for a trust fund for the two children of Pokorny, a single dad. But backers said the 900 ball game tickets sold at $20 each and the $500 dinner tickets sold at $6 each plus various raffles and other fundraisers would total a substantial amount.
Gary Marince, a radio business executive who lives in Moon and helped organize the event, said planners originally thought of holding a modest fundraiser, but were flooded with offers from people wanting to help.
"I've never done anything where there was so much willing and supporting cooperation," said Marince.
Many classmates of the Pokorny teenagers attended the event, with several helping take tickets and direct traffic. Amy Rich, 15, like Ali Pokorny a sophomore at Moon Area, said she wanted to show her support.
"It's been hard for her. It would be hard for anyone. But she has a lot of support, and I hope she knows that," Rich said.
Roethlisberger got a huge cheer as ran onto the Moon high school gym. In a game against a squad of state police, Roethlisberger immediately began making shots from three-point range.
The Steelers donated their services, Marince said. The black and gold squad also included linebacker James Harrison, receiver Lee Mays, cornerback Ricardo Colclough and a handful of retired players.
The event was designed to be a happy day that celebrated the life of a friendly man as well as a solemn occasion aimed at helping his children, said organizer Cathy Tress, who formerly worked with Pokorny.
"He was a great person and he would be very thankful," Florence Pokorny said.