There are few things that Joe Fresta enjoys more than playing hockey and helping others in need.
Fresta, an avid hockey player, fell in love with the game in his youth while playing on a frozen pond in St. Louis’ Clifton Park. Later in life, he battled testicular cancer not once, but twice. Afterward, he said he felt he should do something to help those who may not be blessed with the resources to battle the disease like he did.
Enter the Steinberg Winter Classic. Created in 2012, the weekend of hockey raises money for the Cancer Care Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides assistance with doctor visits, transportation costs to and from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, pharmaceutical expenses, child and/or sibling care, emotional therapy and nutrition consultation.
“It just came to me that I could do it to raise money for cancer for families who are fighting cancer,” Fresta said.
Two years after founding the Steinberg Winter Classic, Fresta decided to add the Legends of Hockey dinner as an extra fundraiser.
“When you have a diagnosis of cancer it’s stressful enough and a lot of times, if you have a financial situation on top of it, it’s a life-changing situation for these folks,” Fresta said. “A lot of time what happens is somebody gets sick with this and they get too sick to work and they get let go or they have to stay home and take care of a loved and they can no longer work and then they get let go. So what happens then is the bills start to pile up.”
Fresta said he was fortunate to have a support system and resources available to him that helped him beat the disease.
“I was very fortunate to have the financial wherewithal to deal with the expense and not have to worry about that part of it and I also had a great support system of friends and family,” Fresta said.
When he started the Classic, he consulted with oncologists and social workers to identify where the proceeds would be best used. They told him there was no real help being provided to cancer families then and that most funds were being put to research to find cures. His decision was made.
“At the end of the year, we write out two checks from our Cancer Care Foundation,” Fresta said. “One goes to Siteman Cancer Center to help families and the other goes to Mercy Health and that money goes directly to help those people.”
Each year, the dinner features a bonafide legend of hockey. This year, that’s St. Louis Blues legend “Iron Man” Garry Unger. Hockey commentator Darren Pang will serve as the Master Of Ceremonies.
Unger will talk about his superb career with the Blues, the trade that sent him to the Detroit Red Wings for Red Berenson, as well as his Iron Man consecutive game streak.
“Darren has been with me since day one and he has a far reach in North America. We have him, sort of, as host and emcee with whoever the Legend is that year,” Fresta said. “Garry Unger has been a fan favorite for years and hasn’t been around a whole lot since he left St. Louis, so a lot of people are excited to kind of find out what he’s been up since his days here in the ‘70s. It’s going to be a great night.”
Tickets are still available for the March 18 dinner, though Fresta predicts a sellout. Seats are $200 per person and tables are available with seating for four, six and 10 guests. The dinner is held at Flemings Steak House, 1855 South Lindbergh Blvd. Dinner begins at 6 p.m.
For more information on the dinner or donating, visit steinbergwinterclassic.com or call (314) 320-8019 for dinner reservations.
Fresta said one of the best parts of the dinner is when someone who has received aid from the Foundation steps up to speak.
“They … talk about their [cancer] experience and what we did for them,” Fresta said. “It’s just a great part of the evening.”