Cherry Hill East softball coach Stephanie Digneo remembers Charlie Musumeci every time she goes into her office.

The office previously belonged to Musumeci, 58, a 28-year coach who died in March after a two-year battle with adrenal cancer. It is still decorated with many of his things.

There are photos of the softball teams he coached, dating more than a decade; certificates and awards for work he did at East; and a colorful drawing of the school mascot, a cougar, with a thank-you note attached from a former player.

Now, Digneo, her players, and the Cherry Hill East community are trying to create a permanent reminder of Musumeci with Saturday's East vs. West Cancer Fundraiser Event, scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

"Since Charlie passed, both schools really wanted to do something to give something back to the cause and honor him in some way," Digneo said. "So this was the way we thought we could honor him and hopefully do this every year."

In addition to varsity and junior-varsity games against rival Cherry Hill West, there will be a barbecue, T-shirt sales, and a raffle to raise money for the Charlie Musumeci Scholarship Fund and the American Cancer Society.

"Saturday really is a tribute to him and a tribute to softball because of how involved he was and how much he cared about the game and the girls," said assistant coach Beth Scharff, a 2000 East graduate who played for Musumeci before joining his coaching staff when she returned to the school as a teacher six years ago.

"Here we are, one side of town against another side of town, and the girls are coming together for something greater than them. We're really excited. We're really anticipating a lot of people and a lot of support."

Cherry Hill West wanted to honor Musumeci in some way after he died. After deciding to wait to see what East did before acting, the school was excited to help support a respected member of the community.

"We're still one district, even if that's another team," Cherry Hill West coach Dave Gurst said. "Just to give it more meaning and hopefully raise awareness for adrenal cancer and get some more fans out, it's important for our kids."

Junior outfielder Casey Clark remembers Musumeci before every game. With a smile, she recalls his habit of informing players of the direction of the wind and the weather, something the players continue to do this season in his memory.

Clark and many of her teammates also remember him with black and red "Moose Strong" rubber bracelets and light-blue armbands that she and her teammates wore when Musumeci was trying to recover last year.

The players wanted to honor Musumeci by renaming their field or wearing a patch on their jerseys, but couldn't because of clauses in school contracts, and did not have enough money to construct a scoreboard in his memory.

"He's an amazing person. I never met anyone like him," Clark said. "He was an amazing coach. Anybody he ever talked to, he impacted. He saw the best in everybody. He was always positive, never brought anybody down.

"We wanted to do something. He impacted our lives and softball itself, and for a lot of us, softball is all we do. It was a big deal, and it's the right thing to do. We want him to know we care still."

Contact Nick Carroll

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