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Firm organizes sports competition to raise funds for scholarships

Firm organizes sports competition to raise funds for scholarships

IN MEETING ITS commitment of a $34,000 gift to the university's Division of Athletics for scholarships, the Legend Group of Buffalo is taking an innovative approach to reach its goal: organizing a statewide high school track-and-field competition called "The Legend Relays."

The annual competition, supervised by Legend's James L. Cecchini, draws about 3,000 participants to UB's Alumni Arena from 102 high schools, some from as far away as Binghamton and Utica. More than $17,000 has been raised for UB in the first two years of the event's existence, and the company and Cecchini are committed to at least two more years of fundraising.

A portion of the sponsorship fee paid by companies that sponsor the competition is set aside for UB scholarships, according to Cecchini, vice president of The Legend Group's Buffalo regional office. A number of companies become sponsors of the high school competition. These payments make up about half of the annual gift to UB, with the balance provided by The Legend Group.

"Everyone is expecting great results from our program," said Nelson Townsend, UB's director of athletics. "Jim and The Legend Group are taking an active role to help us bring about those results. They are stepping forward and setting a standard for active volunteer leadership.

"The philanthropic and moral support we are getting from Jim and the company will, without a doubt, inspire other friends and alumni to join us as we continue to enhance our program," he added.

Cecchini says embarking on the fundraising venture is a natural part of a mutually beneficial relationship.

"UB does a lot for Buffalo, and it's a good chance for us as a company to give something back to the city," he added. "We work with people in the business of education, and we feel that this is the best way to give something back to the community and the people we work with."

The Legend Group specializes in financial planning for nonprofit organizations, colleges and hospitals/health-care organizations. The company has been providing funds for scholarships at colleges and universities for 11 years.

Although he did not attend UB, Cecchini said he has a great deal of respect for the university and the prominent role it plays in the community. "UB could and should be a centerpiece for this community," he said. "With Division I athletic competition, more people will be drawn to the university and will give it the attention it deserves."

In addition to coordinating the track-and-field competition to benefit UB scholarships, Cecchini gives UB his time and attention as a volunteer. He has been a member of the University at Buffalo Athletic Advisory Committee (UBAAC), and served as chair of the corporate season-ticket campaign. The UBAAC is a group of volunteers whose purpose is to generate private philanthropic support for the athletic department's Division I programs, as well as act as a liaison to the community.

Cecchini also sees his work and the gifts from individuals and businesses as laying the groundwork for gifts for future generations of student-athletes.

"These student-athletes understand how important the help is that they've received. We hope they'll do the same kind of thing someday when they are able."