School Closings And Delays

Cubs Manager Joe Maddon Returns To Hazleton

HAZLETON -- In more ways than one, Hazleton felt like the windy city, as Chicago Cubs manager and local son Joe Maddon returned home for the first time since the Cubs won the World Series back in November.

Maddon helped celebrate the groundbreaking for a new playground at the Hazleton One Community Center. It's all part of a nearly week-long celebration to help raise money and awareness for the community-based organization called the Hazleton Integration Project.

"Right now you're seeing we're pushing that boulder in the right direction and we're gaining momentum," said Maddon.

Maddon helped kick-start the Hazleton Integration Project in 2011. Each year since, Maddon returns to Hazleton, helping to improve the everyday life of people in his hometown.

"Hell froze over and the Cubs won the World Series so anything is possible right now," he added.

"Joe obviously hasn't forgotten where he came from and hopefully we mentor some of these children so when they grow up, and they do successful things, they won't forget where they came from," said developer Bill Rinaldi, who donated $250,000 to the Hazleton Integration Project for the new playground.

"It's very important that people like him actually help people in the community," said Luis Baez, a volunteer at the Hazleton One Community Center. "He does a really nice thing actually. I never seen someone like him. These days, they don't do that anymore."

As for the playground, organizers expect to see it completed in about 90 days.

On Friday, Maddon will take part in a fundraising auction at the Valley Country Clubs in Sugarloaf. Boxer Tim Witherspoon, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, Ken Rosenthal, Ed Randal and Lindsay Berra are also expected to be in attendance. Organizers say this event is sold out.

On Saturday, local officials will honor Joe Maddon for winning the World Series at the Hazleton One Community Center. Doors open at 6 p.m.

And the weekend wraps up with Joe Maddon's annual "Thanksmas" meal to disadvantaged families in the area. That event starts at noon.

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