There’s a bit of a running joke in the family, or at least from grandfather Mike Cella, that Peabody star kicker Domenic Scalese is a café table and a cappuccino away from completing his relaxed persona on the sidelines.
His parents, grandparents and 9-year-old sister make up a small army of super fans at just about every game. Football-adoring mother, Stephanie Scalese, can rattle off his milestones as a full-time supporter. They’ve all watched Domenic’s kicks this year as he reached 100 career points, shattered the school’s all-time kicking points record, tied a program-best 48-yard field goal, and helped the Tanners win their first playoff game since 2016.
In between, though, they lovingly chuckle over Domenic’s almost nonchalant demeanor.
It’s clear how tight-knit the family is, and Peabody’s most successful kicker has given his most loyal fans quite the show. It’s special. But while that’s not lost on Domenic, every single one of those points they cheered for this year were dedicated instead to the family member who can’t sit in the stands with them.
Brother Nico Cella Scalese was stillborn at 36 weeks when Domenic was in kindergarten. He thinks about him all the time, especially in the team’s pre-game prayer. So, Domenic pledged his points and efforts this season, and in any future seasons, to Every Kick Counts – a program in the Count the Kicks public health campaign that’s dedicated to preventing the often-overlooked issue by raising money and educating expectant mothers on the importance of monitoring their baby’s movements.
Domenic might be cool and collected, but there’s nothing nonchalant about his execution on the field, nor the more than $3,000 he’s raised for the cause so far.
“I just wanted to bring a memory to him, and I really wanted to shine a light on it because not a lot of people shine light on (stillbirths),” Domenic said. “It’s just something really good to do. Especially when I’ve gone through something like that, I really hate to see other families going through something like that too.”
What he’s gone through is a lot to recall from kindergarten. But Domenic remembers.
He remembers when his father, Mark Scalese, picked him up from school the day Nico didn’t survive an emergency C-section. He remembers Mark sitting him up on a counter to tell him the news, and his anguish. He remembers visiting Stephanie in the hospital, and how heartbroken everyone was.
“I remember (my dad) just broke down and I broke down,” he said. “We immediately went over to the hospital, I think my grandparents were there. My mom, she was really distraught. It hurt a lot to see her really upset too, and the rest of my family. But within the coming days, moving forward, the community definitely helped. … It was just really nice to see people kind of being there for us.”
Domenic has grinded at mastering his kicking craft.
He’s one of the first players at the field for practices and games, and his mission to kick in college has him working at it year-round. He’s attended some of the same kicking camps and showcases as the other top kickers around the country. Domenic has gotten so good that Tanners coach Mark Bettencourt reportedly said he might let him go for a 60-yarder if the conditions are right. Thanksgiving is his last chance in high school.
But for all the work he’s put in toward 162 career points, Domenic says his most meaningful efforts come in becoming one of those very community members that once helped his family get through tragedy.
It was at a Kohl’s kicking camp that Domenic learned more about Every Kick Counts in conversations with another kicker, and he immediately decided to be a part of it. Taking the lead on signing up, spreading the word and raising money is a bit of a rarity for an individual high school athlete to pursue – and that isn’t lost on his family.
“It’s beyond significant,” Stephanie said. “I could not be more proud of him, I cry when I talk about it. He’s an absolutely amazing human being. He is such an independent, smart, very, very caring individual. … He cares about a lot of things, and it is no surprise to me that he would do these things.”
“He does stuff on his own. He’s very mature,” Mark added. “He works hard for everything and when he puts his mind to something, he just does it. He just achieves what he wants to do. … To see him want to help families that are experiencing something we went through is great. It’s just a really good thing for him to do.”
This isn’t the first charitable venture Domenic has been a part of, and Stephanie is much to thank for helping instill the motivation.
After losing Nico in March 2012, she was “engulfed” in trying to move forward and find a way to give back. She walked in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies just two months after the C-section, having raised over $10,000. The family walked every year until 2019, and was recognized as an ambassador family for their dedication.
Stephanie also organizes donation baskets filled with supplies for families with babies in the NICU to be delivered to four different hospitals on Nov. 17 – World Prematurity Day. Nurses are brought some treats, and baskets are filled with simple items: “Anything to help them just feel more comfortable being in there because it’s a horrifying experience,” Stephanie said.
Domenic has been with her every time. And when the NFL’s Play 60 initiative opened an essay contest about kids’ favorite players, Stephanie helped her then third-grader write about New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski not only for his dominance on the field, but his work with March of Dimes.
“There were 33 finalists in the United States, and it was between him and the girl from New York to be a journalist at the Super Bowl,” Stephanie said.
Domenic didn’t win the contest, but certainly took away an initiative for something much more important.
Donations can be made at https://charity.pledgeit.org/f/taw0tmvllx.