Art Calandrelli's daughter gives her dad much of the credit for her extraordinary success in the fitness industry.
The founder and partner in a billion dollar empire that includes 1,200 fitness centers around the world, Ellen Latham credits her dad for the positivity that kept her going when she was an unemployed single mom in her 40s.
Latham's latest achievement is getting the Niagara Falls High School football stadium named in her father's honor.
A record-setting punter at Canisius College and UB, Calandrelli was a football and track coach and eventually athletic director for the Niagara Falls School District from the 1950s to the 1980s. He died in 2004.
Latham is the first to participate in the district's new naming rights program. She will be present at a VIP event at 2 p.m. Friday at the Niagara Falls High School Field House and share some thoughts about her dad, including excerpts from some of the many letters she found recently in her father's papers from former players.
"My father had such incredible influence on his players," she said during a phone interview from Florida recently.
One player wrote to Coach Calandrelli and said, thanks to him, "I now fully understand what positive thinking does for someone. It doesn't make you better than anyone else, it makes you see what you really are, what you can be and what you really want to be."
Niagara Falls School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie said his father, Bob Laurrie, and Art Calandrelli were friends and both had offices in the same hallway when Calandrelli was athletic director and Laurrie's dad was an administrator.
"I knew he was a great football coach and track coach and just a fine human being," said Laurrie, who noted that Calandrelli was also a mentor to many coaches who came after him.
The superintendent said that when Ellen Latham asked him about naming the field for her dad and making a contribution to student athletes, the timing was perfect. The district was just beginning its efforts to find major sponsors for naming the athletic fields, the field house, the entire sports complex, the scoreboard, press box and the performing arts center.
"It's the first of, hopefully, many such dedications," Laurrie said of the weekend festivities, adding that a complete list of nearly 20 naming opportunities is expected to be released on Friday. Latham contributed $150,000 for both field initiatives and annual scholarships of $5,000 each year going forward to standout athletes at the high school, he said.
Both Latham and Laurrie credited the coach for creating the first Niagara Falls High School booster club, and supported by Latham's mom and friends and family, he led the efforts to raise funds to support athletics at the high school. Latham has fond memories of the many bake sales that featured her mother Rose's Italian cookies.
Art Calandrelli played college football for Canisius College until the football program was dropped, transferred to the State University of New York at Buffalo where he received his physical education teaching degree and where he also played football for the UB Bulls. He held the college punting record in the United States for 12 years for punting a 47.5 average per game, his daughter said. He was the only child of eight children from an Italian immigrant family to get a college education, she added.
Beyond his skills as a player were the messages of positivity he shared with football and track athletes he coached, as well as his own daughter.
When she was fired from her job at an exclusive fitness center, she followed her dad's advice and focused on what she still had.
"At the time, I was a great group fitness instructor. So I focused on what I had and ended up creating this workout and opened a little studio," Latham explained about a workout system with heart monitors that lights orange when clients reach best levels.
A client's husband was a franchiser and went to her studio to meet her.
"He came over and was blown away," she continued. "He said, 'you know what, I've got a partner. Why don't the three of us put something together.'"
And so they did.
The result was Orangetheory Fitness, which has franchises in 22 countries around the world.
As part of her success story, Ellen Latham, now also an inspirational speaker, will be able to pay tribute to her father.
The stadium will be named during homecoming ceremonies at 11 a.m. on Saturday. There is also an after-party at DeFazio's Stadium Grill at 7 p.m. on Saturday.