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Delco Christian grad Falasco takes important swing at mental health awareness

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> RonnieMarie Falasco accrued more than 100 career hits in four years at Delaware County Christian School. She crushed a county-high 11 home runs in her senior season, leading to All-Delco and All-State selections.

Falasco was rewarded for her smarts and talent. She was one of 150 Coca-Cola and Foot Locker scholar-athlete winners nationwide, and was recognized by the Delaware County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

That’s an impressive resume.

Falasco, who will continue her softball career at Amherst College, never sought interviews or newspaper headlines while being a dominant, slugging catcher at Delco Christian. As the star of a rebuilding softball program, Falasco never pouted or considered leaving DCCS.

Actually, Falasco was happy to build things in school, both with her softball team and activities beyond the classroom.

“I never wanted to switch schools over softball because I loved the school so much,” Falasco said in a recent conversation. “Softball was just something else I got to do.”

In 2017, Delco Christian enjoyed a winning season and qualified for the District 1 Class 2A playoffs.

“I think we were midway through this season and we had already won more games than we had the past two years. We had 10 wins this year, the most wins I ever had was four,” said Falasco, a Broomall native. “Obviously, that is a big jump. This year we had quality wins, too. Coach (Matt) Hummel was a big part of why we did so well. You could see the results. We were actually physically talented this year.”

Softball, though, has never defined her.

Some of Falasco’s most inspired work transpired off the field. For as long as she can remember, Falasco has been active in raising mental health awareness. Her mother, Linda, lost her brother to suicide long before Ronnie was born. Ronnie was affected when her uncle — her mom’s second brother — died of a drug overdose when she was 15.

Linda Falasco is a threapist who specializes in mental health issues and one of the leading advocates in Delaware County. Every September, she hosts a candlelight vigil at Rose Tree Park in remembrance to those lost to mental illness. And Ronnie has been by her mom’s side all these years.

“She was doing this with me from when she was a baby, but at around age 15 it meant more to her.  That is when she lost her uncle — my second brother — to a drug overdose,” Linda said.  “He suffered mental illness all his life. This really changed her.”

In her freshman year at Delco Christian, Ronnie wanted to make her own path. She started a LETS club (Let’s Erase the Stigma) to encourage open dialogue about mental illness.

“Educating the school. That was the main goal,” she said.

Ronnie simply wanted to create an environment at school where kids could make a difference in each other’s lives. At its core, her ongoing project was a four-year social support club. No subject was off-limits. Ronnie supervised conversations on anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among other topics. The club made posters to hang on the hallway walls and issued fact announcements during school hours.

“I realized how misunderstood it was in my school and was glad to help educate people,” she said. “In school settings, there’s so much anxiety and depression that people will just hide it. In a religious community, too, sometimes it can be shoved under the rug. I learned a lot about that and learned how some people deal with it in incorrect ways.”

All Ronnie wanted was to help. She wanted to be a voice, but most of all, she wanted to give her peers a reason not to be afraid.

“I did have a lot of people tell me about their own struggles,” she said. “It was a little stressful because, you know, I’m just a teenager and I can’t help with everything. But it was a great experience. I’m just glad I could be able to start something like this at school.”

While there may have been apprehension to discuss such a sensitive subject matter, Ronnie says she never received any pushback from Delco Christian faculty or administration. Rather, school officials were receptive to her ideas. As the years went on, it was clear Ronnie’s impact in raising awareness for mental illness within the Delco Christian community was making a positive, and lasting, impact.

“I never ran into any huge issue at school. When I first started it, nobody at school ever really talked about it,” she said. “But as the years went on, I noticed the school started doing chapel series on mental health. They started addressing it more, which was good to see. I think a lot of people at school became more aware of it.”

Ronnie was the salutatorian for Delco Christian’s Class of 2017. In addition to being an exceptional student, ballplayer and advocate for mental illness, Ronnie volunteered her time feeding the homeless in Philadelphia. Several times a year she serves food to the needy out of the Falasco’s family car.

While visiting family her sophomore year, Falasco interned at the  Marathon Veterinary Hospital in the Florida Keys. As a junior she interned at the Injury Care Center in Glenolden. She is a Sunday School teacher at Springton Lake Presbyterian Church.

“I want to start a nonprofit one day,” she said, “so I can help people.”

That’s just who Ronnie Falasco is.

Outstanding softball player? Sure. But most of all, she’s a pretty amazing person.

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