Remembering A Dad Lost To COVID-19 Through A Final Four Fan Cutout
The NCAA March Madness tournament looks different this year. While seating is limited, one company is working to ensure the stadium is full of fans cheering on their favorite teams.
Joe DiPietro is the co-founder of Perk Social, a marketing company that makes fan cutouts. Although some fans can watch the games in-person at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, DiPietro says hesitant spectators are opting to use cutouts instead. The cutouts mostly feature people, but he's also created a few unique ones.
"It’s been across the board," he says. "I mean, we have seen fish and horses. We almost always have a 'Where’s Waldo' show up."
The cutouts also serve a good cause. Proceeds from the Final Four championship game cutouts will benefit a number of charities.
DiPietro sees varying reactions to the use of cutouts at games. Some want to support the Final Four and NCAA basketball, while others who attend every year want the cutout to go in their place.
"Yet the charity aspect of it, I really do think pushes people over the edge," he says, "saying you know, 'this is kind of a silly thing to do, but at least the money is going to good charities.' "
Zach Boucher and Andrew Kelto made a cutout in remembrance of a loved one.
Attending the Final Four games was a tradition for their group of family and friends since 2009 when they went for the first time in Detroit. They've gone every year since with the exception of last year.
When Boucher's father, Dan Boucher, died of COVID-19 in February, they wanted to continue the tradition using the cutouts.
"It’s kind of a touching tribute that the tradition gets to live on," Boucher says. "That we’re still part of the 'never-miss-a-Final-Four club' because our cutouts will still be sitting in the stands there."
Kelto grew up with Zach Boucher and attended the University of Michigan with him. After Boucher's father passed, Kelto and his friends wanted to do something to honor the 61-year-old's memory and put a smile on Zach Boucher's face.
"We thought, what better way than allow Zach and Dan to be at the Final Four again this year together in the stands," Kelto says.
The cutouts were a surprise to Zach Boucher, who didn't know his friends had made one of him and his father. The cutout is a picture of their last vacation together, a Caribbean cruise before the pandemic.
"I’d like to think that he’s up there right now kind of putting in a good word for the Wolverines because they’re on a pretty good run right now," Zach Boucher says of his father. "And I hope he can keep doing so as they push forward to the Final Four."
Once the tournament is over, Zach Boucher already knows what he plans to do with his cutout.
"I’ve actually just recently redone my basement. That’s sort of a man cave, Michigan theme," he says, "so I’ll probably find a spot for him down there so we can watch more games with me in the future."
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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