By Jim Gauger
Special to The CS&T

The Phillies’ return to the World Series this fall has touched many lives.

The Major League Baseball team is considered a Philadelphia treasure. Almost a public utility. The fans are the real owners. Their passion has often been cited by the players as a main reason for the team’s continued success.

Of course, there are only so many seats at Citizens Bank Park. Tickets are scarce for a World Series game. And quite expensive.

Stories of fans trying to score tickets flooded the media over the past few weeks. Here’s one that would make even Chase Utley smile.

It concerns Drexel Neumann Academy, the only Catholic school remaining in Chester. It opened three years ago in the facilities of the former school at St. Katharine Drexel Parish.

There are 190 students in grades pre-K through eight. Tuition is $2,250, and more than 50 percent of the students receive financial aid; 70 percent are non-Catholic.

Thanks to the Phillies making the World Series for the second straight season, Drexel Neumann Academy is $11,000 richer.

That is the amount of money raised from five tickets sold on the StubHub web site for last Sunday night’s game against the New York Yankees.

The tickets belonged to Phillies season-ticket holder Steve Burman, a Delaware County resident and a member of the school’s board of directors, who gave them to his brother Marty, owner of Burman’s Health Foods in Brookhaven.

These were not just any tickets, but tickets in the Diamond Club section behind home plate. Marty Burman has four sons, Samuel, 5; Leo, 7; Alex, 11; and Benjamin, 13. For Marty and his sons this was maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But then the Burman family considered an even better opportunity.

“When they found out how valuable the tickets were the boys came up with the idea of selling them and donating the money to Drexel Neumann Academy,” said Sister Maggie Gannon, O.S.F., the school president. “The focus of the decision was not on Steve or Marty but on the sons. They said, ‘Look, we can watch the games on TV.’

“It was so beautiful,” Sister Maggie said. “They weren’t looking for any attention. I wanted them to share this and have other people congratulate them. I thought it was an outstanding act of generosity. It tells me we have great hope for the future when we see children being so kind to other children.”

Before the tickets – with a face value of $320 each – sold, Steve Burman gave Sister Maggie a check for $5,000. That was his guess of their worth. When the total came in, he dropped off the remainder before a pep rally for the Phillies at the school last Friday afternoon.

The decision to donate the tickets wasn’t a hard one, said Burman.

“We went over to the school and saw the kids,” he said, “that clinched it. Each ticket covers tuition for one student, it’s a no-brainer. It was a family effort and a great way to raise money for the school.”

Sister Maggie said the pep rally got everyone excited about the Phillies, but it also had another goal. “We wanted to thank God for the gift of this wonderful family,” Sister Maggie said. “This is real confirmation that there is great goodness in Philadelphia sports fans.”

The only requirement to attend Drexel Neumann Academy is residency in the city of Chester. It exists through the goodwill of its benefactors, which include Neumann University, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and many inspaniduals.

For Steve Burman, the school holds a special place in his heart. “My father and my grandfather grew up a block from the school,” he said. “It’s where our roots are.”

Burman knows the challenges that face Drexel Neumann Academy’s spanerse student body.

“The Chester School District has, and continues to have, problems with standardized tests, attendance, graduation,” he said. “This is an opportunity for kids to receive a private-school education and receive needed financial help. These are really good kids. They are achieving much better than in public school.”

Jim Gauger is a freelance writer and a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside.