The Richard “Ricky” Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner is a tradition unlike any other.
“This is an annual event that serves to memorialize my cousin, Rick Salzillo, who died in a car accident some 36 years ago,” said Steven Placella, a Johnston-based attorney. “All of the proceeds from this dinner will be paid out in scholarship stipends to graduating Johnston High School seniors and two other important organizations.”
Those organizations are the Cancer Unit at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Operation Stand Down, an organization that assists veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
For people like Placella, the dinner is a way to keep the late Johnston resident’s name alive. The event, which will be held on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Kelley Gazzerro VFW Post on the Cranston-Johnston line, is also a reunion, as family and friends who grew up on Plainfield Street come together for the cause.
“The food is great and plentiful,” Placella said. “The raffle prizes are spectacular. You’re invited to join us and renew old friendships and make new ones. This will be a great day.”
The memorial game dinner will begin at noon and continue throughout the afternoon until all raffle prizes are gone. The event will feature a large menu, including venison sausage and venison meatloaf.
Placella is glad to announce that the dinner will not interfere with Sunday football, either, as it is the week before Super Bowl and no games are scheduled.
The Richard D. Salzillo Memorial Scholarship fund last year presented eight Johnston High School graduates with scholarships. Scholarships are presented to students who demonstrate excellence in academics and leadership over the course of their high school career.
“We urge all the scholarship recipients to continue to work in all their endeavors so that they can ultimately make a difference in not only their community and state, but in the world,” Placella said. “Ricky’s friends and relatives have chosen those words because we know that had he been with us today, he would have continued to make a difference in all our lives.”
The late Salzillo was a basketball player at La Salle Academy in Providence. He was also a musician and singer who loved the music of Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.
“Ricky was 24 years of age at the time of his death. He was a big, muscular and enormously popular young man who could melt sadness or anger with his eyes and smile,” Placella said. “We urge those people who knew him, and even those who didn’t, to come to the game dinner and help support the scholarship fund that’s in his name.”
Salzillo died on Feb. 10, 1976, in an automobile accident.
Remembering his friend and cousin, Placella said Salzillo’s best quality was “his heart and kindness to others.”
“That’s why many, many people have supported this game dinner-scholarship fundraiser through the years.”
Over the years, friends and family have raised money both for scholarships and also for other community projects, such as the Fitness Court, Veterans War Pavilion and lights at the basketball courts all inside Johnston War Memorial Park. Placella credits people like the late Dan Mazzulla, former Recreation Director Vin LaFazia and Mike Collenda, just to name a few, with the success of ongoing events through the years. Tony Beradis, John Furia and Frank and Nick Fede of Kingstown Liquors also make the list of people who have made the game dinner possible.
“For years it was hectic as hell,” Placella said. “One time the oven broke and we had to go to mom’s house and cook rabbit. Then Vinny LaFazia said, ‘Why don’t we have Ralph do it?’ And it has been that way ever since.”
Ralph Defusco of Ralph’s Kitchen at the Kelley Gazzerro Post does the cooking, allowing event organizers to focus on drawing a crowd and collecting raffle prizes. To date, the group has distributed more than $40,000 to students and community agencies.
To reserve tickets for the Jan. 27 Richard “Rickey” Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner, call Placella at 255-3478.