More than $10K raised as Salzillo dinner continues to grow

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Richard D. “Rickey” Salzillo’s legacy lives on.

That’s because once again – as has been the tradition since the late Johnston legend was killed in a tragic automobile accident back on Feb. 10, 1976 – upwards of 300 people showed up at the famed Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 on Plainfield Pike for the annual Rickey Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner and helped raise more than $10,000.

All of which means, as attorney Steven M. Placella – who co-chairs the event with Vin LaFazia – said, “the plan is to again fund 12 Johnston High School Scholarships, make a donation to the JMCE [Johnston Memorial Cancer Events], Pediatric Oncology Department at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Race for Matt and Grace, ALS Rhode Island and probably a few others.”

Placella, who served as the day’s emcee and conducted the raffle, issued thanks to each and every person who continues to support the fundraiser.

People like David Graham – who owns and operates Graham Builders in Smithfield and is active in local community nonprofits – and R.I. Softball Hall of Famer Anthony “Cal” Calabro get a bunch of their buddies together and paid $35 each to attend the dinner.

Likewise, groups like the Korean War veterans, Johnston Lions Club and Classic Blend doo-wop entertainers Peter Goneconte and Ron Iacobucci show their generosity by digging into their pockets to purchase 75 regular raffle prizes as well as a chance to take home one of the six grand prizes that this year ranged in value from $250 to $850.

“I’ve never seen anything like this event,” Richard Bartlett, a Warwick resident who was among a dozen of so Air Force veterans who enjoyed the Jan. 26 gathering. “This is without question a special show of the community coming together for a cause people will seemingly never, ever let die.”

Greg and David Spirito, who own and operate Spirito’s Catering and Restaurant at the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post, provided food for the dinner yet again.

Frank and Nick Fede are also important to the dinner’s sterling reputation.

“I wonder how many towns and/or cities have natives like Frank and Steve who come back every year and organize the unique raffle prizes that really boost our day’s final result,” Placella said. “I know the answer; there’s nobody around like the Fedes.”

The Fede brothers – who were born and raised in Johnston and now own and operate Kingston Liquor Mart in North Kingstown – solicit their distributors for raffle prizes like the wine rack that featured 36-plus bottles and Traeger Smoker Grill that was valued at $850.

Frank and Nick Fede, in fact, made the 2020 Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner extra special, as Jessica Fede and Paul Fede – two of Frank’s children – volunteered their services in a number of capacities, most notably taking tickets and helping with the sale of raffle tickets.

“They’re special people,” Placella noted. “Jessica has a Ph.D. and is a professor at Johnston & Wales University and has a private counseling practice. Paul is the owner of Gooseneck Vineyards, and we can’t thank them enough for their extraordinary effort before and after this year’s dinner.”

Yet another excellent example of people in the community coming together to honor a late and local legend and help fund important nonprofit programs like college scholarships and money for programs that help children who are battling cancer.

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