Nineteen years ago, Bellows Falls attorney Ray Massucco became involved with Youth Services’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake, an event held since 1981 at Brattleboro Bowl on the first Saturday of every April, to raise money for the agency’s Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program.
“Michael Hertz, Jesse Corum, and some of the other attorneys in the area decided we’d form some teams for the event and have a little friendly competition,” Massucco recalled. “We originally asked for ’per-pin’ contributions until we discovered that none of us could bowl worth a damn. None of us except for my brother, Johnny.”
Johnny Massucco was born with Down syndrome, but led an active life until his death, in 2005 at 55, from pneumonia. Though he’d been a fixture on the sidelines at Bellows Falls football and basketball games and was a huge Terriers fan, there was one thing Johnny loved even more:
“Bowling,” said Ray. “We’d take him anywhere there was a bowling alley — candlepins or 10-pins. He’d go up to the line, place the ball on the lane, and give it a little push with both hands. The ball would take forever to roll down the lane, but he could knock down a lot of pins that way.”
Johnny’s enthusiasm for bowling led Ray’s law firm, Massucco & Velto, to assemble three teams, with up to 17 bowlers total, for annual competition. The team became known as Johnny’s Gutter Kings, and its trademark was the brightly colored tie-dye shirts they wore each year.
“His favorite color was tie-dye, and we got John Goodhue of The Bright Side in Brattleboro to custom-make some T-shirts for him,” said Ray. “He loved them, and they became our uniform.”
To salute Johnny, and to honor nearly two decades of fundraising for Youth Services, this year’s T-shirt — to be presented to all participating bowlers — is a tie-dye replica of Johnny Massucco’s favorite threads.
“Bring your sunglasses this year, because you’re going to get blinded by all the color,” Ray said.
Families and friends, and teams from work, are invited to participate in the 33rd annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake on Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Brattleboro Bowl on Putney Road.
Organizers say the goal this year is to fill every lane every hour, which they have come close to realizing in past years.
“The 4 to 5 p.m. time is reserved for teams of ’bigs’ and ’littles,’ and teens will have a special ’cosmic bowling’ atmosphere,” said Youth Services board member Betsy Gentile, who is chairing the event committee and is a Big Sister herself.
She explained the goal is to raise $65,000 in pledge money and business sponsorships to help cover the cost of running the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Nearly 120 children in Windham County and nearby New Hampshire benefit from the program each year, matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Twenty Windham County youngsters eagerly anticipate being matched with an adult mentor, and more are on the wait list.
For pledge sheets and to reserve a lane, call Youth Services at 802-257-0361. To learn more about these programs or to sponsor your favorite bowlers, visit www.youthservicesinc.org/bowling.
Bluebirds soar at Vermont Special Olympics
• The AbilityPLUS Bluebirds Alpine race team wrapped up its 2013-14 season by winning nearly two dozen medals, including 10 gold, five silver, four bronze, and several top-five finishes at the Vermont Special Olympics at Suicide Six ski area in Pomfret.
The AbilityPLUS Bluebirds, named for the team’s favorite chairlift, train throughout the season at Mount Snow.
Local racer Nicholas Saladino of Halifax won gold in his category in both the giant slalom and Super-G. Searsburg resident Danny Hollister, who participates in the AbilityPLUS area school program at Mount Snow, took silver in both slalom and giant slalom. Emma Davis of Brattleboro took bronze in giant slalom.
Brattleboro’s Kayli Nicholson, whose first day on skis was in January, participated in slalom, giant slalom, and super-G.
“This is a great success for our entire team,” said AbilityPLUS Program Director Linda Walsh in a news release.
The AbilityPLUS Alpine race team provides skiers of all levels, with any disability, the opportunity to train and the means to enter regional races, Walsh said.
“The fact that Kayli, who just started skiing this season, competed at this year’s Special Olympics, is a testament not only to Kayli’s talent and athleticism, but also to the great coaches who work with the team all season,” she added.
The Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities. The organization provides training and competitions for 3.7 million athletes in 170 countries.
AbilityPLUS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in its 17th year of enriching the lives of program participants, their families, friends, and a community of volunteers who work to provide year-round adaptive sports and recreation for individuals with all manner of disabilities.
For more information, visit www.abilityplus.org.
Watch out for thin ice
• Vermont state law requires that ice fishing shanties must be removed from the ice before the ice becomes unsafe or loses its ability to support the shanty out of the water, or by the last Sunday in March, whichever comes first.
As that date has passed, you could be fined up to $1,000 by the state Fish & Wildlife Department if your shanty is still on the ice.
Even though spring weather has been slow in coming, Vermont’s ice surfaces are warming from below and becoming increasingly treacherous. The Brattleboro Fire Department and its Vermont state partners say the time is now to get off the ice and stay off it.