Viking Pride Reaches $750k in Donations to Local Programs

Thursday, December 6, 2012
By Cary Shuman

Peter Gobiel, director of athletics at Winthrop High School, thanks Al Petrilli, past chairman of the Viking Pride Foundation, for its generous donation toward the new basketball and volleyball court at the high school. Also pictured, from left, are VPF board members Mark D’Ambrosio, Scott Kinsella, and Chris
Tsiotos.

The Viking Pride Foundation reached a new and majestic milestone, surpassing $750,000 in donations to the town since the organization’s inception in February, 2004.

The most recent donation to the Winthrop schools by VPF was a substantial one, a $10,000 contribution that went toward the installation of a brand new floor for the high school volleyball and basketball courts.

Director of Athletics Peter Gobiel said the project wouldn’t have been possible without the gift from the foundation.

“The basketball teams are excited to play on it,” said Gobiel. “It really adds a lot to the gym. Viking Pride also donated the uniforms for our volleyball club team. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity. We couldn’t have done this without Viking Pride.”

Al Petrilli, past chairman of the foundation, said the courts represented an expanded scope for the organization. “This was sort of stepping out of our true arena which is to help reduce user fees so capital improvement is big investment from Viking Pride,” said Petrilli.

The $750,000 donation plateau is significant for Petrilli and others who have helped foster the growth of the organization and expand its outreach beyond athletics.

Those donations have gone toward the reduction of user fees and major projects such as the purchase of schools buses for the School Department.

“For the 2011-12, the use of the buses has saved the School Department approximately $30,000,” noted board member Mark D’Ambrosio.

Petrilli said the buses have been used for purposes other than transporting athletic teams. Students have used the buses for educational and cultural field trips while seniors have traveled on one-day social and trips to various attractions in the area.

“We thought outside the box, not to just take care of the athletic teams but to think of how we could help the community,” said Petrilli.

The total fundraising total for VPF is actually around $1.4 million.

“The key thing about that kind of fundraising is that it’s not done through any major corporations or major donors other than the core group of town residents, concerned parents, alumni, and our ability to have fundraisers that are attached to fun and getting the community to pull together for a good night of raising money for the kids of this town,” said Petrilli.

The major fundraisers have included reunions and concerts at Miller Field, and Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournaments.

The first major fundraiser was a dinner at Jimmy’s Allenhurst in Danvers. Three hundred people attended the event and it raised $40,000.

“That dinner gave us the confidence to move forward,” said Petrilli.

And move forward VPF has, becoming the model for other communities to emulate in launching town-wide, school-related fundraising groups.

The VPF impact is being felt across the entire school system. WHS teachers have received grants for various academic activities. The group has worked with the family of former teacher Neil Shapiro to raise funds for the dramatic arts. Superintendent of Schools John Macero and Town Manager James McKenna have praised the organization’s generous support of school programs.

Board member Scott Kinsella said the group helped fund in coordination with the 11 Foundation: In Memory of Mike Mason an appearance at the high school by former NBA player Chris Herren, who gave an impactful talk about his lifelong battle against drug and alcohol abuse. The emotional speech was well received by a rapt audience of students and teachers.

Current WPF Chair Vincent Crossman, a WHS 1997 graduate who attends Suffolk University and holds a Master’s Degree from Cambridge College, is a charter member of the group.

“It started with a phone call from [founder] Richard Fucillo,” recalled Crossman. “We knew the Winthrop schools were in serious need of some help and we decided to put the group together. Under Richard’s leadership it blossomed into something that’s continued pretty strongly right through today.”

Asked if he thought the organization could a reach an amount as high as $750,000 in less than a decade, Crossman said, “I never thought we would be at that level of donations. It’s amazing that a small community such as Winthrop could really raise that much money in that period of time. I think it’s almost unheard of in a small community.”

Crossman, like all VPF board members, is a visible presence at WHS athletic events. He said all board members have contributed to accomplishing the organization’s mission and keeping VPF strong.

“It’s obvious that a foundation of this size doesn’t run with one person,” said Crossman. “The team that we have, that puts its time in without compensation, meets regularly, and works on fundraisers – they’re just fantastic. You have members like Al Petrilli and Cathy Gallivan who no longer have children in the school system and Bobby Deeb, Scott Kinsella, and Mark D’Ambrosio – these are great people who give unselfishly of themselves and give up time with their family to try to make things better for the kids in the community.”

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