Battle of the Christian Bands makes local debut


The Mummers Museum, 1100 S. Second St., will host a festivity this weekend a little bit different from the New Year’s Day display the group is famous for.

“Basically it’s the idea that came up in 2010 by my job — what I do as a child abuse investigator for the Philadelphia Police Department and my role as a worship leader through my church,” Arthur P. Salvagno Sr., originally from the 1700 block of McClellan Street, said. “I saw a need to raise funds for the hospitals that help us so much.”

Salvagno, who has been in his current position for a decade, said that the neglect teams at local hospitals — comprised of the social workers and medical professionals that deal with alleged violent or sexual child abuse cases — are an invaluable ally for the officers that deal with upward of 2,000 investigations every year.

“There are roughly 10 to 15 of us in my unit that do these investigations a year,” Salvagno, 57, said. ”It’s a pretty hefty order to fill. Without these institutions and them dealing with the physical abuse part of these investigations, we couldn’t really close these investigations.

“What came out of it was: How can we raise funds for that?”

The answer came in the form of the Battle of the Christian Bands. The inaugural event occurred last year, and proceeds went to support St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. This year’s second incarnation, held 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, will be to raise funds for Safe Place at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“We felt we had to make it larger since it was the second annual. The Mummers being in South Philly, being historical — it seemed to be a pretty neat fit, so we said, ‘Let’s go for it,’” Salvagno said. “We have room for 100 more people, a 300-seat venue, so we’re hoping to sell it out by Saturday.”

Tickets, available for $30 in advance, include finger foods and soft drinks, plus seeing the seven competing bands that hail from as close as Phoenixville and as far as Ithaca, N.Y. Though not in competition, Salvagno also will be performing with his worship team, Lighthouse of Oxford Valley.

“People are starting to talk more about it this year,” Salvagno, who has put up the financial backing both years, said. “Those who attended last year and those who don’t come from a religious background who attended last year can’t wait this year to do it again.”

Salvagno stressed his work as a worship leader, which involves selecting the week’s musical accompaniments at his Bucks County church, led to the theme of the fundraising event, but it is a gathering with the focus on informing people of the reality of child abuse.

“People should come in the name of child abuse awareness, to become more aware of what child abuse is and learn more about it,” he said. “It’s not just what you hear on the television or news, or what happened with the Archdiocese [of Philadelphia] and at Penn State. It goes on every day. It’s what goes on behind the scenes.”

A 1973 graduate of Bishop Neumann, formerly 2600 Moore St., Salvagno began studies at Penn State University before beginning work in law enforcement.

He spent time with the FBI, Department of Defense and Philadelphia Police Department. In 1995, he decided to finish out his bachelor’s in organizational management. Completing his coursework in one year while also working as an officer, he received his degree from Wayne’s Eastern University.

“It was something I always wanted to complete. I always like to complete my goals,” he said, adding that he later secured a master’s in business law in ’98.

When a call was put out within the department for people interested in special investigation work, Salvagno, a two-term Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge F1-PA, president from ’90-94, put in for a transfer, ending up with Special Victims Unit.

“Aside from my job as a K-9, I did white-collar crime investigative work and through my years at the Defense Department, I worked part-time as a physical education teacher for elementary schools,” he said, noting his work with youngsters included roles at Holy Spirit, formerly 1845 Hartranft St., and Trinity Christian, then 19th and Porter streets. “I enjoyed that time working as a teacher. I had that background working with children and then investigative work, and I wanted to get back into it and this opportunity came forth.”

On this unit, Salvagno has found a cause he believes in more than a 9 to 5. The battle of the bands is one way he hopes to raise awareness about the subject and get citizens better educated. And challenges, generally, are something the officer embraces.

“One pastor, Heidi Butterworth of Lighthouse of Oxford Valley, had come to our church looking for a drummer. I wound up going with the drummer,” the Northeast resident said of his move into the position of worship leader. “It is so much more rewarding than I expected. Every Sunday morning I see the response from the congregation that attends. … The congregation is standing and receiving the Lord and the music. I feel that back from them.”

Combining his passions and raising funds for a good cause, Salvagno feels overjoyed to bring his event to South Philly.

“I’ve been a couple times [to the Mummers Museum]. Growing up in South Philly, my family and I weren’t active but we would attend the parades every year. In South Philly growing up, that was a time for family,” he said. “That’s when you would open up your house to family and friends. My mom would have a pot of soup on the stove and people would just come in to get warm and have some food and go.

“I’m so excited to have it in South Philadelphia.”

This community vibe is something Salvagno hopes people cultivate at the fundraiser. He also wishes to expand the event so he can stop dipping into personal funds and raise significant support for hospitals.

“After last year’s event, I learned of an event in the Detroit area. It started with one or two churches. … It was to bring people to together. It was all different types of religions gathered in force and now they are in [the Detroit Tigers’ Comercia Park],” Salvagno said. “I’d love to have this at Citizens Bank Park or the Wells Fargo Center. I’d cry if that happened. And I would love to see other churches join us.”


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