A rink in their armor

Photo by Tina Garceau

One could say the third time proved the charm for Beth DeStephanis when she made her tertiary appearance at Rizzo Rink, 1001 S. Front St., Saturday evening had her first two experiences there that day not also been incredibly delightful. The resident of the 200 block of Daly Street and her family capped their busy involvement with the revered recreational space by attending the Rally4Rizzo, a fundraiser that will assist in the future erection of a replacement space.

“We’re absolutely in love with coming here,” the Whitman inhabitant said of her kin’s connection to the Pennsport spot. “It’s such a welcoming environment, and the instruction is fantastic.”

She and husband Ray, who also took to the ice, beamed as their children, four-year-old Keira and seven-year-old Patrick, joined dozens of youngsters in enjoying a night of late winter wonder. Having already witnessed her daughter’s skating lesson in the morning and her son’s hockey game in the afternoon, she had nothing but praise for the idea to generate money for Rizzo’s sustenance and growth.

“I’m also a teacher, so aside from taking joy as a mother in seeing their progress, I evaluate what being here does for their maturation,” the matriarch said. “I know Rizzo Rink is having a great effect on them and other children.”

Anthony DiFlorio III finds that testimonial and similar estimations amazing advertisements for the long-term evolution of his three-year employment site. The recreation leader bore a constant smile when selling tickets and became the picture of relentless anticipation in discussing how clans can continue to benefit from the tutelage of his peers.

“We want to make it a memorable occasion each time someone comes here,” the resident of the 1100 block of South Seventh Street said between sales. “Going forward, that’s going to become an even stronger goal for us.”

The Bella Vista denizen revealed that the organizers will place the night’s proceeds into an account for the construction of a new rink. Because of neighboring development, he and Rizzo staffers know they will soon need a new home, but nobody is approaching the process fearfully.

“We’ve had wonderful interactions over the years with local leaders,” DiFlorio said of figures that include Mayor Jim Kenney and First District Councilman Mark Squilla. “We’re proud of what we offer here, so the plan, like with stadiums, is to build something new before taking anything down. There’s no definite timeline but being prepared is what we owe to the community since they’re the ones who keep us going.”

Having opened in 1979, Rizzo Rink has established a venerable reputation as a fosterer of dreams and a unifier of families. For the last 31 years, athletic programs geared toward aiding character development, teaching values, promoting sportsmanship, and seeing successes and setbacks as equally instructional have helped South Philly youths, in particular, to contribute to the fabric of their communities and to become better in numerous pursuits as well, with Beth DeStephanis noticing that Patrick has grown as a listener through his two years as a registrant.

“My time here has been great,” the St. Monica School student declared as other excited youths walked by to enjoy carnival games, head to the dunk tank, and test their target accuracy skills like National Hockey League players at All-Star Weekend. “I’m always happy when I come to Rizzo Rink.”

Returning to the ice, he and his sister, who might follow in her sibling’s skates by pursuing hockey, too, flew around the rink with ease and excitement, leading their parents to count their blessings as members of the Rizzo Rink family. Ray DeStephanis, whose Roman Catholic High School Cahillites varsity soccer club made him a happy head coach in winning the Catholic League title last fall, was an especially proud papa as Keira navigated a few tricky turns like an Olympic champion.

While the DeStephanis constituents have enjoyed a solid tenure with Rizzo, the Carter family, consisting of father Peter, mother Rita, and their children, 10-year-old Alice and 12-year-old Bobby, made their first stop at the rink Saturday night.

“We heard about the event from some friends and since the kids just finished their time heading to the Blue Cross RiverRink, we thought we’d look into this as a possible way to keep their interest up,” Joe Carter said of his offspring. “Judging by what we’re seeing tonight, we made a wise choice.”

The inhabitants of the 2300 block of Federal Street skated as a foursome, with Alice saying that she wants to take lessons there and “be as good as Dorothy Hamill because she’s my skating hero.” Whether nourishing possible professional outlets or simply bonding with family and friends, the attendees at the three-hour reminder of Rizzo’s influence on Pennsport and beyond supported DiFlorio’s belief that no matter how committed or competent he and his colleagues are, they need the enthusiasm of patrons to pronounce themselves a viable community presence.

“We definitely love supporting Rizzo Rink,” Beth DeStephanis said. “As our kids grow older, we want them to continue to see that anything is possible. Their time here is a great reflection of that.” SPR

Visit rizzorink.com.

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

Photo by Tina Garceau
Photo by Tina Garceau