There are few things in life that bring me more joy than giving back and paying forward to others….and….of course….playing bocce ball.
On Thursday, August 20th, five licensed professional Realtors from Exit Realty Bend, armed with three cadets from the Oregon Youth Challenge, hit the Bocce Ball Courts in Bend Oregon! Nearly twenty bocce ball courts were temporarily constructed and placed on the beautiful green grass at Bend’s beautiful Farewell Bend Park. On a perfectly beautiful and sunny day in Central Oregon (we tend to see about 300 such days each year), some 68 teams, amounting to 272 participants, mostly Realtors and mortgage lenders, and at least another 100 spectators participated in a one-of-a-kind fundraising event.
The annual event, sponsored by AmeriTitle of Deschutes County and 10 Barrel Brewing Company, was the largest bocce ball tournament yet ever for Bend. Volunteers from real estate companies, mortgage companies and many others who just wanted to give back served as judges, the court construction crew and needed staff.
The laughs and smiles were everywhere. Joyful noise of celebration and contorted body movements strategically placing the balls were heard and seen all afternoon. Food and beverage vendors were placed strategically around the tournament field and of course, the beer, provided by 10 Barrel flowed at a brisk pace all afternoon.
For Exit Realty Bend this was a bit more than all fun and games. Don’t get me wrong. The afternoon was incredibly fun. Spending time, outdoors in Bend, is always fabulous…..but today was even better. Exit agents, Nathan Matlock, Mary Brouillette, Scott Blackwood and I made up “Team Exit #1, the Flying Boccinos.” Team Exit #2, The Volos,” was made up of Exit agent and school teacher, Nici Mazziotti, and three of her students from the Oregon Youth Challenge Program. Cadet Medina, Cadet Goldfaden and Cadet Salazar were granted the afternoon off from their demanding schedule to join us.
The Oregon Youth Challenge Program is especially close to my heart. In 2007, my son, Anthony Mazziotti, was given the opportunity to change his life at this school, known as the “school of second chances.” Located in Bend, the Oregon Youth Challenge School is just one of more than 35 Youth Challenge Schools in the United States, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As a potential high school dropout, my son entered the school that changed his life and consistently changes the lives of some 20,000 kids every year. In fact, just two years after his graduation from the Oregon Youth Challenge, my daughter, Nici Mazziotti accepted a position as a teacher at the school. Both inspired me to write a book called, “The Challenge: How 144 Letters Changed My Life, The Life of My Son, And May Change Your Life Too.” My book is scheduled for publication in March of 2016.
When I heard of this charitable event, I decided to sponsor two teams representing Exit Realty Bend. I made the decision to use our $250 entrance fee to go toward the selected charities chosen by the event sponsors and then decided to go one step further and establish a $500 scholarship for one graduate of the Oregon Youth Challenge each year. So, it was only right to have three Cadets and their teacher from the Oregon Youth Challenge be part of our team for the event!
The three Cadets were dressed in their required “military style fatigues,” and drew the attention of the hundreds of participants and onlookers. It isn’t every day you see 16-18 year olds dressed in fatigues, let alone participating in a community bocce ball tournament….but I wanted everyone there to take notice. I hoped many would engage in conversation with the Cadets to learn more about the personal struggles and the personal journey each Cadet has taken to change their lives. I hoped that my fellow real estate agents and mortgage lenders would see past the beautiful sunny day, the festive surroundings, the food and beer and even the flying bocce balls. I wanted them to see three beautiful young faces of kids who had fallen, but were brave enough to get up and take command of their lives! It worked.
What an incredible day. My heart is filled.
Long live Bocce!