Norristown Bocce League is Awarded
and Park Society
(PRPS) SERVICE GROUP AWARD is presented annually to an organized civic
or local community group that has made outstanding and significant
contribution within some facet of field of recreation, parks and leisure.
The 2007 Service Group Award winner is the Norristown Bocce League (NBL), which started in 1992 as a dream of David Fusco, the group’s current president.
After seeing bocce courts at the Jersey Shore, Mr. Fusco and his friends
drew up plans to construct courts in Norristown’s Elmwood Park, identifying
a section of the park, known to have criminal activity, as a good location.
They felt organized activity would help deter the unlawful environment
and give residents a meaningful reason to use the park.
Norristown Borough officials agreed, approved the concept, and fund raising began. With that go-ahead, Mr. Fusco and his colleagues immediately began to knock on doors for donations, put change jars on the counters of local businesses and solicited business sponsorships.
In just one year – the courts were finished! They were built by community volunteers of all ages using materials, equipment and supplies that were solicited or purchased with donated funds.
The design incorporated a special court mix imported from New England, along with irrigation and drainage. But the League’s work didn’t end when the first “pallino” was tossed and the first ball thrown.
After the courts were built, the league worked to add walkways, flowerbeds, lights and more recently a kitchen and handicapped accessible restroom.
Volunteers still maintain the site, care for the courts and flowerbeds, and
keep that area of the park in fine condition.
The value of donated services to date is more than $150,000 – with not one penny of public funding involved.
While the Norristown Bocce League built a fine home for its members and “took back” a section of Elmwood Park for Norristown residents; an even more impressive aspect of their work is a willingness to share their facilities and knowledge with the broad community.
NBL hosts numerous tournaments during the summer months – usually held free of charge. These tournaments create fun, community-oriented events for hundreds of participants – and, in keeping with the traditional social elements of the game, almost always include food and beverage. Leftover food is donated to a local food bank.
The following list of events illustrates how the NBL transcends the line between being just a “community group;” becoming a “community service group.”
During a typical year, the Norristown Bocce League hosts and helps run these programs, often subsidizing costs with donations from the club’s own budget:
o Montgomery County Association for the Blind Youth Tournament
o Jerry Milice, Jr. Youth Invitational
o Community Cup Tournament (open to municipal employees)
o Montgomery County Association for Blind Adults Tournament
o CYO Night
o Special Olympics Tournament
o Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Tournament
Additionally, members of the Norristown Bocce League assist Plymouth Township with organizing and running the Bocce event offered as part of the annual Montgomery County Senior Games, held off-site at another municipal park...and, true to form, offering participants food and drink…a very popular event!
In Plymouth Township’s nomination of the Norristown Bocce League, Director Karen Franck writes, “The Norristown Bocce League is an excellent example of a community group going above and beyond its mission to provide an excellent recreation opportunity. Their vision and dedication to this sport has transformed an urban park, spurred a bocce renaissance in Montgomery County, and exposed numerous people of all ages and both genders to the sport.”