Source: Sherman Publications

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Palazzo di Bocce teams with Lions, donates $75,000

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

May 11, 2011

Rhonda Pritchard is busy preparing and authorizing the summer menu, but the staff at Palazzo di Bocce find time to give back every May. Photo by Gabriel Ouzounian
Palazzo di Bocce may have an air of wealth, but the restaurant teams up annually with the Detroit Lions Charity to give back to the community that made them what they are.

Starting in 2004, the restaurant has designated one day in May, every year, where all proceeds help charities chosen by owner Anthony Battaglia. Part of raising money on that particular day is attracting customers with the help of the Detroit Lions football players, who visit the restaurant to play bocce ball and congregate with the establishment's visitors.

Event Planner for Palazzo di Bocce Rhonda Pritchard said the charity started as a collaborative effort between Battaglia and Steve Mariucci, Lions head coach from 2003 to 2005.

"Mariucci was a friend of Mr. Battaglia, and they came up with the partnership to raise money for charity and it's just been that way since," she said. "It hasn't happened yet this year because of the NFL strike, but we're ready to plan one a month after it ends.

"Last year, we raised $26,000 for the charities Mr. Battaglia chose."

The fund-raising day includes a number of events, such as silent and live auctions, bocce ball with active and retired Lions players and more.

Last year about seven charities were chosen to received funds, including the Boys' and Girls' Club of Oxford and Orion, Oxford/Orion FISH, Lake Orion Lions, Orion Veterans, Paint a Miracle, and North Oakland Community Coalition. Between 300 and 400 attended last year's event, which was accessible with the purchase of $100 ticket.

Items for the auctions were donated by various organizations, including the Lions.

The Lions benefit from the arrangement as well, as nearly half of the money raised goes to their charity of choice, last year being the Athletes with Disabilities Network.

Assistant Director of Community Affairs for Detroit Lions INC Kim Doverspike said their relationship with the restaurant isn't likely to dissolve anytime soon.

"We really enjoy working with everyone at Palazzo, and we just really enjoy the event," said Doverspike. "We're not able to do it at this time due to the NFL labor situations, but last year we netted around $75,000 total, with around $24,000 going to Athletes with Disabilities.

"Before he started the fund-raiser here, Coach Mariucci had a bocce fund-raiser out in California, so when Mr. Battaglia opened Palazzo here, it just kind of fit, and it's been working out great since."

For more information on charity efforts from either organization, visit detroitlions.com or palazzodibocce.com and search "charity." For more information on the Athletes with Disabilities Network, visit adnpage.org.