Roasting Peter Koch is an opportunity Earl Tillinghast couldn’t refuse. He’s spent the last few months eagerly preparing notes.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Tillinghast, who has been friends with Koch since the late 1960s. “He’s quite a character. He’s got some unique traits – some strange eating habits, and he is very athletic. He’s also in the entertainment industry – you may have seen him in ads with the Cardi Boys. He’s a big time TV star.”
All sarcasm aside, Tillinghast said he was “thrilled” when Koch asked him to participate.
“He said, ‘I want you to be one of my roasters,’ and I said, ‘Buddy, I wouldn’t miss it,’” said Tillinghast.
Along with Tillinghast, Nick, Ron and Pete Cardi (NiRoPe), former WPRI Channel 12 news anchor Karen Adams, Claudia Jordan of “Deal or No Deal” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Koch’s daughter Kelly will roast Koch at an awards dinner hosted by the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership Thursday, Nov. 7 at the West Valley Inn at 5:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion of quality mentoring services for Rhode Island youth.
In addition to ticket sales, donations will be accepted. An anonymous donor is matching $5,000 or more for any funds contributed at the event.
Koch, the CEO of Koch Eye Associates, has been involved with the Partnership for nearly 20 years. He said the roast concept is a great one.
“We banged around all different ideas and when someone suggested the Dean Martin roast, I was all for it,” said Koch. “I just think it’s hysterical. I have no idea what they are going to say, but it should be a good time. If you can’t make fun of yourself, who can you make fun of?”
In January, Koch was awarded the first ever Excellence in Mentoring in America Award for Individual Leadership by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. He attended a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where he was recognized for providing time, financial support and leadership to the cause.
According to Partnership President and COO Jo-Ann Schofield, the awards dinner and roast is another way to honor him before he retires from the Partnership Board in June, as well as keep the “fun in fundraising.”
“He’s been a longtime supporter of mentoring and has been on our Board of Directors for years,” she said. “This was our way of bringing that celebration that happened in D.C. back home with our own spin on it. We wanted to do something here to celebrate his many years of contributions to mentoring.”
Former president and CEO Arlene McNulty agreed. From being a mentor, serving as treasurer of the Board, donating funds and performing in the annual Rhode Island Dancing with the Stars fundraiser more than once, Koch has “done such phenomenal things for the program throughout the state.”
Koch holds the Partnership close to his heart. He mentored two students, who are now adults, and keeps in touch with them.
“We still get together and talk,” Koch said. “They still bounce ideas off me.”
He also spoke of the importance of mentoring, as he knows children require guidance and encouragement to strive.
“I’ve spent over 20 years doing something that I thought was only going to last three years, but this is something that I couldn’t give up because I love it so much,” said Koch. “I love that we can help children who need our help. We can be an inspiration for them, a friend for them and give them a better foundation as they get older.”
Mario Hilario of NBC Channel 10, along with Warwick Beacon publisher John Howell, Director of Elementary Education for the Warwick School Department Robert Bushell, and MetLife Auto and Home are being honored at the event for their efforts toward promoting the Partnership with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Howell was the Partnership’s first Board chair, while Bushell and MetLife are also instrumental in helping the organization thrive, and have been with the organization since it formed in 1990.
“He gives us wonderful coverage in the Warwick Beacon, and he’s been such an advocate for us,” Schofield said of Howell, adding that Bushell was “a member of the founding team. Mentoring in Warwick was initially his vision.”
Hilario also spreads the word about the Partnership. Aside from competing in 2008’s Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring and participating in the event’s opening number for the last three years, Hilario has done many reports about the Partnership on NBC through the years.
“I’ve seen the testimony firsthand of how impactful it can be,” Hilario said. “There are so many challenges that our young people face today that a program like mentoring really makes a big difference in a young person’s life. It’s a valuable organization, and I am honored that they are choosing me for this award. It’s very humbling.”
In addition to reports, NBC promotes National Mentoring Month, an organization that also supports mentoring, by inviting a panel of Partnership experts to field calls from viewers and provide insight about mentoring.
“There are many different avenues Channel 10 has taken over the years to get involved and raise awareness about the importance of mentoring and the work the Partnership does,” Hilario said.
Schofield is grateful to Hilario, as well as Howell, Bushell and MetLife, for their hard work and help. Of course, she’s also appreciative of Koch.
“We’re very thankful for the support of the folks being honored, either with a toast or a roast,” Schofield said.
For Koch, taking a few good ribbings to support the Partnership will be all in good fun. Helping the youth of Rhode Island is the main goal.
“It’s a wonderful organization, and it should be a nice evening,” Koch said. “I’ve got three children feeding my oldest daughter ideas, and I know for a fact Earl’s been gathering up things.”
A few people who are unable to attend the event are sending videos all the way from Caesar’s Palace, as well as Scotland. Koch’s friends, including professional golfer Brad Faxon, are among them.
And let’s not forget about NiRoPe.
“We’re excited to be part of this fun event,” they wrote in a statement. “Peter Koch has been an avid supporter for many years. We can’t really make jokes about his hair because we’re losing ours, but we’ve got plenty of other stories we can share. We’re looking forward to [it], and we hope many more will join us.”
Dinner includes garden salad, penne pasta, sirloin steak with mama butter, plus a baked potato and vegetables. Tickets to the event, which are $70 each, can be purchased by calling the Partnership office at 732-7700, via the website at MentorRI.org, or at this link: www.mentorri.org/events.htm.
West Valley Inn is located at 4 Blossom Street in West Warwick.