By PETE FONTAINE
People were sitting – and standing – in just about every available space inside the storied Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School Gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.
A playoff game perhaps?
Although the season just got underway, the boys and girls who will represent the Johnston school in basketball during the 2017-18 season staged a rather unique scrimmage that featured many talented players, but was more importantly an extraordinary show of love and caring for children their ages who are in need.
What transpired Tuesday was the Ferri school basketball family hosting its 3rd Annual Toys for Tots Benefit Game that just may have been the largest collection ever since the Jaguars staged the in-house event three years ago.
Moreover, girls and boys played on two teams – the Blues and Whites – and showed lots of promise for their respective seasons that lie ahead.
“Today was a huge success,” offered Gianna Mazzulla, who chaired the ambitious event and serves as head coach of the girls’ basketball team. “All our players’ families and fellow students packed the gymnasium and filled boxes and boxes with toys that will be given to less fortunate children this Christmas.”
To which Lisa Calabro, president of the Johnston Girls Softball League whose daughter Hannah is a member of the girls’ squad, added: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many toys and games in one place. What a great, great lesson in gift giving.”
Even members of the Johnston Association of Firefighters Local 1950, who later picked up the toys that will be added to their collection during Saturday night’s 7th Annual Toys for Tots Drive at Bar 101, were in awe of how many toys, etc. that the Ferri faithful collected Tuesday.
The collection is also part of the famed Toys for Tots program, conducted each and every year by the United States Marine Corps Reserves, that the JFD Firefighters and Johnson Police Local 307 hope will grow to unmatched heights Saturday night and fill the back end of a rescue vehicle that will be stationed outside Bar 101 for some four hours beginning at 7 o’clock.
“I think the scrimmage is important because, for one, it’s a fun way to open the season for both the girls’ and boys’ teams,” said Mazzulla. “It’s good for the kids to see the community come together for a good cause. And of course, being able to supply that many kids with Christmas gifts is the most important part.”
Members of Mazzulla’s squad who played in the scrimmage and also donated toys and other gift items were: Aubree Allen, Riley Guenette, Jayla Mainey, Kaylee Poole, Jayana Rollins, Ava Waterman, Ariana Velasquez, Stephanie Bruno, Hannah Calabro, Michelina Irons, Talia LaFlamme, Janina Mazzulla, Josephine Olangunoye, Jada Albanesa, Emily Iannuccilli, Milana Melvin and Julia Robbins.
The players from the Brian Iafrate-coached boys’ team includes: Dimetri Iafrate, Peter Bibby, Jake Lincourt, Deonate Omari, CJ Ragosta, Anthony Gawlik, Jeremy Urena, Phil Constantini, Hunter Remington, Ryan Schino, Dante Ricci, Sal Nassisi, Duce Addison, Jared Janiak, Dante Iafrate, Derek Salvatore, Dylan Robbins, Mike LaFlamme, Mike Salzillo, Nick Viau, Neari Vasquez, Avani Rodrigues, Michael Carlino, Chris Civetti and Joel Albanese.
Coach Greta Lalli’s cheerleaders are: Jaisen Tonucci, Julie Sidoti, Angelina Rubio, Sophia Rebezzio, Victoria Holden, Layna Bergeron, Jasmin Morales, Rachel Txytoyac, Nevaeh Tessier, Isabella Barret and Maylin McAtter.