Race for Matt and Grace ready for 10th year

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It’s one of the most hectic times of the year for the DiIorio family, but it’s off to an auspicious start.

Matt DiIorio and his parents, Jack and Sallyann DiIorio, are fresh off their third annual Race for Matt and Grace Golf Tournament, for which he is one of the namesakes. The events benefits the Friedrich’s Ataxia Research Association, or FARA, which raises money for those diagnosed with the genetic, degenerative neuromuscular disorder.

This year’s tournament was a rousing success, one which Sallyann said raised $5,000 more than the prior installment. Jack said a few minutes of rain didn’t derail the Aug. 17 festivities much at all, noting the inclement weather largely held off.

Jack added that 164 golfers took part – a figure higher than anyone was anticipating – and he thanked the “usual suspects” for making the tournament a memorable one. He specifically noted Matt’s friends – Derrick Gelsomino, David Interlini and Ryan Sukaskas – who helped found the event, as well as Connecticut National Golf Course manager Jim West and former Johnston parks and recreation director Vin LaFazia, among others.

“It went exceptionally well,” Jack said, as he, Sallyann and Matt were en route to another FARA event the week after the fundraiser. “Everything went off without a hitch. No one felt like they were inconveniencing anyone. They made sure everything went off without a hitch, couldn’t be kind enough in servicing all of our needs.”

Sallyann chalked up the extra windfall to more sponsorships and additional tee signs sold. The RMG Committee also sought out donations from other businesses. When asked how the unprecedented success of the tournament made him feel, Matt said he was overwhelmed, humble and grateful for the support.

Sallyann even noted that one of his classmates, who had gotten closed out of the golf tournament, volunteered his time anyway and stayed the whole day. Victoria Veator won the day on the course, taking home both the women’s closest-to-the-pin and longest drive competitions, as well as claiming victory in the co-ed division with her father, Jim. Victoria’s mom, Irene, led registration for the tournament.

“It really is, it’s extraordinary, it really is,” Sallyann said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I don’t know how to put it into words.”

The DiIorios now turn their attention to the 10th annual Race for Matt and Grace on Sept. 21 at Rhode Island College. They recently held a meeting with the RMG board to discuss gearing up for the event, which has had a fundraising goal of $100,000 for each of the past three years.

Matt’s name was not on the event yet when the DiIorio family and its team first attended the race, and the fundraising goal was only about $8,000. The growth has been exponential, and the family continues to grow larger.

“It’s extraordinary,” Sallyann said. “I don’t know how else to say it.”

Registration begins at 9 a.m., with the race starting at 10 a.m. There will be several raffles, as well as a penny social. The race’s after-party will be held at RIC this year, with attendees packing into the recreation center for food and entertainment.

WPRI chief meteorologist Tony Petrarca will be the master of ceremonies, while Steve Anthony and the Persuasions will serve as the entertainment headliners. RIC President Frank Sanchez is expected to speak, and for the first time ever RMG will welcome FARA president and founder Ron Bartek to the race.

The DiIorios will enjoy a brief respite after the runners cross the finish line, enjoy their refreshments and head home. The next major FARA event after that will be the second annual Beerfest at the Guild in Pawtucket, taking place the last week of October.

“It’s really been a life-changing experience,” Sallyann said.

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