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New Jersey Bocce Invitational

This excellent event takes place annually in Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ and raises funds for NJ charities (including the Embrace Kids Foundation) and Operation Shoebox which sends "care packages" to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click the photo to visit www.EmbraceKids.org.

Look carefully to see the four double courts spaced nicely within the park (8 courts in the public domain). Tourney organizer Frank Valanzola knows how to get things done. He convinced the township to put in 8 courts (you can run a good sized event with that many courts). Most of us can't get our towns to install a single court.

It rained heavily the day before this year's event, which may have dampened attendance. But municipal workers and volunteers showed up early and in great numbers to ready the courts for play. This is a testimonial to the event organizers and it also shows how people are eager to "step up" for a worthy cause.

Two lines - the one closer to the back wall is where you stand when pointing. The other is for hitting. I always prefer one line for pointing and hitting. Also, note the 45-degree angle boards in the corners. Not many places play this way. Makes it a kind of ricochet/billiards game rather than the finesse and skill game the USBF promotes.

Another look at the 45-degree angle boards on courts 3 and 4. A kind of strange place to put the court number - you can't see it unless you are right on top of it.

Yes, I lugged 8 Joy of Bocce scoreboards to NJ for use in the tourney. I like them because you set them at half court and the score can be viewed from both ends.

Spectator benches too! Safer to sit on those at the side of the courts than those at the ends - less chance of being struck with a fast moving ball.

The players, spectators, and paparazzi gather.

Tournament organizer Frank Valanzola did yeoman's work pulling this event together. Here he calls the crowd together and begins the opening ceremonies.

Color guard consisted of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Popular singer/songwriter Giada Valenti sang the Italian National Anthem & God Bless America. Click the photo to visit www.giadavalenti.com.

I got to hang out with De Nero and Pesci. I was only a little disappointed that they turned out to be celebrity look alikes (and great guys - Joe Manuella & Vince Caravello).

I also got to met Deb, a very good bocce player who helped me keep my streak alive...wherever I travel, the locals beat me!

First, we gather the troops and get everybody on the same page...then...We're ready for some BOCCE!

Let the games begin!

While the bocce tourney is being played, volunteers pack 750 "care packages" to send to our soldiers overseas.

This celebrity was the "real deal." She's Deal Or No Deal's #18, Marisa Petroro. She's also the 2008 spokesperson for SFA (Sarcoma Foundation of America). Click her photo to visit www.curesarcoma.org.

The tourney champs flanked by Frank Valanzola (left) and Phil Ferrari (right).

Says Valanzola, "Through the hard work of OPSHBX volunteers and event attendees we were able to prepare over 750 care-packages and raise over $60,000. We anticipate doing a ceremonial check presentation of $50,000 to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey with Dr. Bertino and Dr. Drachtman with Nick Valvano of the Jimmy V Foundation and UNICO president, Joe Agresti."

It takes community support and sponsors large and small to pull off a successful event like this one - below are bocce court sponsors for the 2008 tournament.

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