By Kevin Callahan
Rich Bilo, a former Air Force jet engine mechanic, will join other union members in a fundraising boxing event on September 30 to support A Lift for a Vet, a charity of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 5.
“I’m a vet and I’m fighting to raise money for those who’ve served,” said Bilo, a Local 19 union member and an Erial resident who played football and wrestled at Timber Creek High School. “It’s an opportunity to give back.”
To date, 75 lifts have been installed in the homes of veterans, and this year’s event — at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 30 at Katie O’Donnell’s Irish Pub, 4501 Woodhaven Road in Philadelphia – will raise funds to install even more. Proceeds from the event will enable A LIft for a Vet to buy and install elevators, chair lifts or wheelchair lifts in the homes of disabled U.S. military service veterans. Accessibility modifications are vital for a disabled veteran and can make it possible for them to stay in their own homes.
“We appreciate Katie O’Donnell’s for hosting us,” said Tom Dooley, the business collections manager of Local 542. “One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to A Lift for a Vet.”
Johnny D’Ambrosia of Local 252 served with the Marines 0311 infantry. “I just want to give back. There were men and women who lost their lives,” said D’Ambrosia, who has had a couple of amateur fights. “And there are those who lost limbs, so I want to help contribute to their quality of life.”
Tommy Taylor of Local 5 was among 10 union members who gathered in August at the Jack Costello Boxing Gym in the Tacony section of Philadelphia to help promote the event. “It is for a good cause, to help those who fought for our country and to represent my local as well,” Taylor said. “But it is the cause that has brought me out to do it.”
Kevin Manacchio, Local 30, has a Pennsylvania boxing license after years of sparring. “The trick is not to get nervous, when you get nervous, you exert energy,” said the 52-year-old Manacchio of Philadelphia. “You don’t know who you will be matched up against, but I won’t let it get to me because you will be out of energy before you start.”
The matches will feature both men and women union members. “I think it will be fun,” said Dana Gaeta of Local 252. “It will be a good workout and for a good cause.”
Like many of the participants, Dave Infante of Local 5, has no previous boxing experience. “I’m excited,” Infante said. “I’m looking forward to putting on a good show for a good cause and to support those who served our country. They need our help to gain their independence in their own homes.”
Jerome Kinard of Local 252 played football at Upper Darby High School, so the 23-year-old hopes his athletic experience and youth will serve him well in the ring. “I always like to help the vets and give back to the community,” he said.
Local 164 members Patrick McGuinness, a Marine Corp veteran who played football at Father Judge High School, and Jake Curran, who played football and wrestled at Haddonfield High School, also hope their past athletic experience will help them.
Jason Whalen, who played football at West Catholic High School, is looking to help the veterans and himself. “I’m in recovery. I lost everything a year ago, but I’m coming back and I’m clean, so this is something I’m looking forward to,” said Whalen of Local 158.
The night will open with the Wade brothers stepping into the ring. Santino, 8, will box his younger brother Roman, 7. “They will be boxing for the FOP Local 5,” said their father, Tim Wade, a retired narcotics officer. “It’s nice they are able to do it for a good cause.”
Rich Bilo, 29, fought in the event last year and lost. But he understands the event is about more than the outcome. “It’s about helping those who might have lost a limb in combat. Life isn’t about losing,” he said. “It’s about what you do after you lose.”
For tickets, call (215) 397–8706. The cost is $25.