Race for Matt and Grace golf tournament gets assist from Johnston Firefighters

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They could be and have been called “super special supporters.”

They answered an important call long before it went out.

They seem to always be there whenever there’s a need.

They are the Johnston Association of Firefighters Local 1950, a group of skilled professionals whose mission is to protect the lives of citizens under sometimes the most adverse of conditions.

Sometime around one o’clock Tuesday afternoon, with the sun shining then hiding behind clouds, a group of Johnston Firefighters headed by Union President Keith Calci welcomed some special guests to JFD headquarters on Atwood Avenue.

Once the Firefighters exchanged pleasantries with Jack and Sally DiIorio, their son Matt – who is a recent Johnston High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee – they presented Executive Board Chairman John Jasparro with a framed flag from the initial Race for Matt and Grace Golf Tournament that raised some $16,000 for the Freidreich Ataxia Research Alliance.

It was Matt’s way of saying “thank you” to the firefighters for making the first-ever tournament special by purchasing flags that featured the tourney logo that were affixed to all 18 pins at Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam, Connecticut.

“We play quite a few charity tournaments,” said Jon Pistachio, Local 1950’s Vice President. “We’ve never seen flags like that on the pins.”

Pistacchio added, “after spending some time with Matt today, I’m glad we did this. His presence is remarkable and we are all glad to have met Mat and his family today.”

Matt DiIorio, 37, has Friedreich Ataxia, a rare inherited disease that causes progressive nervous system damage and movement problems. It usually begins in childhood, just like it did for Matt, and leads to impaired muscle coordination over time.

Yet, as Pistacchio said, “I don’t think Matt stopped smiling once and neither did we. The framed flag he presented to us already found a place on the wall in our union office and we are grateful for it. This is a great charity to support because it’s a hometown charity – a Johnston charity.”

Matt’s father Jack DiIorio, speaking on behalf of his son, offered: “We are very appreciative for the support the Firefighters gave us for our inaugural golf tournament and helped make it such a huge success. Those flags were really a huge hit, as well.”

Tuesday, Matt thanked the Firefighters and told them that before he was diagnosed with FA he played for Local 1950s sponsored squad in the Johnston Babe Ruth Baseball League.

“This really shows how involved the Firefighters are in our town and that have been doing it for many years.”

The day’s meeting, though, included another surprise for Matt DiIorio.

“Matt, on behalf of Local 1950, we have a check to help support your second annual golf tournament,” Dave Pingitore, the Firefighters Union Treasurer, told Matt while opening an envelope that contained a check. We’re honored to do this and, if there’s ever anything we can do for you, please let us know. We’re honored to be part of such a great and important event.”

This year’s Matt and Grave Golf Tournament will tee off on Saturday, August 25 at Connecticut National Golf Course with a shotgun start at one o’clock. Entry fee is $125 per golfer and includes the pre-tourney lunch, golf with cart, souvenir bag and post-tourney dinner.

The committee, which includes Derrick Gelsomino 862-3231), Dave Interlini 255-0178 and Ryan Sukaskas 413-5494 are still accepting playing spots as well as sponsors and urged people to sign up for a day of golf that will raise additional revenue for the FA Research Alliance.

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