Fundraiser boosts VA Medical Center


The organizers of May’s second annual “Proud To Be An American: An Evening Dedicated To Our Veterans” fundraiser set their sights high, hoping to make a significant donation to the VA Medical Center in Providence.

They met that goal, thanks to the support of the community before, during and after the night of dining, dancing and entertainment. And as they reflect on the event’s success and recognize those who contributed, they are also looking ahead to next year in hopes of growing even more.

“We had a lot of happy faces,” said Vin Palumbo, owner of Palumbo’s Garage in Johnston, who along with his wife Elly and Lisa D’Ambra and Steven Quirini of Starzz Entertainment puts the fundraiser together.

“It was an incredible night,” said D’Ambra. “You couldn’t be there without being touched.”

The concept for the event came when D’Ambra and Quirini – who have done fundraising work for a range of organizations – connected with the Palumbos and bonded over their desire to aid those who have served the nation in uniform. They ultimately chose the VA Medical Center as the beneficiary of the endeavor, given the wide range of vital services it provides to veterans.

This year’s event – held on Armed Forces Day, May 17, at the the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post in Cranston – drew approximately 280 people and raised more than $10,000. Both figures represent significant growth from the first year of the event, and D’Ambra said demand was such that another 100 tickets likely could have been sold.

Next year’s event has been scheduled for Sunday, May 17, at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick. D’Ambra said that facility will allow organizers to “accommodate whatever we need” as the gathering continues to expand.

This year’s gathering began with the presentation of the colors by the Rhode Island National Guard and the performance of the national anthem by David DiLorenzo. Speakers included Dr. Susan MacKenzie, director of the VA Medical Center; retired Lt. Gen. Reginald A. Centracchio; U.S. Rep. James Langevin; Frank Caprio Jr.; and Walter Hall.

Two of those on hand received special recognition. Vin Palumbo, himself a veteran, was given a proclamation by Langevin and a special award for his work on “Proud To Be An American,” while Charlotte Santucci of Cranston was also honored for creating and donating a “Quilt of Honor” to the VA.

The evening’s entertainment included performances by Quirini, DiLorenzo, Tony Soares and Ron Lewis, with DJ services provided by Tom Falcone, a.k.a. “Tommy Tunes.” Grace Romanello, Miss Rhode Island Outstanding Teen, was also on hand. Ralph’s Catering provided food.

A range of businesses, organizations and individuals provided their support for the event through financial contributions, sponsorships, raffle prize donations and volunteer efforts. They are, listed below:

Sponsors: Godiva Chocolates, Borelli’s Bakery, Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post, Eramian Sign Corporation, The Original Italian Bakery.

Contributors: Construction Industries of Rhode Island, D’Ambra Construction Co. Inc., Boydco Inc., Equality Construction Works LLC, Flood Ford of East Greenwish, USI Insurance Services LLC, Warwick Winwater Works, Dan Bell, Cosco Corp., RI Trucking Association, Ocean State Pol, American First Aid, Anthony’s Image, Fisher Automotive, Briarcliffe Manor, C&L Builders, Cardi Corp., Pioneer Heavy Duty, Frank E. Clynes Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Couillard, Mr. and Mrs. Danella, Donna and Walter Friel, Mr. and Mrs. Cartier, Jonathan Weitzner CPA, RI Country Music Association, South County Commons, Forms Plus, Grasso’s Service Center, Lucier & Co. CPA Inc., MON Landscaping, Mt. Pleasant Alarm Inc., Donna M. Joyal, Attorney Kevin B. Realle, NE Steel Guitar Association, Supply Depot, Eleanor and Joe Spremulli, Young Pannese Social Club, Ocean State Bass Masters.

Raffle donors: 1149 Restaurant, English Muffin, Shaw’s Supermarket, Anyplace Travel, Narragansett Café, Six Flags NE, Foxwoods, Godiva Chocolates, Jack’s Penang, Benny’s, Trinity Repertory Co., LA Cleaning Services, Capriccio, Cardi’s Furniture, Mystic’s Touch, Ralph’s Catering, Quidnessett Country Club, The Chocolate Delicacy, Pat’s Italian Restaurant, WB Mason, Showcase Cinemas, Radiance Tanning, The Corner Bakery, Bags By Iris, Bob Fontaine Photography, Carmella’s Hair Creations, Chianti’s, Pasta Patch, Jersey Mike’s, Chopmist Charlie’s, Siena, David Max Home, A Fitting Experience.

Volunteers: Patricia Ansalone, Marion Card, Gerald Coulliard, Jerry D’Ambra Jr., Chris Giardina, Ashley Hager, Maria Manzi, Marilyn Parrillo, Peter Saccoccio, Zack Ung.

Those seeking to contribute, become involved or otherwise learn about “Proud To Be An American” and next year’s event may contact D’Ambra at 451-5500 or


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