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Bocce courts get things rolling

Riderwood residents open second season this spring

Created date

April 23rd, 2014
Riderwood resident Dr. George Galasso spearheaded efforts to have bocce ball courts built at the active retirement community where he lives. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony last summer, he had the honor of throwing the first ball down the new courts.
Riderwood resident Dr. George Galasso

With the winter chill finally being replaced by spring’s warmth and greenery, we’re all ready for some fresh air and fun in the sun. Among the many outdoor activities the active retirees at . will enjoy this spring are lively games on the community’s new bocce ball courts.

Dr. George Galasso, who moved in 2012 to the Silver Spring, Md., Erickson Living community from Rockville, spearheaded efforts to have the bocce ball courts built. 

George says bocce ball has been an important part of his life for many years. He grew up in the Bronx, where he says he often saw older Italian men playing bocce in the streets. Later, when George’s career as a research scientist for the National Institutes of Health brought him to San Francisco, he discovered bocce ball courts at Fisherman’s Wharf, where he started playing the sport. 

After he retired, George became an active member of the Rockville Senior Center in Montgomery County. He initiated a campaign for the installation of bocce ball courts at the senior center and became an avid player.

So when George and his wife Joan moved to Riderwood, they hoped to enjoy their favorite sport with their new neighbors. When George learned the community didn’t yet have bocce ball courts, he decided to see whether he could change that. 

First, he spoke to his fellow residents to see if others would be interested in playing if courts were available. He discovered that quite a few of his neighbors wanted to play bocce. Then he approached Riderwood’s management to iron out the details. He says that the staff at Riderwood is very open to residents’ suggestions for new programming and amenities.

“I’m favorably impressed,” George says. “They were very receptive.”

Inaugural season a big success

After construction of Riderwood’s twin bocce ball courts—complete with equipment—was finished, residents and staff attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the inaugural season. George says that last summer, about 20 residents would gather four times a week for bocce ball games. 

“Bocce is ideal for a population like Riderwood because it’s low impact and anybody can play,” George says. “It’s a simple game, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Resident Vin Spar and his wife Phyllis attended the bocce court ribbon-cutting ceremony. Vin grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where bocce was a popular pastime for young adults, but he’d never actually thrown a pallino on a court. 

“We played on sand, rocks, and grass. Wherever we could find a game, we’d play it,” Vin says. “It’s all about friendships, and I’m glad that Riderwood made the investment in these courts.”

George says it was rewarding for him to see his friends and neighbors enjoying the fruits of his labors while they used the bocce ball courts last summer. He says he was particularly impressed by resident Betty Williams, who is in her 90s and had never played bocce ball before she tried the sport at Riderwood.

“She came twice a week, and she is very good,” George says. “Toward the end of the season, she was chatting with my wife and said, ‘Bocce is the highlight of my day,’ and that made all the work involved in getting it going worthwhile. That’s what I got out of it.”

The Riderwood bocce ball players were able to enjoy the courts into the month of October. The regular players even challenged the staff to a tournament.

“Unfortunately the staff won, but we’re going to have to demand a rematch this year,” George jokes. “I think everyone had fun.”

Gearing up for another lively season

In March, George started preparing for Riderwood’s second season on the bocce ball courts, which began in April. He planned a meeting for everyone interested in playing and envisions forming leagues and organizing tournaments against other nearby communities. 

“I feel I’ve made a good contribution to Riderwood,” he says. “Already people are stopping me in the dining rooms and saying, ‘When are we going to play bocce ball again?’”