“Sky Room” BRT Gala Celebration
by Cate Murway

Congratulations to Bristol Borough Council President, Ralph DiGuiseppe!
“For your years of service, we at the Bristol Riverside Theatre thank you for your dedication to the community.”

Ralph is an influential idealist, a dreamer, always thinking in long term. He is able to grasp the far-reaching effects of actions and plans and now…..He was honored at the top......in the SKY ROOM!
Frederic H. Baumgarten benevolently donated the usage of his “Sky Room”, the spacious seventh floor in his Grundy Commons, for the Bristol Riverside Theatre Annual Gala Celebration, just as he had for the 6-week BRT Summer Youth Camp, “ARTrageous 2007”.

The late “Ms. Phyllis” Slattery had a vision.
“There is no greater gift than giving a young person the permission and encouragement to believe in themselves.”
Phyllis A. [Porreca] Slattery, the late BRT Education/ ARTrageous Camp Director.

Phyllis developed the curriculum for the summer youth program, ARTrageous that was responsible for introducing hundreds of the Bristol kids to the theatre with free, life-changing, life-saving theatre/dance classes.  But now this BRT program needed a helping hand.
Plans were vehemently put into motion for the Gala Celebration.
“It was a great event, a huge success. We raised roughly $95,000.00” for the theatre and the summer camp, shared the “really happy” BRT Managing Director, Amy Kaissar.
J. P. Mascaro & Sons, Waste Disposal Systems, generously provided a $50,000 grant over the next 5 years to help ARTrageous. John F. Cordisco, Esq., the former Democratic member of the PA House of Representatives, spontaneously donated $5,000.00.
“The Auction did really well and I am incredibly grateful 100% to the BRT staff.”
The Live Auction included a Mignoni Jewelry and Gifts “Pearl and Diamond necklace”; a Bucks County Dragon Boat Association ‘Team Building Experience’; and Hall of Fame Club seats Phillies Tickets.
Popular, eye-catching, high-end Silent Auction items, raffle tickets and a raffle gift basket including restaurant certificates complemented the impactful experience.

Donna Muchnicki, the BRT Individual & Corporate Giving manager organized this most successful event.  The talented and hard-working staff took control. Their unique and awesome décor transformed the airy confines of the megalithic structure into a more intimate and engaging ambiance. Chuck S. Reece designed the powerful lighting and Production Manager Andrew Deppen directly supervised.

The professional BRT is the recipient of over 68 nominations for The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater, given annually by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. The BRT is currently celebrating its 27th successful year.

"Generous" is a word that came up again and again, and Ralph DiGuiseppe is credited with being both a dear friend and an inspiration by many. In a May 2005 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ralph “cooperated with developers abiding by the borough's broad plan of growing the economy while retaining the historic integrity of the 1 1/2-square-mile town and increasing public access to its waterfront”. He was quoted as saying, “Not only will it jump-start Mill Street, but it will jump-start the borough." The vital “Raising the Bar” ideas continue with the millions of dollars of grants that he has helped to secure for the Borough’s redevelopment. He clearly comprehends the binding force of the active and affirmative obligations that are laid upon the rewards of success.

Ralph apparently was born programmed for achievement through hard work, courage, determination, and concern for others, circumventing by ingenuity or stratagem any shortsighted views.
He endured adversity and successfully navigated storms, losing both his father, Raphael [AKA Ralph], and his sister, Marlene Stiltner to cancer.  Smooth waters do not make skillful sailors.
These heartaches have fueled his passionate dedication to financially assist St. Jude’s Children- Research Hospital for over twenty years.
Ralph also personally invested his time and energies in Youth Athletics, building the dugouts and press boxes at Memorial Field and he was involved for years in the Borough Little League as a coach, manager and President.
Ralph and his wife of 38 years, Monica [Petolillo] are the proud parents of Ralph DiGuiseppe III and Jennifer DiGuiseppe-Melling and her husband, Robert Wade Melling, and they are the doting grandparents of Sienna Jordan Finney, Robert Wade Melling, II and Mila Christine Melling.

“The world won't get no better if we just let it be
the world won't get no better
we gotta change it yeah, just you and me.”

Ralph felt “honored to be recognized and was amazed at the many people” who attended the Gala Celebration. He willingly accepted the challenge to raise monies for the ARTrageous program.
“Many children have said that it changed their life around.”
“With support from leaders like Mr. DiGuiseppe we can continue to celebrate the talent, artistry and development of our artistic vision for years to come.” Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Board of Trustees.

Ralph added, “I appreciate that the BRT showcases the town and ‘Thank you’ to Fred.”

Conversation and great food filled the room. It took the entire village and “fabulous volunteers” to make it perfect! The festivities began with cocktails and appetizing hors d’oeuvres provided by The Pines Tavern, Café Bombay, Xin Rong, Wegmans, King George Inn, Street Food Philly and The Borough Pub. The main dishes were donated by Outback Steakhouse, Cesare's Ristorante, The Kelch House and Panera Breads. No meal is complete without dessert and coffee. The Langhorne Coffee House, Nina's Waffles and Libby Sweet Escapes came to the rescue. St. Ann Parish donated the tables, chairs, stoves and ovens. What an amazing party!

Ralph is humbled and thankful to the sponsors for their support of the Gala Celebration on April 5, 2014.
He acknowledges that his cohesive relationship with his dad, his “best friend” both modeled and molded his fervent sense of family and his strong work ethic. He modestly shared that he “quit school at a young age and married young” and with the ultimate support of his wife, Monica, he is most thankful to be able to achieve the American dream of security, stability, and solidity of reputation.
This lifelong Bristolian continues to reach out to the Borough youth and the community with his obvious civic pride and plethora of public contributions.

Historic Bristol on the Delaware thanks Ralph DiGuiseppe for a job well done.

“Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
when you teach the children, teach ‘em the very best you can.”
[Lyrics “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin/The Blue Notes]

Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail vjmrun@yahoo.com

The DiGuiseppe Family
from left: Robert Wade Melling, Jennifer DiGuiseppe-Melling, Monica & Ralph DiGuiseppe, Ralph DiGuiseppe III
Borough Manager, Jim Dillon enjoying some of the culinary selections
actress, Jo Twiss;  Borough Tax Collector, Anna Bono Larrisey; BBBA President, Jimmy Bason
BRT Founding Director Susan D. Atkinson and Ralph DiGuiseppe
Ralph DiGuiseppe and local author/ "Raising the Bar" chairman Bill Pezza