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September 21, 2013

Former boxing champ to speak at fundraiser

JOHNSTOWN — One of the most exciting and well liked fighters of the 1980s, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, will be the guest speaker for Westmont Family Counseling Ministries annual fundraising dinner.

Organizers of the event are excited about adding some extra punch in celebrating its 25th anniversary of providing emotional and psychological care to individuals, couples and families.

“I never realized there were so many boxing fans in the area who have expressed interest about attending the dinner and never heard of our organization,” said Susan Stem, chairwoman of the annual dinner and ministry board member.

The ministry will hold its annual dinner Oct. 2 at Sunnehanna Country Club, 1000 Sunnehanna Drive in Westmont.

The event will begin with a cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30.

“This is our most important fundraiser and helps support our efforts to provide services to people who may not otherwise be able to provide for themselves,” Stem said.

Adelle Picking, ministry board member, said the theme for this year’s event is “Overcoming Adversity.”

“If we didn’t provide these vital services, so many people would fall through the cracks and miss the opportunity to get help,” Picking said.

Fighting out of Youngstown, Ohio, Mancini, a former lightweight boxing champion, endeared himself to boxing fans not only with his face-first style, but with the story of his relationship with his father, Lenny.

“His father was a championship contender but never got the opportunity because he was wounded in World War II,” Stem said. “But at 8 years old, young Ray set a goal to one day become a champion, which he did.”

Mancini had inherited the legendary “Boom Boom” nickname from his father.

When Mancini’s final appearance in the ring took place when he retired in 1992, his record stood at 29 wins from 34 matches. Of those wins, 23 had been secured by knockouts. He earned the Lightweight World Champion title in 1982 and held on to it through 1984. Many said that he won the title as much for himself as for his family’s honor.

A book that was written about his life, “The Good Son,” was released in September, and an award-winning movie documentary also was produced.

“Anyone familiar with Ray’s story knows he has overcome a lot of adversity in his own life,” said Stem.

Mancini, now residing in Los Angeles, is championing the ministry’s cause because members of his own family have had to deal with depression issues, so he understands the impact it can have on individuals and families.

The nonprofit, founded in October 1988 as a mission outreach program of Westmont Presbyterian Church, will hold its largest fundraising event to mark the occasion.

Tickets are $45 per person and $70 per person to attend the private reception with Mancini.

“The private reception will be held in the President’s Room at Sunnehanna, where champagne punch and light hors d’oeuvres will be served,” Stem said. “Those attending will have a chance to mingle from 5 to 6 (p.m.) and meet Ray.”

The deadine for reservations is Tuesday.

Stem said last year WFCM helped over 400 people from Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

Its mission is to provide professional counseling services and resources based on Christian values of caring and compassion to those seeking emotional and relational wholeness.

A nonprofit organization, the counseling ministry depends on the mission projects of several churches, individuals, companies and the annual fundraising dinner.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.

If you go

What: Fundraising dinner for Westmont Family Counseling Ministries.

Where: Sunnehanna Country Club, 1000 Sunnehanna Drive, Westmont.

When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 2.

Tickets: Call 536-0798.

Cost: $45 per person or $70 per person to attend a private reception with guest speaker, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

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