By Ginger DeShaney
When Victor Baldassari was told he was being considered for an ABCD Community Heroes Award for his work with Kickoff for Kids, he asked if it could be a group award.
“There’s a couple of us that make the magic happen down there,” Victor said. But ABCD doesn’t present group awards.
So he had to think about it. “It’s not just Victor Baldassari,” he said, crediting Kickoff for Kids founder Allison Baker and Al Mallon, as well as Jackie Beggan, Lily Joyce, Haley Dillon, Ashley Miller, Lisa Maki, and DCR’s Bobby Ferrara.
But after some contemplation, and a push from his cohorts, he decided to accept the honor, which was handed out in November.
“Victor is the heart and soul of Kickoff for Kids,” Allison said. “He’s the best free agent I have ever signed. He’s opened so many doors for me and I’ll forever be grateful that he decided to help me run the league.”
Victor is a co-commissioner, along with Allison, of the Kickoff for Kids Youth Flag Football League, also known as Friday Night Lights, that has exploded in popularity, going from 200 boys and girls ages 6-13 to 500.
“It’s a family-oriented night out,” said Victor, who was born and raised in South Boston. “And we have a lot of great people who coach, and parents and grandparents who bring their kids and their grandkids down there, to make it really special because it’s pretty cool down there.
“It’s a family,” he said.
ABCD empowers low-income people with programs, resources, and tools to overcome economic and social barriers. The organization provides critical assistance in times of crisis – food, housing, and other essentials – and creates access to opportunity and a path to a better life.
“I used to go up there as a kid,” Victor said about ABCD. “When I was a kid, they used to give away free butter, free peanut butter and powdered milk and stuff. I was familiar with the place going up there.
“ABCD is a game-changer for a lot of people.”
Despite his initial reluctance, Victor was humbled by and honored to receive a Community Heroes Award. “I never knew they had an award. When they offered me the award, like I said, I wasn’t really going to take it; I worked with kids for a long time. You do that kind of work … you just do it.”
Victor brought his wife, Lisa, and two daughters, Olivia and Ava, to the gala at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.
Victor, who has been with the City of Boston’s Water & Sewer Commission for 30 years, has worked with kids for as long as he can remember. His first job was with the West Broadway Task Force, eventually running the West Broadway Youth Center from 1991-2011. He started working for the city in 1994 and was working two full-time jobs for many years.
His dad always said, “If you’re awake, you should be going out and having a job and making money.”
An athlete as a kid, Victor turned that experience into a passion for coaching and refereeing, and has been a certified professional basketball referee for years.
“I always loved basketball,” he said. “So I became a referee. I love the game.”
And then there was football. “We always played football,” he said. “You know, so we were always involved in something.”
Most of Victor’s activities revolve around sports. When the Kickoff for Kids flag football season ended, the organization transitioned to a basketball program at M Street Park. Victor is on the board of CYO basketball; he refs all the Gate of Heaven house basketball leagues and runs a women’s basketball league at the Condon, among his many other activities. He even coached his own kids before they started playing sports for Boston Latin School.
“I’m very grateful for the award, but I’m more grateful for the people that are around me that really do the work with me,” Victor said. “I’m only one person.”