The day of an away game, the 45 members of the freshman football team at dress in shirt and tie for school. Every night before a game, the team comes together in the school cafeteria for good food with good friends.
Nick Vukel, owner of , began this tradition around four years ago. Before each game like clockwork, he's there, bringing in trays of pasta or piles of pizzas, plus fresh bread that goes fast when it hits the table.
“He’s very, very generous, we offer to pay, but he never takes it,” Steve Chait, head coach at and assistant coach of the freshman team at Stamford High said.
Parents of team members help serve dinner and bring along the extras like drinks and utensils. They’re blown away by the generosity of Vukel, the way he supports their "big eaters," and by the atmosphere that team dinners help to create for their high schoolers.
“Some of these boys have been playing together since elementary school,” Vicki Serricchio said. “Others started at Dolan.”
“It’s a great way to start off high school,” Carolyn DeVito added.
Vukel started providing pizza before football games four years ago. He made a deal with his son that he would continue to feed his team for every game they won — they went to the championships that year and Vukel never stopped showing up with the dinners.
Vukel currently has one son at Rippowam Middle School and another on the team at Stamford High. He continues to provide pizza and pasta dinners for the freshman team at Stamford High and all the football teams at Rippowam Middle School.
“Its just nice to see all the kids happy,” Vukel said. “They deserve it.”
Ridgeway Pizza was voted the #1 pizza delivery in Stamford by Stamford Pizza Tour in 2009. They have been serving up their thin New York style pizzas since 1998 and in the coming weeks, they will also begin to offer a thin crust pan pizza. It seems that Vukel never gets enough of providing Stamford kids with the very best — he even gives out slices of pizza in place of candy on Halloween.
As the members of the freshman football time piled their plates high with pasta and bread, they gathered around tables enjoying their meal. The coaches can only marvel at what Vukel has done for the team.
“It’s the comradery, you know where they are and that they’re not getting into trouble,” Chait said. “And it’s team spirit boosting.”
Sometimes, it’s the food itself that is making the difference.
“Believe it or not, some kids don’t eat well. I’ve had kids have to sit out because they didn’t have a proper meal. It breaks your heart,” Chait said.
Vukel plans to continue providing dinners for the teams. To him, creating lasting memories for the young athletes is a simple way to make a big difference.
“Everybody is take take take, nobody gives,” Vukel said. “I never want to be like that.”