When David DiPanni leaves his New Canaan home for the Norwalk bocce courts, he brings more than just the equipment needed for a few rounds of the game. He brings the memory and dreams of his wife, Rebecca.
I can feel her there, that she's around and watching over us, DiPanni says. Rebecca died in 2008 after losing a battle with liver cancer. She was diagnosed in the late stages of the disease on the heels of a successful treatment for breast cancer.
At the time, the DiPannis lived in Norwalk with their 1-year-old son Shawn. Through her breast cancer treatment, Rebecca learned to play the steel drum as a form of personal therapy. In the midst of her liver cancer, she turned to bocce.
She turned to me in the hospital and said, 'I want to start a bocce league.' We had a set for years that we never used, DiPanni says. Norwalk had just put in courts at Calf Pasture Beach but was unable to get a league started.
Rebecca sent emails and garnered enough interest to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, she died before the first league game, a day that coincided with Shawn's birthday.
DiPanni was not content to let his wife's dream pass. He went to Norwalk City Hall with Maryann Piorek and Kim Szabo and asked the city to let them continue the league in Rebecca's honor.
The Rebecca DiPanni Memorial Bocce League launched its fourht season in Norwalk on June 29. For the run of the tournament, DiPanni makes his way to the courts every Wednesday with the equipment and sets up for the games. The shirts and flags for the league declare Happy Thoughts with a smiley face attached. That's what Rebecca wrote on her hospital whiteboard when the doctors told her she wouldn't make it. DiPanni had it trademarked for use with the league.
The league is run through the Norwalk Recreation and Parks Department , though signups for this year are now closed. DiPanni said on opening day they mustered 14 teams, making it the largest season yet. He's also pleased to work with the town to put in two more courts and is raising funds for a set of memorial benches in Rebecca's honor. Anyone interested in donating can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the event was born out of the tragedy of Rebecca's death, DiPanni know that continuing the league is what she would want. She was so full of life, he says. She just wanted people to have fun.
Have you played in the Rebecca DiPanni Bocce League?
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