Pizza Oven Charities drew over 1,500 people to the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Friday night for an evening of dining and dancing. The annual event was a fundraiser for the Canton Ex-Newsboys Association, raising funds to provide coats, shoes and clothing for needy schoolchildren.

Past President Dick Forte said during the past year the group spent $113,877.66, providing 1,151 children with school clothes, in line with its slogan, “No School Child Shall Miss School for Need of Shoes or Clothing.”

The fundraiser was founded 13 years ago by Joe and Georgia DiPietro in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, “We hold this event in memory of our dad, Joe (Papa Bear) DiPietro,” Stephanie Condric said. “He loved kids, and this was his favorite charity,” Condric said as she greeted guests along with her mother, Georgia, and her brothers, Steve and Dave.

Guests enjoyed Pizza Oven pizza, beer and dancing to the music of La Flavour and Jimmy and the Soul Blazers. “This is like a visit to your old neighborhood, seeing everyone you grew up with,” observed Judge Frank Forchione.

The event is a family affair: Dave DiPietro supervised the preparation of 2,500 pizzas for the hungry crowd, while his wife, Chris DiPietro, introduced their daughters, Mackenzie and Dominicue. “We started out checking coats; now we serve pizza,” Mackenzie said as Carol Henson and her daughter, Makayla, took over the coat check duties.

In the kitchen, volunteers Mike Nestor, Jarod Blogna and Mike LaMenza prepared pizzas, along with Theresa Lee, who has worked at Pizza Oven for 38 years.

Sam and Rhonda Randazzo and Jim Griffith served beverages, while Bob Dasco, Gary Ranali, Dick Baughman, Lisa Youngman, Tim Leahy and Bill Danilick offered chances on the 50/50 raffle.

Dave and Loretta Buele joined Jim and Maria Speakman, while Teri Piekarski, Ron DiPietro and Tyra Zwick joined Mai Oswald and Rene Hayek. Ann and Dick Knepper came from Pennsylvania just for the event, along with Gail and Jim Sleighter.

Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry and her husband, Dr. Tony Perry, joined Marcello and Barbara Frustaci, while nearby Toni Cotopolis was a hit with her flashing hat as she joined Becky Bors and Kathy Yaros.

Chris Shilling and Barb Smith shared a front-row table with her daughter, Michelle Schilling, her son, Brian, and his wife, Monica.

Since the inception of the Ex-Newsboys Association, the group has served 55,811 children with 240,575 articles of clothing and shoes for a total cost of $4,257,218.99.