Growing up in Sarnia, some of Chris Rocca’s fondest memories stem from playing bocce with family and friends.
“It was something we’d always talk about at the dinner table,” he said, recalling the games played at the Dante Club Bocciofila, which hosts men’s and mixed leagues throughout the winter.
“After my Nonno passed in 2021, it was important for us to make sure my Nonna stayed active and continue to do the things she loved.”
Last fall, Chris formed a mixed team with his friend Erik Hayes, and recruited 83-year-old Nonna, Josephine Rocca.
Chris, who has since moved to London, would make the drive every Wednesday for the friendly competition, joining ten other teams in the mixed league this past winter.
If the winter roads were too risky, his brother Joe Rocca was happy to fill in.
Last month, they were crowned the Wednesday Mixed League Champions.
“It was just really fun to be able to experience that with her,” Chris said of his Nonna, adding that he’s hoping more young people will come out and give bocce a try.
“As Italian-Canadians, we grew up with it,” he said, pointing to the community of volunteers who formed the Dante Club Bocciofila Committee and built Sarnia’s Bocciodromo — a bocce and cornhole event centre, located behind the Dante Club, back in 1994.
“I’ve noticed there’s more teams, and it’s great watching more people get to know the game,” he said, adding there’s also a growing interest in the facility’s cornhole league.
Asked if his team will defend their title next winter, Chris said it’s all up to Nonna.
“We hope so, if she allows us,” he said with a laugh. “She’s the team manager; she’s in charge.”