The Carson City Raiders Booster Club is getting some impressive muscle Sunday for its annual Christmas Commitment fundraiser, in the form of a former offensive lineman named John Vella.
An offensive tackle originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1972, John Vella will be on hand to sign autographs, pose for photos and sell some of his own autographed memorabilia to help raise funds the booster club uses to "adopt" homebound senior citizens at Christmas time.
The fundraiser will be held during the televised game watch of the Raiders versus the Minnesota Vikings, 10 a.m. Sunday at Q's Barbecue, 230 Fairview Drive.
The homebound seniors are adopted through the Carson City Senior Citizens Center. Other groups who adopt include Soroptimist International of Carson City, Nevada State Business and Industry, DMV, Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lions Club, and Corpus Christi Church provides food baskets.
Janice McIntosh, center director, said of the 140-180 people who are homebound, not all of them are on the gift list as they do have family in the area.
"We adopt out about 60-100 people," she said. "We try to do this mostly, not always, for low-income and those who don't have family nearby or any family at all."
Booster club president Bob Gomez said the club has been adopting since its first year as a club, 14 years ago.
"We find a lot of joy adopting our homebound seniors," he said. "We do it because the homebound have such a great look in their eyes when we visit them and it makes our hearts feel good."
In addition to Vella, the club will offer drawings throughout the games, live and silent auctions with autographed memorabilia and handcrafted items.
"I wasn't even a Raiders fan before I was drafted," he laughed. "I was born in Cleveland, I was a Browns fan. To be part of the Raiders, we felt we could win every week and that was special. Not that we won each week, but we felt like we could."
Win or lose, Vella sees Raider fans sticking by the team.
"It has been hard lately. But the fan foundation that was built in the '60s and '70s where the fans saw a lot of good games, there was also player interaction. It was a good experience for them. I see hundreds of fans who travel every week to Raiders games. I don't think that many other fans do that for other teams.
"I look forward to seeing everyone Sunday."
• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at email@example.com or 881-1223.
You can help
WHAT: Carson City Raiders Booster Club annual Christmas Commitment fundraiser
WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Q's Barbecue, 230 Fairview Drive
WHO: Special guest former Oakland Raider John Vella
CALL: 232-9700, 720-4333
ABOUT JOHN VELLA
Born April 21, 1950 in Cleveland, Ohio. Prepped at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., attended USC and was named All-American 1971.
Drafted second round by the Oakland Raiders in 1972. Wore No. 75, played offensive tackle through 1979; played last year of professional football in 1980 with Minnesota Vikings.
A member of Super Bowl XI championship team when the Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 in Pasadena, Calif., the year the NFL named the Raiders offensive line the "Best Offensive Line Ever."
Married to Patti 32 years; four children, recently became grandparents.
Now, owner of "John Vella's Locker Room" a Raiders sports memorabilia store in Castro Valley, Calif.