For the love of ping pong: Local man donates sport supplies, training to local schools

Savannah Vasquez
Participants of the International Table Tennis Federation Level 1 course at the Destin Community Center earlier this month were (front row from left) Gary Fraiman, Serra Abel, Emily Curtis, Roger Dick-son, Kim Jones, Rex Bowman, Phil Gehres, Lynn Clark, (back row from left) John Reynolds, LA Johnston, Dan “Griff” Griffin, Ray Cavicchio and Pat Markey.

To say Ray Cavicchio loves ping pong would be an understatement.

Cavicchio is so passionate about the sport that in March he donated $12,000 worth of brand new ping pong tables, paddles and balls to five area middle schools and personally paid to train six area P.E. teachers to be certified to teach the sport to youngsters.

“I’ve been involved with table tennis most of my life, dating back 50 years,” Cavicchio said. “I think table tennis is a great, underrated sport. It is a very low injury sport and it’s also fairly inexpensive, you can pick up a paddle for just a few dollars.”

Cavicchio, who splits his time living between New Jersey and Niceville, is an international umpire for table tennis and has refereed for the Olympics, Paralympics, Special Olympics and World Championships in five continents. He said his goal in spreading the love of ping pong in Northwest Florida is to inspire the younger generation to enjoy the life-long sport.

“This is a sport that it doesn’t matter how tall or short, big or small you are. You literally level out the playing surface,” he said.

The recent training, held March 10 at the Destin Community Center, allowed 12 area participants to receive certification in the International Table Tennis Federation Level 1 Course. Among the 12, six P.E. teachers were represented from Destin Middle School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, Liza Jackson Preparatory School, Ruckel Middle School and Pryor Middle School.

“This was the first such class held in Florida,” Cavicchio said. “My hope is to get a league started in the school system that will evolve into intramural competition in the area. I am looking to get it more popular in this area and the younger the better.”

Cavicchio added that he hopes to offer training again in the future in order to get table tennis into schools up and down the Florida coast.

“If we get some more teachers interested in the area, I will sponsor the course again,” he said. “I think if we could get youth interested in the sport earlier, we could keep them there and it’s something they can enjoy all their lives.”