Winery to host event to help Team Albany veterans group

FULTONVILLE – Pete Ricotta of Canajoharie, who served in the Air Force during the Gulf War in Iraq, battles multiple sclerosis today, but he hasn’t allowed that to stop him from staying active in sports.

Ricotta, 46, who uses a power wheelchair and a cane, is a member of Team Albany, which brings together disabled veterans from the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany to participate in recreational and sporting events all over the country. They use adaptive equipment and techniques.

Ricotta has participated in many different events such as air rifle, nine-ball pool, kayaking and downhill skiing. He’s traveled all over the country through Team Albany.

“I’ve been to New Hampshire three times, Aspen, Colorado, twice. I’ve been to the national veterans wheelchair games twice, and I’m going to the veteran wheelchair games in July. I’m going to the summer sports clinic in New Hampshire in July, where I’m going to water-ski for the first time,” he said.

The Team Albany adaptive sports team conducts fundraising events to support the members’ activities.

One of those fundraising events will take place in Fultonville on Sunday.

The event will take place at Hummingbird Hills Winery from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will include activities such as free wine tastings, music, vendors and food, which will be provided by Team Albany volunteers. All the proceeds will benefit the team.

Team Albany participates in many types of recreational and competitive sporting events, such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, golfing, fishing, kayaking, swimming, basketball, softball and bowling.

Together with their coaches, the team raises money to send team members to various regional and national veterans events, such as the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snow

mass, Colo.; the National Disabled Veterans Wheelchair Games; the Golden Age Games for disabled veterans older than 55; the National Disabled Veterans Summer Sports Clinic for Post 911 Veterans in San Diego, Calif.; and the New England Winter Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans at Mount Sunapee, N.H.

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Ricotta has been a member of Team Albany for three years.

He was in the Air Force for “10 years, four months and 18 days,” he said.

He served during Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War, providing communication support.

At one point during his service, a mortar shell hit about 15 yards from where he was standing.

“It blew me 20 yards from where I was originally,” Ricotta recalls.

He was not injured from the mortar strike, but the MS is connected to his service, according to his wife, Tricia.

Pete Ricotta said Team Albany’s adaptive sports/national games coordinator, Michele Ferrauilo, has been helpful to team members.

“When I went to the National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Aspen, Colo., this past March, Michelle worked it out through United Airlines so that I would not have to pay to have my ticket transferred from an Albany to Virginia flight to an Albany to Aspen flight,” Ricotta said. “It was really helpful of her and I really appreciated it.”

Ricotta said he likes being a member of Team Albany because “not only is it something to do and gets me out of the house, but I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

The Hummingbird Hills winery does two to three fundraisers per year, said Tricia Ricotta. This year, the winery chose to raise money for Team Albany.

“They knew me and my husband and wanted to do something to support veterans,” she said.

The goal is to raise about $1,000 at the fundraiser.

Ferrauilo said Ricotta is the only active Montgomery or Fulton County member of Team Albany.

The next event for Team Albany members is July 2 at the SCORE Center in Chatham. There will be archery and shooting events at this competition.

Ferrauilo said all Team Albany members are invited and encouraged to attend events. However, there also are individual events such as kayaking and fishing.

Ferrauilo decided to coach Team Albany because she thinks it’s necessary to help veterans.

“I thought there was a need because we have veterans who are just pretty much sitting on the couch and not doing anything, and I think it’s important to keep active and keep in shape. We have a lot of individuals who don’t think they can do anything after their injury or illness, and we’re here to show them ‘yeah, you can,'” she said.

Ferrauilo said her job is to help the veterans.

“We’re constantly helping our veterans; that’s what we’re here for, to help them in any capacity that we can,” she said.