Together and with The Power of We, we can start a revolution. One Soul at a time... ~Jon Bon Jovi *** There's a Story on every street corner, my friend. All you have to do is open your eyes... ~Richie Sambora

Richie Sambora... Coming Home

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora coming home to Woodbridge to dedicate weight room

WOODBRIDGE — "Who says you can't go home?

There's only one place that call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy, born a rollin' stone
Who says you can't go home?"

- "Who Says You Can't Go Home" by Bon Jovi

Richie Sambora is back home today.

The lead guitarist for Bon Jovi is not in his hometown of Woodbridge to perform a concert. He is here to share his good fortune.

Involved in countless philanthropic endeavors during his years with the band, his charitable contributions on this particular trip to New Jersey really hit home.

The 50-year-old launched a fundraising effort this month called, "You Can Go Home," the intent of which is to give back to the community through a series of promotions and community projects.

The program directly benefits Woodbridge teenager Kelly Mahon, who two years ago today was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Today culminates months of his involvement with her and her family, having helped them financially, including renovations to their home to accommodate her arrival for Thanksgiving Day.

She has not been home for more than a year.

Sambora, who lives in California, returns to New Jersey frequently, whether performing here or in New York City or to visit his mom who lives in Point Pleasant.

Sambora, who played basketball, baseball and soccer at Woodbridge High School, will be at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the high school this morning for a new weight room that he financed.

The weight room will be named in honor of his father, Adam, who died this year of cancer.

In honor of Sambora's generosity, the street leading to the high school will now be named Richie Sambora Way.

None of this surprises Tom Chmiel.

Chmiel has known Sambora since the rock star was in elementary school. He was a teacher at School No. 11 in Woodbridge and also coached a recreation basketball team for which 12-year-old Richie played.

After Sambora graduated from high school, he and Chmiel wound up playing basketball on the same team in men's recreation leagues. They remain close friends and Sambora sponsors Chmiel's summer basketball camp.

"He was a hard-working kid and one of the nicest kids you ever want to meet," said Chmiel, now in his second year coaching girls basketball at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark. "He was not a great ball player as a kid, but he was always there and always played well.

"He played basketball in high school, but then he took up the guitar and decided he liked that. Obviously that turned out pretty well."

So did Sambora, who followed his father's lead, and still does.

"My dad worked two jobs and was always supportive of me," Sambora said. "The great thing about my dad that I always learned from him was to never be judgmental. He always gave people the benefit of the doubt. He would always help people, and I still aspire to be like him.

"He left a big hole when he left me, but what are you gonna do? They didn't know smoking was bad for you back then."

Chmiel knew the family well and remembered the man's sense of humor and generosity.

"Adam was proud of his son," Chmiel said. "He was similar to my dad. He loved his son."

Sambora still enjoys shooting hoops, and with the aid of a trainer and nutritionist remains in good shape.

"I'm still very athletic," he said. "I'm very much into working out, because you know what — people today want their rock stars skinny."

The weight room will help the school's athletes from being skinny, which theoretically will help them succeed in their chosen sports.

For Sambora, basketball was his.

He recalled one rec season when the team went 27-0. "We were awesome," he said with a laugh. "We kicked everybody's ass.

"I was pretty good in high school. I was the guy off the bench. They'd put me in to foul everybody. I was the dirty guy," he said. "I came in to quell as the defensive monster. I would basically bother whoever was hot. I was young, quick, fast and a little crazy."

Asked if he maintains any of those qualities, he laughed and said, "I'd like to think I'm still young and fast."

And of course popular — whether in Woodbridge, Winnipeg or Wembley.

"I've never taken this success thing for granted," he said. "I just happen to have a wonderful job. Jon, me and the guys, we just keep trying to get better and better and better. With the work ethic I grew up with, I always pitched in and that hasn't changed. We've been together now 27 years. It's like a marriage. Everybody keeps each other grounded."

That can't always be easy when you're a rock star. Cheers from an audience have their own rewards, but today provides him with a very special feeling.

And having a street named after him is, as he said, "Pretty cool.

"It's actually a privilege to be able to do this," he said about helping Kelly, as well as the school's athletes. "More people have to take this kind of initiative to help people out man, because if you got it, why not help people? I don't care if you're a CEO of a company, a banker or whoever you are.

"I'm involved in this grass roots kind of thing when you go back to your community. That's when I came up with the idea of the weight room. I thought I'd do something for my high school. If you can help out and make your community a better place, if you start there, you're doing pretty good."

Especially if you start back home.


Is it any wonder we love these guys as much as we do? When they do things like this, it makes my heart smile.


Y January 13, 2010 at 1:46 PM  

Looks like that high school will now be on the tourist trail. Great to hear a heart warming story like this. Love your blogs,

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I am and always have been a Bon Jovi fan. This blog is just my obsession taken a step further, my imagination in high gear if you will. I love to read and decided to see what would happen when I took that love of the written word and ramped it up a bit.

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