…and to their hero, Ray Rinaldi.
Story and photos by James P. Hughes
For dozens of Syracuse area youth and young adults, it’s a daily routine – barked instructions, sparring in the ring, steady jabs at the heavy and speed bags, exercises on the mat. A bell rings. Each group hustles to the next station … sweating, no delays, few words, focus always the key. Along Geddes Street on the city’s gritty southwest side, the WAA-EC is indeed a busy place. The WAA-EC …what’s that? The “WA” stands for “West Area,” the next “A” for “athletic,” and the “EC” for “education center.” The blending of the last two parts of the name is a mission that 90-year old Ray Rinaldi took on many decades ago. Heart and soul of the operation, Ray as a young man began to use his love for boxing as a means to better the lives of area youth, to lure them off the “mean streets” and into a positive, disciplined environment.