Steven “Virgil” Virgilio turned a knack for talking with teenagers into a weekly program of fun and sober events. In recovery himself, Virgil spends most of his free time organizing and fund-raising for the Recovery Outreach Community (ROC) Teen Saturday program serving about 80 teens in the North End, Charlestown, South Boston and East Boston.
In the North End, many have attended ROC Teen Saturday “Movies in the Park” at DeFilippo Playground (the Gassy) on summer Saturday nights, including the famous Christmas in August where the park is turned into a winter wonderland. Coming up, Virgil has arranged for several “Haunted October” events including the annual haunted house outside the Nazzaro Center on October 29th.
The group does regular weekend events such as “atomic bowling,” sober dance parties and occasionally takes destination trips to places such Six Flags and Canobie Lake Park. The group often meets at the “Dat Club” in Charlestown. Along with five parents, Virgil took 25 teens to Disney World, many of them visiting for the first time. Sober dances in Charlestown, Everett and South Boston attract nearly 500 teens. He has partnered with the mothers association in Charlestown to help troubled teens, many who have difficult home situations.
Virgil started the ROC Teen Saturday group five years ago after his experience working for a recovery agency. It started informally with a handful of teens talking after meetings. Gradually, the group grew as word spread amid a growing need by area teenagers. Virgil believes “OxyContin” has caused a surge of addiction problems and is destroying the home lives of many teens.
Most of ROC Teen Saturday’s events are funded out-of-pocket with contributions from North End businesses, including Regina Pizza, Terramia, Mike’s Pastry and DePasqualie Ventures. Unlike North End Against Drugs, the group receives no public assistance but is considering applying for grants in the future.
“I can’t stop it now,” says Virgil. His goal is to have at least one night a week where there is a free event for teens to stay sober and clean. “They have fun and want to come back.”
He also personally assists teens by working with their social workers and through court situations, if necessary. Some of the teens are now entering college or continuing education, an achievement of which he is particularly proud. Virgil resides in East Boston and has family living in the North End. He works in construction but ROC Teen Saturday is his passion.
“Many of the teens tell me ROC Teen Saturday has changed their lives. What they don’t know is that they changed my life too.”