What started as a goal to run marathons has turned into a fight against MS.

It started back in 1991 when Tony Rubino ran a marathon and raised money for multiple sclerosis. One marathon turned into 15 and made him one of the top fund raisers for MS. By then he had damaged knees and needed a different approach to raising money for his favorite charity. While at dinner with his good friend, Al Marino, whose wife has MS, they decided to host a guy’s night out dinner with steak, booze, boxing, and cigars. Thrilla at the Villa was born that year in 2004.

Over the last 20 years, Thrilla at the Villa raised almost $450,000 for local charities. Including National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Juvenile Diabetes, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, Friends of Foster Kids, Families Against Narcotics, and Vietnam Vets Chapter 154.

“We bring judges, politicians, and prominent business people together for an evening of good food, entertainment, networking, and all for a good cause,” said Tony Rubino. “One year we had all three county executives with the county sheriffs as well. We are blessed because we’ve had so many vendors donating their products and services over the years.”

Al Marino & Tony Rubino: Co-founders of Thrilla at the Villa share a passion for fighting MS

Al Marino & Tony Rubino: Co-founders of Thrilla at the Villa share a passion for fighting MS.

Each year the sold-out event is something these men (and a handful of women) look forward to. The Thrilla has gone from shaving heads and mustaches, and pies in the face in the early years to high-end auction items, Golden Glove boxing, and live entertainment today. Each year, local businesses donated gift cards and funds for this event. Jim Beam, has been our presenting sponsor for the past few years.  

Tony leads up a committee of local business leaders who meet regularly to plan the evening’s festivities.

“There are many who bring their talents and services including George Penna and his staff at Villa Penna, and Jim Schmeltzer from Elite Photography who takes photos and videos at each event. These people do it for the cause and don’t ask for anything extra in return.”

“The most important reason we did this was to help Donna, and everyone else in Michigan suffering from MS,” said Al Marino.

An estimated 2.3 millions are diagnosed with MS worldwide with more than 18,000 in Michigan, one of the highest incidence rates in the United States. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.

“Thrilla at the Villa is a phenomenal event that has truly set the bar for community involvement in our cause,” said Elana Sullivan, president of the Michigan Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Tony Rubino and Al Marino are so passionate about giving back to the community and we couldn’t be more grateful to be the beneficiary of their generosity.”


Our auction site is officially up and LIVE for viewing and bidding!

Make your way over to http://thrilla.givesmart.com to Browse, Bid and Buy.

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For more information, please call Matt Baffo at (586) 872-8885.