Rocco Malin’s family has strong roots in Wilmington that go back over 100 years. The 32 year old is making a name for himself as the founder of the local charity Motorcycle Santa (did you see our video interview?!) Because of his efforts to help local families and children in need, he is this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE.
“I was born in Wilmington and my family has a lot of history with the city. I have worked in other areas of the state, and spent time intermittently traveling around, but the bulk of my existence has been rooted here.I started working as a busboy at Catherine Rooney’s at 14 years old and at 21 I started bartending which has been my primary source of income.
My great grandfather was a stonemason who immigrated to Wilmington from Italy back in the 20’s. His name was Rocco Fontana, and he did a lot of stone work in Wilmington, including the original flagstone path that centered the front landscape of St. Elizabeth’s Church for 50 years. He also built the house my family lived in, located on Rodney Street directly across from St. Elizabeth’s, where I went to school for 12 years. I used to stay the night at my grandmother’s and walk across the street to school in the morning, so unfortunately being late was rarely a reasonable excuse for me. My great grandparents, my grandparents, my mother and my uncles all grew up in this house, which is still in my family to this day. My grandmother was a part of the first graduating class of St. E’s, the class of 1944! My mother, uncles, and sisters have all graduated from the halls of that school as well. We have some pretty cool pictures from the house back before the school was even built. You can see how Browntown and that area began with rows of homes, and the buildings and structures we see today were erected over the last 50-70 years. I went to St. Elizabeth’s for grade school and high school, and Goldey-Beacom College.
I would have to say that the Italian Festival is my favorite event of the year. I have this blue shirt that just says “ITALY” on it, that was a gift from a friend from Italy. My uncultured non-Italian friends make fun of me for it because it’s the only time I wear it. Regardless, the Italian Festival is an absolute blast. You spend the first 4 hours running into people you went to high school with as they ask what you’ve been up to while you’re just trying to eat your funnel cake. After that, it’s straight to the water ice station. The festival is known for its vodka and water ice cocktails they generously serve the crowds. They always have great entertainment, awesome live music, and amazing food, so it’s an all around great time. Wilmington has rich historical roots with the Italian community, so it’s a great time to celebrate that heritage. Oftentimes, people from outside of our city visit our annual Italian Festival and compliment how extraordinary it is. I’m used to always having it every year, so hearing outsiders praise how great it is just makes me realize how unique this tradition is to Wilmington’s history.
I continue to choose Wilmington to work in because I’ve been able to meet all kinds of people and create fantastic relationships and connections. I’ve developed some meaningful roots that, no matter where I end up, will always make Wilmington home for me.
My nonprofit, Motorcycle Santa, has grown to what it is today because of my close ties with the people of Wilmington. Those close ties and relationships are what have allowed me to develop the local support to be able to do everything that we do with the charity. We work to help families in need in the city. It really allows the community to get involved and be engaged, which I really enjoy every year! My proudest moment was when I received a Jefferson Award for outstanding community service back in 2019 for my work with Motorcycle Santa. I got to give a speech in front of the governor, which was something on my bucket list. It was a spectacular 15 minutes of fame of which I am still riding out to this day.
Growing up here, I’ve had a lot of great memories. One of my best friends used to work for the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team. He was Mr.Celery, the mascot that ran onto the field whenever they hit a homerun. I used to go to the games all of the time, and cheer him on when he jumped into character. I used to frequent Delaware Sports League events, and played kickball and soccer with the organization. I’ve also ran the Delaware Marathon, and typically try to make it out to similar race events just to support participants.
I think if people look a little closer, there is a lot more that the city has to offer than meets the eye. I really like the direction of which the Riverfront is turning. I think they’ve done a fantastic job at reviving the scene down there, and I’m excited to be able to continue to explore everything they are building. It is a much different look than it was 10-15 years ago, so I am eager to see what the next 5-10 years may unfold for the Riverfront. People should really take the time to explore them all. There are different sections, from the Riverfront, to Market Street, to Trolley Square, and I think each one of these corners of Wilmington adds its own special touch to the city.”
Know of another Wilmingtonian that needs to be featured? Tag them in the comments or by using #PeopleOfWilmDE.