Tuesday 23 April, 2002
Local News
A true good fella
By:Jim Hague, Reporter staff writer September 09, 2001
SUMMER FUN -- Actor Max Raven (back right) takes the time to enjoy the Summer Fun 2001 camp with some of the campers and counselors. Program coordinator Joe Galano is far left.
Actor Raven, who has made a living out of playing bad guys, shows good side to help handicapped kids

At first, Rob O'Donnell was more than just a little skeptical. As a counselor for Jersey City Recreation's Summer Fun 2001 for Special Needs Kids, O'Donnell took the youngsters in his care for a visit to Liberty State Park one day. The man selling Italian ices told him that a gentleman who was on a motorcycle nearby wanted to buy all of the kids an ice.

"I really wasn't paying much attention that day," O'Donnell said. "When I heard that the man wanted to buy all the kids ices, I got a feeling of disbelief. Like, why would he want to do something like that? I told him that we don't normally get things like that to happen in Jersey City."

Especially for kids who are burdened with a variety of special needs, like physical handicaps, emotional and behavioral problems, and disabilities and Down's syndrome.

"Usually, people forget about kids like the kids in our program," said O'Donnell, who has been a counselor in the program for the last four years, said, "They turn their head and look in another direction."

But not everyone is Max Raven.

"I just happened to be in Liberty Park that day and stopped to have an ice," said Raven, a Jersey City resident and a respected movie actor who has appeared in such movies as Casino, Goodfellas and the Last Don. "I noticed the kids while I was eating the ice and thought it would be nice if they could have an ice as well. So I told the ice guy to buy them all one."

Added Raven, "I went up to the young man, Rob, and told him that I wanted to buy all the kids an ice. He said that he had 68 kids, but I didn't care. I learned from my friend, Danny Aiello, that if you get a chance to do a favor for someone, you should do it. So I did. I just thought it was a nice thing to do."

Joe Galano, the program coordinator of the Summer Fun Special Needs camp, recognized Raven from one of his more famous movie roles.

"When I was introduced to him, I knew who he was right away," said Galano, who has coordinated the program for the last six years and is a special needs teacher at P.S. 15 in Jersey City. "I knew he was the guy who helped Joe Pesci put another guy's head in a vice in Casino. Everyone remembers that scene."

"I always play bad guys," Raven said. "I guess I've been typecast."

"It's really amazing and a nice story," Galano said. "He's just a really nice guy and not at all like the characters he has portrayed. He's just a down-to-earth guy who really cared about our kids."

Two weeks ago, Raven was presented with a special plaque from Jersey City Recreation Director Bob Hurley in appreciation for his acts of generosity.

"I didn't expect anything," Raven said. "The plaque read: 'To a special friend from special kids.' I was very touched."

It wasn't just the ices Raven was honored for.

Raven had also bought ices for another camp in Jersey City and a special needs camp in Bayonne.

Raven also donated $500 to Recreation Summer Fun in order so the kids could have elaborate decorations for their end of summer talent show. Raven also went out of his way to attend the show, to see the kids sing, dance and perform.

"It was very uplifting to see them perform as well as they did," Raven said. "I was very impressed."

Raven, who recently moved to Port Liberte from Beverly Hills, said that his generosity stems from a major change in his lifestyle.

"When I was young, I wasn't nice," Raven admitted. "But my friend Danny Aiello got me involved in acting in 1988 and he gave me just one bit of advice. He told me that if you have the chance to be nice to someone, it would be repaid to you many times over. Like the movie Pay It Forward. The goodness just keeps getting passed on in that movie. That's the way I live now."

Added Raven, "I have a tendency to identify with special needs kids. Many people tend to look away from special needs kids and don't want to help. It's rare when an adult gets an opportunity to help. It wasn't done for publicity. It was my chance to help some special kids. To me, special needs kids are truly special."

O'Donnell was certainly impressed.

"He was genuine," O'Donnell said. "I got a chance to know him pretty well and he's really just a nice guy."

Raven has a website (www.maxraven.com) that features pictures of himself with some of his famous friends, like comedians Bill Maher of "Politically Incorrect" and Jon Lovitz of "Saturday Night Live" fame.

"I'm in the process of producing three independent films," Raven said. "One is based on my novel that Jon Lovitz is going to star in. I'm also producing a comedy and a murder/suspense movie. I found out that there's more money in producing than acting. But I'll take an acting role if it's a good one."

O'Donnell, who is studying oceanography to pursue as a career, said that he can never forget the summer fun and the chance meeting with a very generous man.

"There's really no way to describe what he meant to everyone," O'Donnell said. "He made the summer better for the kids, but he also made it better for the counselors as well. Not to mention, the whole program. Max helped us keep the program going."

"It was one of the most incredible things I can remember," Galano said. "When you consider the level of generosity and how much he gave, you really have to say that he came from heaven."

By way of a casino or a few good fellas along the way.

©The Jersey City Reporter 2002