Teenagers at Reading Leisure Center get a surprise celebrity visit

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A group of Reading teenagers got a surprise on Saturday when a Hollywood actor showed up to judge a cooking of chicken wings at the Reading Recreation Center.

“In a surprising and almost unbelievable turn of events, our famous guest chicken wing judge was none other than Hollywood actor Robert Christopher Riley, who stars in Netflix’s ‘Dynasty’ show,” said Daphne Klahr. , Executive Director of the Recreation Commission. “Riley is the future brother-in-law of one of our former employees and current volunteer, Tomas Gonzalez.”

Reading Recreation Center volunteer Tomas Gonzalez and actor Robert Christopher Riley judge chicken wings cooked by teenagers at the Reading Recreation Center on Saturday. (Courtesy of the Reading Leisure Commission)

Gonzalez hosted the actor’s pop-in tour.

The kids weren’t expecting to meet a celebrity when they gathered on Saturday for the final session of the recreation commission’s Success for Teens program, Klahr said.

Held weekly on Saturdays beginning in April, the educational series brought teens together at the Recreation Center, 320 S. Third St., to learn leadership skills through fun, self-directed activities.

It ended with the challenge of cooking chicken wings.

After judging the wings, Riley spent time chatting with the kids and playing pool, Klahr said. He also presented each attendee with a $50 gift card.

The program will be offered again next spring, Klahr said, though she couldn’t promise any celebrity visits.

Franklin Vasquez, 15;  Antoine Gomez, 14;  volunteer Tomas Gonzalez;  Shaylyn Bailey, 15;  Robert Christopher Riley;  and Daniel Vélasquez, 17;  sample chicken wings on Saturday at the Reading Rec Center.  Netflix's Dynasty star Riley surprised the teens by going to judge their wing kitchen.  (Courtesy of the Reading Recreation Commission)
Franklin Vasquez, 15, Anthony Gomez, 14, volunteer Tomas Gonzalez, Shaylynn Bailey, 15, Robert Christopher Riley and Daniel Velasquez, 17, enjoy chicken wings Saturday at the Reading Recreation Center. Netflix’s ‘Dynasty’ star Riley surprised the teens by going to judge their kitchen wing. (Courtesy of the Reading Leisure Commission)

Last weekend was busy for the Reading Recreation Commission with two more events for teens in the town, she said.

“I’m delighted with how well everything went,” Klahr said.

Activities began Friday night with the first Knights at the Third and Spruce Recreation Center.

The new program emphasizes socialization in a safe environment.

It was born out of discussions with young people in the city, who asked for more specific programs for teenagers.

Nearly 40 teenagers, in grades ninth through twelfth, spent the evening playing basketball, volleyball, pool, ping-pong and esports, she said, and dance to the music of DJ Kidd Nicee.

“One of the kids told me ‘it was cool’ and he ‘liked hanging out with his friends,'” Klahr said.

The teens also enjoyed a visit from K9 officer Rex, who appeared courtesy of the Reading Police Department.

The free event was made possible with the support of community volunteers, the city police department, Reading School District security officers and recreation center staff.

On Saturday night, the Recreation Committee held its first Boots vs. Badges charity basketball game.

Several hundred spectators turned out to watch members of the city’s police and fire department lead opposing teams of city youths onto the field at Reading High School’s Geigle Sports Complex.

“These children are wizards. They all played better than us for sure,” Klahr said of hearing a firefighter say.

Klahr said the girls on the police team were thrilled to meet and play with one of the department’s female officers.

Klahr thanked firefighter and recreation commission staff member Luke Schultz and officer Steve Butler for organizing the charity event.

Proceeds are donated to the Recreation Commission’s Youth Basketball Program.

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