Filippo family caressed to the nines
Former Villanova star Jenn Filippo, and her husband Ron, are raising nine kids in a fun-filled home.
THE FILIPPO family home is full of love and humor. Make that a large home-full, with lots of children. Jenn, a former Villanova basketball player, and Ron Filippo have nine - count 'em, nine - children.
"We're kind of famous around here," a smiling Ron said in their spacious Furlong, Bucks County, home near Doylestown during a pre-Christmas visit.
The children's ages range from 20 to 1. Hunter, the oldest, is a junior at La Salle University on a soccer scholarship. Here's the rest of the Team Filippo roster: Sofia, 15; Francesca, 14; Genevieve, 12; Gioia, 10; Roman, 9; Jameson, 8; Ben, 3; and Noah, 1.
Life at the Filippo home is a daily reality production. Ron, a vice president with Teva Pharmaceuticals in Horsham, organizes the children's schedules. He uses a Google calendar to record the weekly lineup, then sends copies to those with cellphones.
On Sunday nights during the school year, the family makes sandwiches for the week, then puts them in resealable plastic bags. Jenn, 39, said the children are "very self-sufficient. I can't be with all of them all the time."
There are two washing machines and two dryers in the home. One family vehicle is a van that holds 15 passengers. Understandably, much of their food is ordered by large economy sizes: the Filippos could be Costco's Family of the Decade.
Hunter has her own bedroom. The other four girls share the former master bedroom upstairs. Jenn and Ron turned their three-car garage into their master bedroom. The boys share bedrooms.
Hunter said being part of a large family "is fun, and [smile] a little chaotic. We're used to it."
A large family is new to Ron, now 44, a Father Judge High graduate who played baseball at Drexel and Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University). He has two brothers. As for Jenn, it's nothing new. She comes from a family of seven.
Finding the clip of a 1998 Daily News story I wrote reminded me of Jenn and Hunter. On Senior Night at Villanova, Jenn, then Jenn Beisel, was accompanied on the court by Hunter, 4.
"I loved going to the games," Hunter said. "I'd play with the wildcat [mascot] and wear my little cheerleader's outfit."
When Jenn was a senior at St. Hubert's High, she learned she was pregnant. She wasn't sure at the time she wanted to marry Ron, so, after informing Villanova coach Harry Perretta of her situation, she gave birth to Hunter and stayed home for a year while Villanova held her scholarship.
Handling a mother's duties, a college workload and playing basketball sometimes was too much for Jenn. She credits Perretta and others at Villanova for talking her out of quitting.
"A college education is important," Perretta said earlier this week. "We thought she could do it [all] if we helped her a little. It's about more than basketball: It's what Villanova and the Augustinians stand for."
Jenn and Ron were married following her graduation from Villanova, where she scored 1,050 points. She was elected to the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2011. Her older sister Kathie also is a Big 5 Hall of Famer: She scored 1,328 points for Villanova from 1979-83.
Jenn has never worked outside the family home.
"Sometimes I wish I did," she said, "but I wanted to be home with my kids. Home when they get off the bus, like my mom was for me. And I've been having kids since I graduated 'Nova, so I never really had time to work, or never had to, thank God. I wanted to be a teacher, maybe physical education."
With enough children to field their own baseball team, humor is a large part of the Filippos' lives.
"There has to be a lot of humor, or we'd go crazy," Ron said. "They fight over who's the funniest."
Jenn just smiles when women who have given birth to a couple of children tell her how hard their labor was.
While the vibe from the Filippos is affection and strength, there has been sadness and negativity outside their home. After giving birth to seven children, Jenn miscarried 32 weeks into a pregnancy.
Once, as the family was leaving a restaurant, a woman spit toward them.
"She wasn't happy with the volume," Ron said.
Another time, at the King of Prussia Mall, they heard a woman ask whether all the children were from the same father.
The Filippos brush off such nasty behavior and comments: They have too much good going for them.
Jenn and Ron have made their children aware of their story.
"The song I sing, joking to Ronnie, is 'Looks like we made it,' " Jenn said. "I think it's by Barry Manilow [it is]. That about sums it up to me. Not every couple who stays together will necessarily make it. We have something really cool, and I wouldn't change a thing. So blessed."
Nine children isn't for many parents, but the Filippos seem to be handling it as smoothly and joyously as any family can.