It sometimes seems that athletes who are cheered on are the subjects of scandals and that their names end up in police blotters as much as they appear in stat sheets. Despite the negative accounts, there are more athletes that give back to those same fans who help build them up.
Every year the archdiocesan Catholic Youth Organization acknowledges the many men and women who have answered the call of humanity through their charity and, most importantly, their time.
The CYO hosted the 77th annual CYO Club of Champions tribute June 26 in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan.
“Nobody does it better,” said Cardinal Dolan of CYO in his remarks.
The honorees were Rod Gilbert, a former New York Rangers star and a National Hockey League Hall of Famer; Timothy J. Bronson, executive vice president of Major League Baseball; and Haeda Mihaltses, director of the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Gilbert, who played forward for the Rangers from 1960 to 1978, was awarded the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award for exhibiting exceptional sportsmanship throughout his career. His prowess earned him eight All-Star selections and he was inducted into the National Hockey League (NHL) Hall of Fame in 1982. He now serves as the Rangers’ director of special projects and community relations representative.
“Growing up in a Catholic household, saying the Rosary once a week with my mom and going to Mass was part of my childhood and something that just to this day has remained with me,” Gilbert said.
“When I came to New York, I came with my friend Frank Gifford (a former New York Giants star, a National Football League Hall of Famer and the 1963 recipient of the CYO Club of Champions John V. Mara award) to a CYO event and ever since then I’ve remained close to the organization,” Gilbert added. “The CYO represents a lot of good and I’m proud to be here tonight.”
Bronson received the CYO Club of Champions Gold Medal in recognition for his inspiration and leadership for the youth of New York City. A resident of Larchmont, Bronson has worked for Major League Baseball (MLB) since 1991. Among other duties, he oversees the organization’s philanthropic entity, MLB Charities.
“It’s an honor to receive the gold medal and it’s very special having my family here with me tonight sharing this moment,” Bronson said.
Mrs. Mihaltses received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award for her outstanding commitment to youth. A Bronx native, she was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith. Appointed the community recovery director of Staten Island for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, Mrs. Mihaltses became the point of contact for the borough’s residents, community groups and elected officials to ensure they received necessary services in the aftermath of the storm last October. Joining her at the ceremony were her husband and four children.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the Club of Champions tribute and dinner is a night for past and present to unite.
“This is a great event for the CYO; it celebrates our legacy and history,” he said. “Many people come together and share stories of how the CYO shaped their lives as young people and as adults they’ve chosen to give back to the CYO. It’s no coincidence that many of the leaders of today were once a part of CYO.”
CYO operates under the auspices of Catholic Charities. Founded in 1936, its purpose is to provide athletic, cultural, recreational and spiritual activities for youths of the archdiocese.
More than 30,000 young people participate in CYO athletics and more than 4,000 other youths participate in non-athletic programs throughout 229 parishes in the archdiocese.
Christopher Gallagher, CYO president, said he was proud to pay homage to such deserving honorees. “It’s our way of thanking them for their dedication, compassion and generosity to CYO and to our young people of the Archdiocese of New York.”
Dinner proceeds help fund inner-city community centers and parish-based athletic, cultural, volunteer and scouting programs, among other CYO initiatives.
A live auction raised $26,000 for CYO. Auction items included a New York Giants game package, a VIP viewing party at MLB’s Fan Cave, a tour of MLB Network Studios and a VIP MLB All-Star game package.